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In this article:

  1. 4 com­mon chal­lenges when train­ing sales teams
  2. How to effec­tive­ly onboard your sales team
  3. Effec­tive sales train­ing through the use of video
  4. Tech­ni­cal solu­tions to record­ing video

Your sales team is more often than not the engine of your com­pa­ny. With­out a strong and effec­tive sales team, your com­pa­ny would cease to exist unless your senior man­age­ment was will­ing to do the ground­work themselves. 

Train­ing sales teams is there­fore one of the most valu­able actions a com­pa­ny can take to secure the future of their busi­ness. In real­i­ty though, this often proves to be quite challenging.

Challenge #1 — No time for sales training

Sales man­agers often have to look after their own clients as well as their team. This puts great strain on the amount of time avail­able for coach­ing, and reg­u­lar­ly means that the urgent tasks take pri­or­i­ty over the important.

Challenge #2 — Can’t be in 2 places at the same time

The issue of not hav­ing enough time is fur­ther exac­er­bat­ed when teams are spread out geo­graph­i­cal­ly or the man­ag­er is respon­si­ble for a field sales function.

Dri­ve-alongs and shad­ow­ing have been a main­stay of field sales train­ing and onboard­ing for years, but this method of train­ing costs time, mon­ey and is hard to scale with­out fur­ther drain­ing resources.

Challenge #3 — Not a natural trainer

Sales pro­fes­sion­als can often be pro­mot­ed to man­agers due to their sales pro­fi­cien­cies, rather than their abil­i­ty to coach and men­tor. This means they can lack the skills to effec­tive­ly train others. 

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, a for­mal approach to train­ing for sales man­agers will more often than not prove inef­fec­tive. Like your team, you need to learn expe­ri­en­tial­ly too.

Challenge #4 — Generic and boring training activities

To be effec­tive, sales train­ing needs to be con­tex­tu­alised and direct­ly applied to sales techniques. 

Rather than focus­ing on the end­point of the sales quo­ta or sim­ply instruct­ing staff, train­ing should focus on the ‘how to’ of sell­ing. Sales train­ing tech­niques need to be adapt­ed to each indi­vid­ual so that employ­ees can learn how to sell instead of being told how to.

So, how can you effec­tive­ly train your sales team despite all these challenges?

First­ly, ensur­ing that you’re offer­ing effec­tive sales train­ing for your team is very impor­tant, but get­ting things right at the recruit­ment and onboard­ing stage can be just as cru­cial to the suc­cess of your business. 

Before we get into how best to over­come these chal­lenges, let’s take a step back and look at what you should be doing from the start to ensure that you have the right team for the job.

How to effectively onboard your sales team

What you’ll need to do before estab­lish­ing or train­ing your sales team is to ensure that you’ve pro­vid­ed train­ing for your Sales Man­agers. If your Sales Man­agers can gath­er the right teams, you’re half-way there.

The key to attract­ing and retain­ing your top tal­ent is the learn­ing and devel­op­ment you offer new starters through sales men­tor­ship and sales team train­ing. Onboard­ing your sales team and get­ting them up to speed quick­ly can mean a con­sid­er­able increase in rev­enue and effi­cien­cy for your organisation. 

Onboard­ing new sales­peo­ple can teach them about the com­pa­ny cul­ture, it should sug­gest what knowl­edge and skills they require to be suc­cess­ful in their role and it advis­es them on how they can become more pro­duc­tive mem­bers of the team, faster. It decreas­es the like­li­hood of mis­takes being made, inspires con­fi­dence and improves performance.

“When sales­peo­ple go through struc­tured onboard­ing, 69% are more like­ly to remain with the organ­i­sa­tion after three years.” — A Mag­a­zine, “How to inspire great teams”

How to get your salespeople off the line quickly

Estab­lish your organisation’s sales method­ol­o­gy by shar­ing best prac­tices in sales using video and oth­er resources. This is a great way of expos­ing those new starters to what their crit­i­cal learn­ing is in the first few months. It also allows them to apply their strengths and weak­ness­es to their learning.

Ensur­ing new starters under­stand your sales process is impor­tant, but what about the buy­er jour­ney? This will influ­ence how the sales process will func­tion. Think about how you can immerse your new starter in the thought process­es that poten­tial buy­ers can have and actions they may take. Do you have a map of both and are they aligned?

Create experts within your team

Your sales team should be seen by clients as trust­ed advi­sors. To achieve this, they need to know as much, or more about the field in which their buy­ers oper­ate. Of course, becom­ing an expert at any­thing takes time and we learn through expe­ri­ences, so think about how onboard­ing new sales­peo­ple can speed up this process. 

At Hub­Spot for exam­ple, new sales starters are tasked with cre­at­ing their own web­sites, blogs and social media pres­ence, engag­ing with SEO meth­ods along the way. This means that when it comes to sell­ing HubSpot’s inbound mar­ket­ing soft­ware, they have a deep under­stand­ing of how their tech­nol­o­gy works for the end-user and the pains and stress­es felt in their dai­ly jobs.

You should apply the same log­ic to the pro­fes­sion­al sales skills train­ing that you pro­vide to your team.

How to know if your sales team is ready

How do you know when your new starters are ready to get on the phone or meet poten­tial clients? You can test for sales readi­ness in two ways:

Prod­uct knowledge

Under­stand­ing your prod­uct or ser­vice is a big deter­min­ing fac­tor for how ready your sales team will be.

It’s impor­tant to con­stant­ly test their prod­uct or ser­vice knowl­edge. If your sales­peo­ple can’t talk about what they’re offer­ing in the con­text of the client, it will be very dif­fi­cult to sell anything. 

So ensure that you test for prod­uct knowl­edge either through­out the onboard­ing process or at the end to ensure that you have a sales team that knows what they’re talk­ing about.

Sell­ing behaviours

This can be achieved through sim­u­lat­ed learn­ing. Get trainees to demon­strate and role-play their pre­sen­ta­tions, calls and sell­ing skills (like ques­tion­ing tech­niques) against a framework.

This process can be accel­er­at­ed by enabling new starters to record them­selves in action with audio or video. This allows for enhanced self-reflec­tion and objec­tive feed­back; sig­nif­i­cant­ly speed­ing up their development.

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Effective sales training through the use of video

 
The best way we’ve found for both onboard­ing sales teams, as well as sales skill train­ing, is to use video. Research shows (Joyce & Show­ers) that using video for sales skills train­ing with the cor­rect method­ol­o­gy can achieve a skills retain­ment rate of up to 90%, com­pared to only 15% with tra­di­tion­al forms of role­play and modelling.

Here are 4 great ways to improve your sales team train­ing using video:

1. Simulate real-life sales experience (roleplay 2.0)

We all know what role­play is, right? It’s a sta­ple when it comes to devel­op­ing sales skills, with good rea­son. It’s an effec­tive way to sim­u­late the real-life sales experience.

The prob­lem with role­play is the feed­back process. Very often the sales­per­son doing the role­play won’t remem­ber every detail of the inter­ac­tion, more impor­tant­ly, they won’t remem­ber the parts they didn’t even know were wrong.

By record­ing role­play, you remove spec­u­la­tion, assump­tion and bias. There’s no “I think you did ok” or “maybe this could have been bet­ter” or argu­ments over what the sales­per­son may or may not have said. Being able to con­tex­tu­alise feed­back in a role­play ses­sion is extreme­ly impor­tant for effec­tive com­pa­ny sales training.

Record­ing role­play will also allow the sales­per­son to watch them­selves inter­act­ing with a cus­tomer. Watch­ing them­selves work will allow your sales team to reflect on what they believe would improve their sales per­for­mance, empow­er­ing staff to find their own pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment opportunities.

Research shows if the learn­er can see and hear them­selves then they are more like­ly to change their behav­iour as a result.

How to record roleplay

Step 1 — Estab­lish the roles

Write down a dif­fer­ent cus­tomer sce­nario for each pair. These should focus on the main objec­tions you get from cus­tomers and can be any­thing from “we’re not ready yet” to bud­get restrictions. 

Step 2 — Sep­a­rate into pairs 

Sep­a­rate peo­ple into pairs and have them alter­nate the roles of con­sul­tant and pre­tend prospects. Once the first per­son has had a go, the group should ran­dom­ly swap sce­nar­ios and the pair will swap roles. I.e. Now the con­sul­tant will be the pre­tend prospect and vice versa. 

Make sure your sce­nar­ios have vari­ety and if appro­pri­ate, humour. We want them to be remem­bered and humour helps with the recall process. 

Step 3 — Record the roleplay

Each time a new sce­nario starts, a new record­ing should be cre­at­ed. This will make shar­ing the indi­vid­ual sce­nar­ios for feed­back much easier. 

Con­sid­er record­ing both face-to-face role­play as well as video-con­fer­ence meet­ings. With many busi­ness­es mov­ing away from face-to-face inter­ac­tions, online sales train­ing is going to become more impor­tant than ever before for ensur­ing staff are ready to sell online.

Online train­ing for sales staff can be done very eas­i­ly and effec­tive­ly using video for obser­va­tion and feedback.

Step 4 — Observe and pro­vide feedback

Watch the record­ing back and analyse. You can watch as pairs, a group or as a whole team. By allow­ing staff to get feed­back from each oth­er, they will also simul­ta­ne­ous­ly learn from each oth­er’s strengths and weaknesses.

Allow­ing staff to record role­play or even live meet­ings allows them to pro­vide effec­tive feed­back from any­where with­out the restric­tions of time and space.

BONUS STEP — Grow a resource library

The advan­tage of record­ing role­play and live meet­ings is that you’re not only pick­ing up on things that require some improve­ment, which is great when you need to show staff what not to do. But you’re also able to cap­ture moments of gold.

These great exam­ples cap­tured on video start form­ing a renew­ing resource of train­ing mate­ri­als that you can use for var­i­ous train­ing and qual­i­ty assur­ance purposes.
 

2. Improve sales pitches with video

We all learn from oth­ers, espe­cial­ly in the work­place. Whether it’s the per­son who sits next to you or your boss. Every­one is a source of infor­ma­tion and knowledge. 

By pro­mot­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion on things like opti­mis­ing a sales pitch, you’ll be able to help every­one across your sales team by allow­ing the stronger more suc­cess­ful sales­peo­ple to help those who strug­gle with it.

The best way to encour­age col­lab­o­ra­tion is by get­ting staff com­fort­able with the process of record­ing them­selves for peer feed­back. Receiv­ing feed­back from those we work with is extreme­ly impor­tant because they’re in the same busi­ness and they know exact­ly what’s required to suc­ceed in that business.

How to improve sales pitches with video 

  1. Ask staff to record their pitches

This is impor­tant, get all your staff to record their sales pitch­es. This can be in pri­vate or actu­al meet­ing footage — We often do this at iCon­nect. Our cus­tomers are hap­py to oblige, espe­cial­ly if you explain that it’s for train­ing purposes.

  1. Iden­ti­fy the best elements

Get your team to share their sales pitch­es with you, then you need to spend some time watch­ing them. Estab­lish who in your sales team has the strongest pitch. This will nor­mal­ly be the peo­ple who are con­sis­tent­ly out­per­form­ing their peers. 

  1. Share the best prac­tices with your team

Find the best ele­ments from each of these pitch­es and cre­ate a resource of best prac­tice (a col­lec­tion of short video clips with great sales pitch moments). Once you’ve care­ful­ly curat­ed this resource, share it with your team. Hav­ing good, visu­al exam­ples of what you want your team to achieve is the first major step to improving.

Top Tip: You can make the video resources even more use­ful by using time-stamped com­ments to empha­sise what you think is important. 

  1. Pro­mote collaboration

Now that your sales team knows exact­ly what you’re expect­ing of them, it’s time to start get­ting them talk­ing. One of the most effec­tive ways to learn some­thing is to be taught by some­one who is cur­rent­ly doing exact­ly what you’re try­ing to do. Ask your strongest sales­peo­ple to help you strength­en the team by allow­ing them to give feed­back to those that need it.

Again, using time-stamped com­ments on video allows feed­back to be giv­en from any­where at any time. So you wouldn’t need to allo­cate spe­cif­ic ses­sions for team­work activ­i­ties, but rather it can form part of their week­ly duties.

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3. Encourage developmental self-reflection

The great thing about ask­ing your sales­peo­ple to record them­selves is that they’ll have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to watch them­selves work. The most per­ma­nent improve­ments occur when a per­son decides to change them­selves, instead of being told how to improve by some­one else.

By ask­ing your sales­peo­ple to watch them­selves back, they’ll start notic­ing things like:

  • Did I talk through the benefits?
  • Do I sound bored?
  • Whoops, for­got to men­tion that great new fea­ture we were trained about last week.
  • Wow, I say um… a lot. 
  • Did I ques­tion the prospect at all?
  • I tried that new sales tech­nique, didn’t I?

These small but valu­able insights into their own prac­tice, can­not be taught by some­one else. Even the best Sales Man­ag­er train­ing in the world won’t pre­pare you for the indi­vid­ual ten­den­cies and incli­na­tions of your sales staff. 

4. Promote sales mentorship

Anoth­er great way to improve the over­all per­for­mance is to pro­mote men­tor­ship with­in your sales team. Build­ing on the idea of stronger sales­peo­ple help­ing those who need it, sales men­tor­ship takes this to the next level.

Being an effec­tive sales­per­son doesn’t only require a good sales pitch, there is a lot more to being effec­tive than just being in front of cus­tomers. Being good at sales requires:

  1. Appro­pri­ate time-management
  2. Net­work­ing skills
  3. Per­son­al branding
  4. Intrin­sic prod­uct or ser­vice knowledge
  5. An over­all effi­cient approach to doing sales

These qual­i­ties are not things you can learn in a course or dur­ing an onboard­ing process. These skills are learned over time through tri­al and error.

By pro­mot­ing men­tor­ship with­in your sales team, you’re allow­ing the less expe­ri­enced to learn from those with valu­able insight that no sales sem­i­nar can pro­vide. More impor­tant­ly, the men­tor­ship that staff will receive is spe­cif­ic to sell­ing your com­pa­nies prod­ucts or services.

Why mentoring?

Research shows the men­tor­ing is ben­e­fi­cial for all three par­ties involved: the pro­tege, the men­tor and the organ­i­sa­tion (Pullins, Fine and War­ren: 1996). Men­tor­ing increas­es job sat­is­fac­tion, earn­ing poten­tial and increas­es employ­ee reten­tion, all of which can result in increas­ing sales (Bras­hear, et al: 2006). 

Stud­ies have found that pro­fes­sions that are less super­vised, such as sales, are more sen­si­tive to the influ­ence of men­tor­ing (Rollins, Ruther­ford and Nick­ell: 2014).

If we intro­duce employ­ees to a well struc­tured men­tor­ing pro­gramme, valu­able knowl­edge remains in-house and gives you a com­pet­i­tive advantage. 

4 Steps to increasing sales through mentorship

Step One: Find volunteers

Find vol­un­teers for men­tors and mentees. By using vol­un­teers they will be more like­ly to throw them­selves into the men­tor­ing process, and when it starts to work, every­one else will want to get in on the action.

Step Two: Estab­lish real­is­tic goals

The first ses­sion should always be on the mentee’s goals, what do they want to achieve, why do they want to achieve it, when should these goals be achieved and so on.

The men­tor should make sure these are rea­son­able and doable. Per­haps even pro­vid­ing more real­is­tic goals that can scale.

Step Three: Cre­ate a plan and stick to it

Both par­ties should book in time for men­tor­ing and stick to it. Put it in your diary and make sure every­one knows you’re busy. The main rea­son for men­tor­ship pro­grammes fail­ing is because peo­ple stop pri­ori­tis­ing these meetings.

Men­tor­ship might not seem like an obvi­ous mon­ey-mak­ing activ­i­ty, but it’s cru­cial if you’re look­ing to cre­ate a strong sales team that is con­stant­ly evolv­ing and mov­ing from strength-to-strength.

Step Four: Reflect on the change

From a man­age­r­i­al per­spec­tive, it’s impor­tant to acknowl­edge change as and when it happens. 

Be sure to encour­age feed­back of improve­ments to the larg­er team to keep every­one moti­vat­ed, on-track and engaged. If every­one in the team can see the advan­tages of the men­tor­ship pro­gram, they’re more like­ly to participate.

Shar­ing improve­ments with the wider sales team also pro­vides an oppor­tu­ni­ty for them to learn from the lessons as well and doesn’t restrict that improve­ment to the men­tor­ship relationship. 

By giv­ing every­one access to intrin­sic knowl­edge that could only be uncov­ered through an effec­tive men­tor­ship pro­gramme, you’re reduc­ing their learn­ing curve sig­nif­i­cant­ly. Pro­duc­ing a much stronger and more col­lab­o­ra­tive sales environment.

Technical solutions to recording video

The record­ing and shar­ing of video can be tricky. Trans­fer­ring large video files can take time as well as drain­ing valu­able stor­age space on your device Many sales man­agers choose DIY solu­tions for doing this using indi­vid­u­als’ own mobile devices for record­ing video and then upload­ing to a shar­ing appli­ca­tion to col­lab­o­rate as a team. 

How­ev­er, these options do intro­duce some issues that you need to consider:

  1. Data pro­tec­tion — Video is extreme­ly use­ful for train­ing pur­pos­es, but if you’re not cor­rect­ly stor­ing record­ings in a secure envi­ron­ment you are open­ing your­self up to data pro­tec­tion breach­es. Espe­cial­ly if the record­ings are with cus­tomers dis­clos­ing con­fi­den­tial information.
  2. Lim­it­ed stor­age — Any­one who’s ever record­ed any­thing will know how quick­ly your device stor­age is used up by video. The only solu­tion to this on your own device is to delete old­er record­ings, los­ing all that valu­able insight. Unless you’re will­ing to pay for pre­mi­um stor­age on a plat­form like Google Dri­ve or Dropbox.
  3. Shar­ing and feed­back — The key to video-based learn­ing is the abil­i­ty to share with col­leagues and receive feed­back based on their expe­ri­ence. If you’re rely­ing on cloud stor­age providers that aren’t built for col­lab­o­ra­tion like this, then receiv­ing feed­back becomes far more chal­leng­ing and requires in-per­son feed­back which can be very lim­it­ing for the trainee.
  4. Objec­tive analy­sis — Some­times it’s nec­es­sary to analyse trainees using stan­dard­ised rubrics to bet­ter under­stand where they need help improv­ing com­pared to oth­ers in the organ­i­sa­tion. This requires tools that are equipped for video-based learn­ing and sim­ply aren’t avail­able on cloud-based stor­age platforms.
  5. Col­lab­o­ra­tion — Anoth­er impor­tant aspect of using video for learn­ing is that you’re able to share learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties, both good and bad. Being able to pro­vide con­tex­tu­alised exam­ples that trainees can learn from is extreme­ly pow­er­ful. This becomes dif­fi­cult to achieve if you’re depend­ing entire­ly on DIY solutions.

A professional approach to video-enabled learning

At iCon­nect, using video for pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment is what we spe­cialise in. 

We work with GPs, schools, uni­ver­si­ties and busi­ness­es to inte­grate video-based learn­ing into their exist­ing learn­ing and devel­op­ment strate­gies. iCon­nect solve many of the issues we men­tioned before:

Data pri­va­cy and cloud stor­age — All video record­ing is done via our secure, GDPR com­pli­ant app that auto­mat­i­cal­ly uploads the video to our cloud-based plat­form and deletes it from your mobile device imme­di­ate­ly. This is great for keep­ing your data safe while also reduc­ing the reliance on your device’s stor­age capacity.

If you’re train­ing at dis­tance, we also have a built-in video-con­fer­enc­ing tool that you can use to host and record meet­ings. If you’re already com­mit­ted to a video-con­fer­enc­ing plat­form, we pro­vide a brows­er-based screen cap­ture tool for record­ing any­thing hap­pen­ing on screen.

Con­duct­ing and record­ing meet­ings at dis­tance — With the shift to more remote work­ing, being able to meet using a secure plat­form that can record your meet­ing for train­ing and qual­i­ty assur­ance has become extreme­ly important. 

iCon­nect pro­vides the most secure envi­ron­ment for your staff to meet your cus­tomers, while allow­ing you to make the most of these record­ings through feed­back and collaboration.

Shar­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tion - iCon­nect has been built from the ground up as a col­lab­o­ra­tive learn­ing plat­form using video, it’s at the very core of what we do. We enable con­tex­tu­alised feed­back using time-stamped com­ments that pro­vide a very flex­i­ble, yet pow­er­ful feed­back mechanism.

By con­tex­tu­al­is­ing feed­back on video with time-stamps you’re able to avoid mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion and mis­un­der­stand­ing. Feed­back in the form of com­ments on a video also becomes a per­ma­nent resource that trainees can refer to when­ev­er they need in future. 

Objec­tive impact analy­sis — In addi­tion to qual­i­ta­tive feed­back in the form of com­ments, train­ers can use Forms on the iCon­nect plat­form that allows for the objec­tive analy­sis of video using quan­tifi­able data. Forms pro­vide Sales Man­agers with 5 types of met­rics that they can use to mea­sure var­i­ous aspects of a salesperson’s performance. 

Using objec­tive analy­sis like this allows com­pa­nies to under­stand the impact of var­i­ous sales train­ing inter­ven­tions on their bot­tom-line, which helps to more effec­tive­ly plan bud­get spend­ing on sales training.

Grow resources libraries - One of the most under­rat­ed assets an employ­ee pos­sess­es is their intrin­sic knowl­edge of the com­pa­ny and their mar­ket. iCon­nect pro­vides col­lab­o­ra­tive areas for mak­ing this intrin­sic knowl­edge avail­able to oth­er staff mem­bers in the form of Groups.

Pro­vid­ing sales staff with good and bad exam­ples from real-life sce­nar­ios in the form of a resource library will do more for them than any exter­nal sales train­ing pro­gram will ever do. This is because the exam­ples they’re learn­ing from are direct­ly applic­a­ble to their dai­ly lives, mak­ing it high­ly rel­e­vant and transferable.

Are you inter­est­ed to find out more? Get in touch and see iCon­nect live and in action for yourself.

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Train­ing Sales Teams: How to save time and increase train­ing effectiveness
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