When you boil it down, the goal of sales training is to grow revenue and improve margins. That’s what sales is about. However, there are many ways to go about growing revenue and improving margins, and the devil is in the details.
Before initiating any sales training program, the first step is to understand what you’re trying to achieve and the areas you want to focus on to grow revenue and improve margins. For example, are you going to achieve revenue growth by expanding your existing accounts, bringing in more new clients, or increasing the average size of sale? Only after you understand this level of detail can you determine which solutions will lead you to your desired results.
Here are seven key outcomes to consider when planning your sales training program.
1. Growing current accounts: One of the most profitable ways to grow revenue is by selling more to existing accounts. It sounds obvious, but most companies don’t put an emphasis on this. In fact, our Benchmark Report on Top Performance in Strategic Account Management found that 76 percent of companies believe they should be generating at least 25 percent more revenue from their strategic accounts. This represents a huge opportunity for most sellers. Organizations can turn these opportunities into account growth reality by obtaining the right knowledge, skills, tools, and action plans.
2. Increasing the size of your sales: While growing your existing accounts can help boost the size of your sales, there are other ways to do this as well. For instance, sellers can improve their needs discovery to uncover the full set of buyer desires and afflictions. They can also target larger clients who have a bigger appetite for their products and services. One key to doing this is increasing product knowledge and making sure sellers know what questions to ask to uncover the broader set of needs in areas you can help.
3. Improving your win rate: Maybe you have a robust pipeline, but you’re not winning as often as you should. Perhaps your sellers are getting outsold by stiff competition or losing to a no-decision. When talking to buyers, it’s up to your sellers to help them answer four key questions: why act, why now, why us, and why trust. The sellers who answer these questions best win more often.
4. Bringing in new logos: Although growing existing accounts is the number one priority for sales leaders, bringing in new clients is equally important. Much growth is achieved by bringing in new business. To win, sellers must possess stellar prospecting skills, know how to fill pipelines with qualified leads, improve needs discovery, and lead better sales conversations.
5. Decreasing sales cycle time: When sellers win sales faster, they can focus on other opportunities in their pipeline. This requires better lead qualification so sellers aren’t wasting their time on leads who aren’t going to buy, and instead focus on moving sales through the buying process. Some sellers also extend sales cycles by spending too much time talking to the wrong contact, which is why it’s crucial to nail down the appropriate decision maker. If sellers know how to handle sales objections and address them early, they’ll speed up the process.
6. Negotiating better deals: Are your sellers getting beaten up by purchasing departments? Are buyers squeezing your margins? Many sellers don’t know how to respond when they’re pressured on price. The easy thing to do is to just give the buyer what they want, right? This has become problematic for many organizations. More sellers need to learn how to negotiate deals in a way that maintains margins while improving relationships.
7. Improving new seller onboarding time and success: Sales hiring failures can be costly. You need to hire the right people and get them up to speed and selling at full productivity quickly. Improving your hiring success rate and decreasing ramp-up time can have a huge impact on your sales results.
Within each of these areas are sales skills your sellers need to focus on and develop. Once you’ve established your goals for a particular training initiative, it’s time to decide how you’ll measure the program’s success.
4 Leading Indicators of SuccessThe seven aforementioned goals are lagging indicators of success. It will take some time to determine if the training produced the desired results, and you’ll be able to measure this only if you know where you started.
It’s also important to consider leading indicators of success. These measures indicate whether you’re on the right track with your training initiative. Here are four leading indicators to watch for:
- Qualitative feedback: Talk to your sellers about the training and observe changes in their behavior.
- Workshop ratings: If the training event itself isn’t relevant, engaging, and built for adult learners, it’s a good indicator that the initiative isn’t going to be successful. You can get a sense of this by having participants rate the workshop and facilitators. Successful workshops aren’t sufficient for behavioral change, but they are necessary.
- Post-training engagement: If it’s not reinforced, 77 percent of learning will be forgotten within six days. That’s why most training initiatives include reinforcement, such as virtual instructor-led training, e-learning, mobile and email scenarios, simulations, and coaching. Tracking sellers engagement with reinforcement activities can indicate whether or not they retained the knowledge and if they’re changing behaviors.
- Pipeline growth: Often, the first indicator of success you’ll notice is pipeline changes. Whether it’s adding more new opportunities, larger opportunities, more opportunities with existing accounts, or expediting sales, tracking changes in your pipeline can reveal whether or not you’re moving in the right direction.
Even initiatives that have well-defined goals, are focused on the right topics, and receive top ratings can fail. The companies that get the best results from sales training focus on two areas that can significantly boost results:
- Effectiveness of sales management: One of the greatest leverage points in sales success is the effectiveness of your sales management. You can boost the success of any training initiative by having sales managers who can maximize motivation, hold sellers accountable, and coach sellers.
- Sales culture: A culture that supports sales motivation and achievement can be a real game-changer for your sales results.
As you develop your sales training initiative, you must first define where you want to go and which metrics you need to move the needle. Then, track the leading and lagging indicators and adjust as needed to reach your goals. With a clear path and goal, and a culture supported by sales leadership to get there, you set the stage for the best revenue and margin growth possible.