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How to Train Salespeople

Sales Training from Beginner to Expert

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Businessman talking to co-workers in conference room
Paul Bradbury/OJO Images/Getty Images

There are two types of training that fall under the umbrella of “sales training.” The first is teaching the mechanics of sales: how to go about selling in the general sense, with an emphasis perhaps on the sales techniques that work best for your industry. The second is company-specific training: details about your products and services, the sales process that your team is expected to use, tools and resources, etc.

Every salesperson, no matter how experienced, can benefit from both types of sales training. Learning how to sell is an ongoing process. There are always new strategies and new technologies that your team must learn in order to sell effectively.

When you bring a new salesperson on board, the priority will be in company-specific training. Unless your new employee is a rank beginner they’ll have at least a basic grasp of the mechanics of selling, but it’s likely they won’t know much about your own products or how your particular sales process works.

The easiest way to get started is often to sit the new salesperson down with your customer service team. The customer service folks are intimately familiar with your products, and will know what existing customers like most (and least) about them. Let the new salesperson listen in on a few customer service calls, and give them access to documentation about the products (user guides, brochures, websites, etc.).

Once your new employee is familiar with your product line, pair them up with an experienced salesperson. Listening to phone calls and riding along on appointments gives your new employees an idea of the process. Ideally, they’ll get to see at least one sale go through the entire process.

Finally, switch roles and have the new salesperson make calls and take appointments with a senior salesperson (or sales manager) observing. Not only will you find out how well they absorbed your company information, you’ll also get a look at their general sales knowledge. Now you’ll know how much “mechanical” sales training your new employee needs.

If your new salesperson demonstrates weaknesses in particular areas (for example, they’re great at getting appointments but choke at the close) then it might be time for some basic training. You can either train internally (do it yourself or assign a senior salesperson) or externally (signing your new employee up for a sales training class, for example).

Internal training is cheaper and you can customize it perfectly to your employees needs, but it is time consuming – and can end up costing you more in the long run, if your best salesperson is spending hours training instead of making sales! An alternative is to combine both approaches: sign the new salesperson up for an external class, then arrange for them to practice by setting up roleplaying or sending them out on appointments.

New team members are not the only ones who will need sales training. Anytime you add a new product or service, your salespeople need to know about it. If you change the sales process (for example, adding an ecommerce component to your website) your sales team needs to know about that, too. And if you have the resources it’s a great idea to periodically set up training for your salespeople, so they can learn new sales skills and hone existing skills.

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