Sales training is a Catch-22 for many managers – if you don’t train your newly hired reps enough, they won’t be prepared for the demands of the job; but if you take too much time to train them, your team won’t see any benefit from new hires and may fall short of sales goals for the month.
Every sales manager would love to have the luxury of offering months and months of extensive and detailed training to each new rep. Unfortunately, we live in the real world where sales reps must ramp quickly and start selling even faster. How do you find a balance between too little training and too much?
It is possible to create an efficient sales process that trains new reps thoroughly, while still pushing them to make calls and work towards a quota right away. Here’s how you can cut sales rep onboarding time in half, without cutting any corners.
Set a Quota Immediately
When do you give a new sales rep a quota of either activity goals or dollars to close? Many sales organizations train sales reps and slowly ramp their quotas over time – in month one, you have no quota; month two you have half quota, by month three you’re at 75% of quota, and only responsible for full quota by month 4. Instead of this slow process, you can start out reps more aggressively. Give them a challenging quota from the start, and set them dialing leads on their very first day. Even though they may stumble at first, some will reach their goals and surprise you. Setting high expectations will drive the entire training process, and push them to learn quickly.
Have a Playbook
Success in sales is all about preparation before you call a prospect, and your reps need to have every necessary tool at their fingertips. Every sales organization should have a comprehensive sales playbook that includes everything from buyer personas to talk tracks to product pricing to sales incentives. Give your reps some homework on their very first day – ask them to read the entire sales playbook and memorize specific chapters. This will get your reps off to a great start, and show them how much they have to learn. The playbook will also serve as a constant reference manual any time they’re confused or can’t remember specific sales knowledge.
Focus on the Product
If you’re asking your team to sell a B2B product to an intelligent and discerning audience, you better train them thoroughly on that product. It’s not enough to just have a few sessions that shows off your best features, and give them access to your product to use when they have time. This will be enough for some reps who are self-starters, but others may be very new to the field and need more guidance. Pair up new reps with experienced inside sales reps and have them listen in during live product demos to prospects. This will not only teach them about the product, but also help them start to learn the best pitch for every feature.
Don’t Skimp on Systems
As important as it is to learn the product, it’s also vital to train new reps on how to use all of your internal systems. There should be a step-by-step guide included in your playbook, but you should also enforce adoption with your newest team members. If you use CRM, for example, many reps may understand it, but still hate using it. Make sure you explain clearly to your new team members exactly why it is so important to input data correctly into CRM, why it is useful to use email tracking tools, why prospecting on LinkedIn works well, and more. This training is very often skimmed over by managers, but it is important to have a strong base of skills in order to sell.
Do Sales Role Play
The best way to get a sense of how your sales training is functioning overall is by doing live objection handling and sales role play between team members. Set up a weekly meeting where reps practice their pitches and selling skills on others, while you critique their methods. Role play takes away the pressure of their daily calls, and allows them to objectively evaluate their own performance as well. This meeting should continue long after their official training period is over, and you can focus on a different skill each week. As they become proficient in objection handling, turn to demo skills, negotiation methods, and more.
After you’ve put your reps through a few weeks of intensive training, conduct a tough proficiency exam to evaluate their progress. Test all of the skills outlined in the playbook, including talk tracks, product knowledge, systems mastery, objection handling and more. Based on the rep’s individual score, push them to start making more calls and go after new business, or give them more training as needed. This allows you to personalize your training program to each rep, instead of giving everyone the same treatment. You should continue to offer ongoing coaching to all reps, focusing on their weaknesses and pushing them to continue to improve, even as they strive for their quota.
If this training seems aggressive to you, it’s meant to be. You want to pack as much information into the first few weeks on the job as you can, and get your new team members ready to succeed. The fast pace of training will prepare them for the pace of the job, and set them up for success in the future.