In this article:
- 4 common challenges when training sales teams
- How to effectively onboard your sales team
- Effective sales training through the use of video
- 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.
4 common challenges when training sales teams
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:
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.
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.
Explore the power of video for sales training:
Effectively training sales teams through the use of video
The best way we’ve found for both onboarding sales teams, as well as training sales teams, 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Empower your staff through video-enabled sales team training:
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:
- Appropriate time-management
- Networking skills
- Personal branding
- Intrinsic product or service knowledge
- 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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.