8 Do’s and Don’ts of Sales Skills Training

From the keyboard of Doug Cowan  |  August, 2013  \  www.wdcowanassociates.com

The current  economic downturn has forced many companies to curtail or cancel training investments in their sales force. Many of these companies have found that they have paid a price in terms of sales performance and revenue, to save training expenditures.

Here are eight Do’s and Don’ts companies should consider in order to get more for their sales training dollar.

1.       DO have a well-developed and documented Sales Process for each sales channel used.

Before you start to train sales staff, invest in an exercise to define and document your Sales Process. This key part of your business is the vital procedure used by your sales force to find customers, sell to them, and develop them for future business. It is unique to your company, and it must deliver value to your customers. Ironically, many companies do not fully know or understand their own sales process.

Note: For sales training to be truly effective, it must be consistent with and support the steps in your Sales Process.

2.       DON’T train poorly performing staff that you are not likely to keep for the long term.

Consistently poor performers need to be dealt with after appropriate coaching and motivational efforts have been made. Training someone who is not suitable for your sales team will not benefit them or the team.  

3.       DO think about your top performers when sales training is being planned.

Top performers need to continue to improve their skills and abilities, as do other employees. It can be harder to understand what will help them and consequently, their needs are often overlooked when training is planned. It is worth the effort to think separately about them. A ten percent sales increase from your top performer is bigger than ten percent from other employees.

4.       DON’T regard sales training as single ‘one-off’ or annual events.

Many sales pros have been through the ‘flavor of the month’ sales training routine. Lots of expensive training binders are gathering dust. Over time, the sales force learns that there is no training strategy and feels that management simply hopes something will stick. If the company makes no long term commitment to a sales training agenda, neither will the sales force.

5.       DO expect to refresh past training material on a regular basis.

Skills and knowledge learned in prior training events have to be reinforced in order to develop into long-term habits. Past material must be reevaluated and reinvigorated regularly. This means committing time and money to a regular schedule of activities to refresh training and development.

6.       DO invest in Sales Management training in parallel with sales rep training.

Sales management development is often overlooked as a discrete training need. Arguably, sales management has a greater effect on a sales rep’s performance than any other factor. Most sales managers were top sales people, but may not have the natural skills needed to become top managers. This takes a planned effort and a focused training and development program.

7.       DO work with training companies that will learn about your company and that are willing to work with your team over an extended period of time.

A training company must invest the time and effort to learn about your needs and their ability to satisfy them. They must be prepared to commit to your long-term sales success and growth. Further, the principals of a training company should be involved in working with your company and delivering some or all of the training required.

8.       DON’T get caught up in the latest and greatest fad or fashion in the world of sales training.

Sales training systems that use the latest in e- or web-technology claim to be time-efficient and cost-effective. Their drawback is they may not be focused with the right intensity on your real sales training needs.

The primary measure of effectiveness  for sales training is the development of new skills. Whatever training method is used, it needs to allow for practice of new skills and appropriate coaching and feedback. This is best not done in front of the customer.


Take these 8 Do’s and Don’ts into consideration when you are beginning to set your sales training objectives and you will get a much better return on the time and money invested.


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