5 Common Mistakes of Sales Training

Avoiding Sales Training Pitfalls

When your sales team is underperforming, it's important to consider what the causes of the problem might be before attempting to correct them. There are certain fundamentals that form the foundation of your sales team and should be considered first. Is your product well-positioned and priced? Have you developed a profile for your ideal salesperson? Do you have an effective compensation plan in place, where salary and commissions are optimally weighted? Does your recruiting department know how to quickly and efficiently find good sales rep candidates to reach and maintain headcount?

Once you've covered these basics and determined that you have laid a good foundation for your sales team, the next thing you should scrutinize is your sales training program. If you're hiring the right candidates and compensating them appropriately, and they are still underperforming, it's time to consider whether your current sales training program might be the problem. Are you committing one of the five common mistakes of sales training? 

#1 Not Doing Enough of It

In some organizations, sales training is an annual occurrence. Setting aside for the moment how often it should happen, let's just all take a moment to agree that once a year is nowhere near often enough. Sure, it might be nice to do a big company-wide training event once a year, but if that yearly training is not being regularly reinforced and practiced, it's not going to take long for your reps to forget everything they've learned.

How often is often enough? Well, that depends on your organizational structure, the composition of your teams, your geographical spread, and other factors. It may take a little tweaking to figure out how often you should have sales meetings with your sales team. But in general, keep in mind that people are better able to retain and apply material that they learn in small segments over an extended period of time than a lot of material given at once.

Most sales teams function best when they have a sales meeting at least once a week. If your sales team covers a small enough area to make twice-weekly or even daily meetings a possibility, you should seriously consider trying to have them that often. As well as allowing for plenty of instruction, practice, and role-play, frequent sales meetings can build camaraderie, motivation, and morale. Meetings that happen frequently also allow your sales managers to nip problems in the bud and ensure that an individual rep who is struggling can get attention and help right away.

#2 Flying by the Seat of Your Pants

You and your sales managers are no doubt good at extemporaneous speaking and presenting. However, this type of spontaneity can get old very fast when you have to rely on it for every sales meeting. Without a well-thought-out training program, companies tend to drop regular meetings because it is stressful for sales managers to be continually inventing new material, and sloppy or boring training can be worse than nothing at all for your sales reps.

It takes time, energy, and effort to come up with a good training program. You need to cover education about your product and company to ensure accurate brand representation. The entire sales process you want your reps to follow needs to be explained to them in detail, and they need to learn how to keep metrics and record sales. Your reps also need a good grounding in sales skills, and plenty of practice for the skills they've learned.

Here at Netpique sales outsourcing when we are asked to oversee a sales training program we begin by writing a training manual tailored specifically for our client company. Having a uniform manual and program ensures that each of your sales teams gets the tools it needs and your message is not diluted. If you need help writing your sales training manual or designing an effective training program for your sales force, Netpique sales outsourcing can help! Contact us for a free consultation and we will discuss your current sales challenges and what can be done to bring your sales results in line with your company's objectives.

#3 Forgetting to Get Management On-board

If you have a problem with either #1 or #2, it's likely that your sales managers are not on-board with your desire to provide more regular training for their sales teams. Maybe they already have a way they're comfortable doing things, and are resisting your efforts to change. They might implement your changes on a short-term basis, but revert back to their former way of doing things after a few weeks or months.

The key is to train the trainers before you expect them to train everybody else. Well in advance of rolling out a new sales training program, bring your managers together to help them get comfortable with the new system. And don't just preach it to them--be sure to involve them in the process and solicit their input and feedback. They probably have valuable insight into how their teams will react to the new training, and being asked to contribute will help them to be invested in the training program.

Being a sales manager is a time-consuming job, and if you're making it more difficult for your sales managers, they will resent you. On the other hand, if you make things easier for your managers by giving them appropriate training before you spring a new program on them, they will be much more likely to support it in the long term.

#4 Acting Like an Unreasonable Tyrant

Ooh, that hurts. Of course you aren't actually an unreasonable tyrant. You're a reasonable boss, and you want to implement a new training program or method to help your sales reps. And it's pretty obvious that they need it, and that it will help them be exponentially more successful, right? Wrong. It may not be obvious to them at all.

Your sales reps are probably focused on doing only things that will help them get more sales. Which is as it should be. But when they don't perceive your training program being one of those things that will improve their sales success, you have a problem. If your reps believe the training is a waste of time, they won't pay attention or engage themselves. And they may even start skipping sales meetings altogether, or at the very least attending late and with a bad attitude.

To ensure that your sales reps understand the value of the training you are offering them, have your sales managers preface the training with an introduction explaining why you're offering the training and what problems it is meant to solve. Be explicit about the skills they will gain and the knowledge they will acquire. And then tell them why it matters. Explain how they will benefit from this specific training, and make sure that those benefits are concrete and end in an increase to their paychecks. Finally, spend a little time explaining how they will use what they learn in their daily work selling your product.

Getting your sales reps on-board from the beginning helps them to be active and enthusiastic participants.

#5 Raining on the Parade

Is your sales training program all work and no excitement? When you don't add in incentives, rewards, and plenty of praise and encouragement, it's hard for reps to feel happy about your sales training program. One of the most important things we do with our sales teams here at Netpique is to create a culture of celebration by consistently recognizing accomplishments, large and small.

Your training sessions should mirror this culture of celebration. Congratulate and reward your reps for participating during training sessions. The more comfortable they feel practicing and participating during training, the better prepared they will be to apply that training when they are out in the field.

Sales is a high stakes game, but sales training shouldn't be. Make sure your reps know that it's OK to make mistakes, and that being willing to try is more important than getting it perfectly right the first time. Never belittle or tease a rep who has made a mistake, Instead, praise the effort and make constructive suggestions. Healthy competition can be a good thing for a sales team, but always guard against that competitive spirit devolving into mean-spirited bullying. Encourage your team to behave as a team and build each other up.

Need a little help getting your sales training program into shape? We'd love to put you on the right track. Give Netpique sales outsourcing a call today!