Maintaining a robust sales training program is one of the most predictable ways to reach your revenue goals. Research shows companies with effective training have a significantly higher number of sales reps reaching and exceeding quota than those who don’t have a training program or their program is inadequate.
One of the most significant factors that distinguish highly effective sales programs from ones that fall short is the topics that are covered. To equip your reps to succeed, you need to provide comprehensive training that includes all of the information that buyers expect them to know and enables them to manage their pipeline effectively.
Here are 8 sales training topics that will set your team up for success.
1) Buyer Personas
Your buyer personas are the most crucial topic in your sales training. If your reps don’t have a strong understanding of your buyer’s needs, they’re going to make a bad impression.
According to a Forrester report, 77% of executives say that the majority of sales reps they talk to don’t understand their needs. As a result, the majority of buyers don’t trust reps to help them find the right solution and instead strive to make purchasing decisions primarily through their own research.
To ensure your reps are trustworthy, train them to understand the nuances of your various buyer personas. This includes:
- Pain points - what are the most stressful issues they’re facing?
- Company structure - who are the decision-makers, and how fast can they typically make decisions?
- Communication style - do they like to connect on a personal level, or do they prefer brief conversations focused on the facts?
- Industry characteristics and news - What kinds of challenges and opportunities is their industry facing?
Training your sales reps to have a firm grasp of these topics empowers them to help prospects solve problems instead of just giving semi-relevant pitches.
2) All of Your Product/Service’s Capabilities
Expecting salespeople to understand your product/service seems like a very basic expectation that shouldn’t require a lot of training. However, 37% of executive buyers say most sales reps aren’t knowledgeable enough about their offering.
B2B buyers are highly risk-averse and want to make well-informed decisions. When sales reps struggle to give complete answers to their questions, it hurts buyer confidence and makes the sale much more challenging.
How you train your salespeople to become experts in your offering depends on if you’re selling a product or service.
- If you’re selling a product, have your reps go through the process of using it the way your clients. This will expose them to all of the features and give them a clear understanding of how it works.
- If you’re selling a service, have them interview your service providers, so they gain a strong understanding of what your service team is capable of.
Training your sales team to be experts empowers them to create great prospect experiences and achieve reliable close rates.
3) Product/Service Limitations
Just as important as it is for salespeople to know what your product is capable of is for them to understand what it can’t solve. Product/service limitations are one of the most underestimated sales training topics. Salespeople naturally have an overly optimistic attitude about their offering and want to do everything they can to solve their prospects’ problems. If you don’t set boundaries, they’re likely to make promises that your service team can’t meet.
This is especially important if you’re selling custom solutions. If your salespeople don’t fully understand your limitations, they’ll agree to customer requests that are well beyond the scope of your offering. Not only can this ruin customer relationships, it also creates conflicts between your service and sales teams.
To avoid this issue, dedicate a portion of your sales training to clearly defining what your offering can and cannot do. Provide specific examples that show your offering’s limitation so your salespeople can immediately recognize when a prospect’s request exceeds your team’s capabilities.
4) Common Buyer Objections
Though any good sales rep knows how to deflect negative points and refocus on the positive, you need to train your team to respond to the specific topics they’ll encounter most.
Today’s buyers are more informed than ever. Your salespeople can’t brush off their concerns and expect to earn a sale.
If you don’t have one already, create a list of your most common buyer objections including:
- Lack of certain features
- Difficult implementation
- Amount of commitment required
And any other issues that buyers have with your offering. Then teach them the most effective ways to respond. Share specific examples, so they’re equipped to deal with prospects who see past the sales pitch and demand concrete answers.
5) Lead Qualification
One of the biggest productivity mistakes a sales rep can make is treating every lead the same. With a limited amount of selling time each day, reps need to prioritize the highest quality prospects. To do that, you need to train your sales team to look for two types of high-intent triggers:
- Lead characteristics - how closely do they match your buyer persona? Leads who fit the majority of your ideal traits are more likely to be good customers.
- Engagement indicators - highly engaged leads are more likely to close than silent ones. Teach your sales team what kinds of behaviors your high-intent buyers display.
Train your team to spend the most time on prospects that are highly qualified and highly engaged. As they increase their close rate and productivity, they can spend more time trying to win over lower intent leads.
6) Social Selling
78% of salespeople who practice social selling close more deals than those who don’t. Prospects are much more receptive to sales reps who build authentic relationships with them on social media than ones who constantly cold call them. Thus, social selling is a critical topic for your sales training program.
If your team has limited experience with social selling, conduct a brief training workshop to help them get started. Here’s how:
- Audit your sales team’s social media accounts. Make sure there is nothing that reflects poorly in your brand. If there is, have them delete the posts or create a new profile depending on the severity and quantity of their inappropriate posts.
- Teach your reps your brand’s social media best practices so that moving forward, they post messages that make a positive impression with your prospects.
- Show example cadences of how they can engage with prospects on LinkedIn or their preferred social media platform.
- Share steps and examples of how they can use social selling to amplify their in-person networking efforts.
After the training, check-in with them regularly to see how they’re using social media to foster stronger relationships with their prospects. Provide additional coaching as needed until their social selling efforts drive results.
7) Leveraging Your Marketing Team
65% of sales reps struggle to find the right content to share with prospects. This hinders their productivity for two reasons:
- They waste a few hours every week, trying to find the right content that may or may not exist.
- They lack the collateral they need to help guide prospects through the funnel.
Most sales reps struggle to leverage sales enablement content since they don’t know what content is available and/or they don’t know how they can request new content that addresses the buyer concerns they’re currently facing.
Address this issue in your sales training by having your team review all of your existing material. Make sure they know what’s available and how to access it. You should also assign a marketing representative to the sales team and have them introduce themselves during training. Giving your team a point person makes it easy for them to request content that helps move their deals forward.
8) CRM Best Practices
Studies show that when reps know how to leverage their pipeline data, they’re able to shorten their sales cycle by 8-14%. Having robust CRM reports allows them to zero in on the warmest prospects, identify the most effective triggers, and use other insights to close deals faster.
Despite the benefits, sales reps fail to enter 79% of the opportunity-related data they collect. This occurs primarily for two reasons:
- They don’t see the benefits of using a CRM. If this is the issue, you need to show them the value that the reports can offer.
- Learning how to use the CRM is daunting for them. Resolve this concern by slowly walking them through how they need to use the CRM. The simpler that you make the training, the more likely they are to fully adopt the CRM.
Spend as much time on this topic as you need to get your sales reps to leverage CRM data in their daily decisions.
Follow-Up with Your Sales Training Topics
No matter how effective your training curriculum is, it won’t drive performance improvements unless you follow-up. Research shows that, without reinforcement, people forget 79% of what they learn within thirty days of a training event.
The easiest time to reinforce your training topics is in your 1:1s. As you address the challenges, your reps are facing and the pipeline stages they’re struggling with, remind them about the lessons they learned in training.
Not only does having frequent conversations about your training topics keep them top-of-mind, but it also makes the lessons much more tangible since you’re applying them to real challenges they’re facing.
About the author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.