What Are Sales Training Programs and Does Your Sales Team Really Need One?

Kushal Saini Kakkar
August 19, 2021
5 min read

If you look up sales training on Google, you'll see endless listicles like these:

"36+ best sales programs" 

"40 best sales programs for your sales kick-off"

"The 10 most actionable sales training courses for effective sales training"

Every article is neatly categorized with eye-catching info on details such as:

  • Who is it for?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Which famous companies have benefited from the program?

And so on.

Naturally, each program on every list promises to help your sales reps close deals, boost sales performance and turbocharge your revenue like a breeze. Hit the ground running.

Don't worry, this isn't yet another such listicle. 

We're here to tell you how all that money and hours spent in sales training sometimes isn't enough to transform your reps into Grant Cardones. 

Source

There's only one thing that's going to make any difference in helping them 10X their numbers. 

But before we give away the whole plot, let's get the basics right. Starting with what sales training is and how it benefits your sales reps. If you’re already familiar with these, feel free to skip the next segment.

What is sales training?

Sales training develops the selling skills of your representatives and helps them be better at their jobs. At its heart, sales training is all about sharing what worked in similar business settings and teaching how to apply these lessons in actual selling scenarios like prospecting calls.

For instance, sales prospecting means knowing how to: 

  • Identify the right prospects (aka sales opportunities)
  • Build a database of prospects 
  • Reach out to the prospects, gauge their sales readiness and convince them to attend a demo/call

Let’s take another example. An average sales rep is expected to start selling almost overnight. That means having the skills to:

  • Prospect effectively
  • Build a rapport over LinkedIn or a call
  • Engage in social selling (also on LinkedIn)
  • Handle rejections 

All that is on top of honing the communication, storytelling and closing skills.

But these new skills are all linked to our behaviors, and for that, we need effective training. Talent can only get you so far. 

What are the benefits of sales training?

At the risk of hearing "Thanks, Captain Obvious" from you, the single most important benefit of sales training is to help your reps close more deals

Closing such deals requires three things:

  • Understanding your organization, its business model and its ideal customers
  • Knowing how to establish rapport and gain the trust of your prospects
  • Learning closing skills like stakeholder management, negotiation etc.

Yeah yeah, we know, that’s one tall order. So the next question is, can one sales training course teach all that? In just a matter of days? And it all falls into place neatly?

Well, not really.

Here's the tea: Traditional sales training courses are a waste of time and money

Here’s what happens in a traditional sales training program. 

All the sales reps are brought together in one location (or a Zoom room) to attend a series of knowledge-intensive sessions. These are followed by motivational sessions and a bunch of role-play exercises involving the use of some generic sales scripts. That’s because most traditional sales training programs rely on rote memorization and following generic sales scripts religiously. 

These sessions go on for a couple of days and after completing the program, sales reps are expected to come back and become a lean, mean deals-winning machine.

Probably, a year later, there’s further training either about the upcoming products or a recap of earlier sessions. That’s usually accompanied by some more team-building sessions—which we all love—and motivational talks.

Ah, one more thing — remember how we mentioned a big part of becoming a great sales rep involves behavioral changes? Well, one-off sessions aren’t going to perform any miracles on this front. 

Changing sales behaviors takes time, extensive practice and continuous feedback. 

So, how does all that affect sales training programs?

Each sales process is different. The problem with undergoing traditional training programs and memorizing scripts verbatim is that they don’t sound original or unique. 

Your reps are trying to imitate someone else, and as a result, they don’t come across as genuine. Prospects can smell that “quota breath” from miles away, and there’s no way they find your reps trustworthy. 

Without trust, especially in longer sales cycles, there can be no personal connection or relationship building. 

That’s why even though companies in the US spend over $70 billion annually on sales training (~$1459 per rep), the ROI is abysmal. Mainly because their retention of the skills they learned during these sessions — most reps forget over 80% of what they learn within 3 months. 

And by the way, these programs don’t come cheap.

How much does an average sales training course cost?

Easily a few thousand dollars per person. We’re going to mention a few of the most popular training programs to give you an idea.

Richardson, a sales training company, offers sales performance courses that can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000 per person. If you have ten sales team members, that’s at least $5,000 to $20,000 for a two-day in-person training program. 

Another popular program is an online sales training from The Brooks Group, which covers sales techniques for real-world prospecting, presenting and closing. It includes six online webinar-like sessions (two hours each) and costs $1,990 per rep. Again, almost $20,000 for a 10-person sales team. 

Meanwhile, the RAIN group offers e-learning programs on the foundations of consultative selling for almost $300 per person. 

But what about the follow up? 

At this point, we don’t have to ask you to do the math again. You get our drift.

The reason why even the best sales training programs fail is that they don’t reinforce everything they teach. Neither do they keep checking in on the reps to know whether they’re actually following the training advice. Unless that happens, sales training programs will continue to fail. For no fault of their own, might we add.

So, is there a better way to invest all that money AND get its worth?

If traditional sales training courses are such a waste of time and money, what should I do instead? 

“I stopped sales training years ago. Most sales training offered today is a waste of time and money. That’s because selling is supposed to facilitate the buying process. Most sales training programs make sales processes extremely complicated.” Pauline O’Malley, B2B Business Development Strategist

Especially the B2B sales training programs. And when has complicating things even more ever paid off?

That’s why instead of researching and investing in sales training programs, here are three things you could do for more effective sales.

1. Start by understanding your sales process

Like we mentioned earlier, selling processes are unique to each organization, industry and buyer. There could be several types of buyers, each with specific challenges and needs. Their goals might also differ from one another. A typical sales script doesn’t take into account so many variables. 

Moreover, most buyers perform extensive research of their own before even considering talking to a sales rep. A Forrester report found that 59% of buyers do their research online instead of interacting with the sales reps as they tend to push a sales agenda rather than solving a problem. 

Dealing with the modern-day prospects by speaking their language, handling their objections and knowing which piece of information would help convince them are all skills that a training program can’t teach in 7 days. 

For that, you need a custom sales strategy built using case studies from your organization. And continuous interactions plus follow-ups with your sales reps to cultivate those winning selling skills.

2. Listen to your sales team

Your sales team talks to prospects every day. They’re best positioned to share what your prospects are looking for and what’s the best way to meet their needs. That’s why it’s crucial to pay special attention to the sales professionals who are successful in your organization and figure out a way to replicate their success.

Asking these veteran reps to coach your sales reps would do a better job of training them to be effective salespeople than a popular sales program worth thousands of dollars. 

For example, a financial services firm asked its sales leaders to study call flows and customer interactions from the sales calls of the top-quartile inside sales reps. Using these case studies, the firm unearthed the best call flows to convince their prospects and improve their outreach messaging for each stage within the buying process. 

Armed with this information, they set up a tailor-made in-house training program for the remaining reps, in addition to targeting the development of specific skills. 

Guess what? 

Their reps became 25% more productive in just 18 months, and their overall sales numbers shot up by 20%.

And that brings us to the last step.

3. Invest in sales coaching to develop sales skills and close deals faster

A modern-day sales rep has to:

  • Understand the product/service, the business model, and its value
  • Listen to game tapes (more on this in a bit ;) ) aka sales conversations of seasoned reps within the organization
  • Learn from their game tapes
  • Put all of those learnings into practice
  • Get feedback to know how to improve 

No traditional sales training course or methodology is going to check all of those boxes. The key to sales success, instead, lies with sales coaching.

Pacific Life Insurance Company does this with video coaching. Its field wholesalers record their pitches and share them with their sales managers, who then provide feedback on how to improve and be more effective. That’s the power of sales coaching

Now you might be rolling your eyes and silently muttering:

“Honestly, I don't have all the time in the world to coach.”

We get it. 

But what if, instead of spending hours monitoring calls and providing feedback, you just wrap it all up in 5 minutes? 

That’s exactly what Wingman does.

You can give feedback without even attending a call. You can extract granular insights on everything from product features and pricing to objection handling and the competition from each call. These insights will help your reps improve significantly with each call, turbocharging their sales performance. ;)

But don’t just take our word for it. Here’s what Pauline has to say.

In today’s environment of instantaneous expectations of success, where people hand over their money in nanoseconds, you better be knowing every second of what your sales team is doing. And there’s only one way to do it — using a sales coaching tool like Wingman. The other stuff (like sales training) is a waste of time.” Pauline O’Malley, B2B Business Development Strategist

Bye bye sales training!

Hello sales coaching for better sales skills (ft Wingman)

"Wingman totally lives the sales training motto of: listen to your own calls, study your managers, learn from the past and apply it to the future." David S, Administrator at Appreciation Financial

Here’s how.

Intelligent call recording and analysis

Wingman’s call recording software automatically records, transcribes and analyzes every sales call on your calendar and stores them in an easy-to-access and share format. 

You can review the AI-identified highlights of each call, skim through the transcripts or listen to the recordings at 2x playback speeds to get the insights you need. Plus, you can use advanced filters to look for patterns regarding certain topics, objections presented, deal stages and more.

The icing on the cake — Wingman integrates with your tech stack from dialers and video conferencing tools to CRMs. So, sales leaders can review all calls by their sales teams along with the relevant context from one place and identify which reps need coaching to improve their sales performance.

Says David:
“Wingman has totally changed the way I review and study calls by cleanly organizing and allowing me to read, re-read, and skim through entire sales calls.”

Sales performance analysis

Wingman comes with AI-assisted sales performance analysis of your sales teams. You can get a comprehensive snapshot of the key sales behaviors of each rep—average call duration, talk/listen ratio and so on—with a single click.

Plus, you can look for insights on any topic or keyword from any call (product feature or pricing discussion, objection handling conversations and so on).

As a result, you can check whether your reps are following your sales methodology, process and playbook. You can also spot and share the most effective sales tactics to acquire new customers with the entire team to give their selling skills a boost.   

“Wingman has helped me take back control of call coaching, controlling consistent messaging and more. At the end of a day or week, I can quickly go see the results from 1000s of calls across 12+ people and ascertain which people need help and even where they struggled.” Elliot P, Head of Inside Sales at Qumulo

Contextual battlecards and bookmarks

Here’s where things get interesting. 

Like we’ve already mentioned, no script can be comprehensive enough to tackle every situation during a sales call. During such tricky moments, Wingman has your rep’s back with on-demand cue cards containing pitch points. 

The software also sends alerts whenever you’re at the risk of having a monologue. 

So, sales leaders can coach their reps without having to join every single call. 

Plus, they can add comments whenever they come across teachable moments from calls, making sales coaching actionable. 

Asynchronous coaching: 3; Traditional sales training: 0.

“Wingman is actually my Wingman. It really helps me during customer calls by pulling out pre-loaded cue cards for my reference related to the topic being discussed at that point in the call.” Wasim H, Customer Success Manager, Chargebee

Game tapes

Game tapes are where you can create collections of all the save-worthy, share-worthy, wow-worthy and cringe-worthy calls in one place. Think of it as a collection of your greatest hits and lowest lows, so that your reps know the magic words to close every deal and grow their win rates exponentially.

Game tapes also help with marketing and sales enablement. With the aha moments recorded as game tapes, your marketing teams get enough context on what the customer really wants.

So, ready to improve your sales coaching?

Save hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless hours spent on conventional sales training programs. Try Wingman and supercharge your sales revenue. You can ask for a demo here.

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