You may know the story, almost an urban legend, of a CFO and a CEO talking to validate employee training budgets. At some point, the CFO asks “What happens if we train our employees and they leave?” And the CEO replies “What happens if we don’t, and they stay…?”

Sales is no exception, if you want to be successful in the long run, then training your sales team is an absolute requirement. And this is all the more true as the sales profession has become more complex in recent years. 

Prospects are more demanding and expect real expertise from salespeople, products are more technical, and the tools in the Sales stack have also become more complex. Being a good salesperson today requires a very wide range of skills. 

  • How to best communicate the value proposition to prospects.
  • How to best use tooling in the sales stack (CRM, sales automation, sales enablement, etc..)
  • How to qualify leads effectively in order to focus on leads that have the highest probability to close.
  • How to nurture and build strong customer relationships.
  • How to handle objections, 
  • How to forecast pipelines accurately…

The list goes on and on.. 

In this article, we compiled a list of sales training we think any sales representative should follow as part of their career development. 

1/20 – Discovery

This is Sales 101, but it’s still an exercise that so many reps get wrong… 

A discovery call is the very first meeting or phone call that sales reps make with a potential customer. It’s an essential step in B2B prospecting because it helps the reps understand the dynamics of the project and decide whether or not to pursue the opportunity. 

👉 How to test if your reps are ready? 

Conduct a 30 min exercise, including a 15 minutes mock call only focused on discovery and a 15 min debrief session:

  • Check if they asked more questions and talked less than the prospect,
  • How did they qualify the prospect? 
  • Ask if they would create an opportunity after such a meeting? If so, what is the size of the opp? 
  • Did they find a compelling event?
  • Do they feel they were talking to the right person?
  • What would they say to their manager after this meeting? 
  • What would be the agenda after this first meeting? 

2/20 – Technical selling

Prospects, especially when they are technical, can really tell the difference when an Account Executive truly knows the tech behind the product versus someone leaving technical talks to Solutions Engineers, and only showing up to talk about money. 

Products include more and more advanced technologies. Imagine selling a car in the 60’s versus selling a Tesla model X and explaining how Tesla cars “use neural networks that took 70,000 GPU hours to train in order to perform object detection and monocular depth estimation”. 

👉  How to test if your reps are ready? 

Select a couple of technical features or aspects of your product that are difficult to explain, and check how the reps pitches those features, both during meetings or by emails. 

3/20 – 30 sec, 1 min, 3 min, 10 min elevator pitch

Each meeting with a prospect must be a dynamic conversation, like having a casual drink with a friend at the end of a hard day of work.  Salespeople need to adapt to the conversation, in all circumstances. 

Sometimes you’ll have 3 minutes to give an impactful pitch about a feature, sometimes you’ll have 30 seconds! “Multi-level” elevator pitch practice is about training your reps to deliver the best message, and master multiple pitch versions on almost any important topic, no matter if they have 30 seconds, 1 minute, 3 minutes or half an hour! 

👉  How to test if your reps are ready? 

For every important aspect of your pitch, product demo, or even main objections, see if the rep knows how to give an impactful answer in 30 seconds, 1min, 3min or 10min. 

Ex: “Why is your product better than Competitor_X? Give me the 30s answer..   Go….” 

4/20 – Account planning

Account planning is about having an in-depth understanding of a new prospect or existing customer, including a clear map of important details about their decision-making process, the companies you’re competing against, or the strategy you want to put in place to win, retain and grow the deal.

👉 How to test if your reps are ready? 

Pick a random deal in the rep’s ongoing pipeline and check if the rep is on the top of the main points included in the sales framework your company is using (MEDDIC, NEAT, SNAP, SPIN, etc..)

5/20 – Pipeline forecasting

Pipeline forecasting is the process of predicting the likelihood of opportunities to close. Being able to precisely predict or at least anticipate a ballpark estimate of future sales performance is an essential part of sales management. In addition, many salespeople have their own methods and usually develop their own gut feeling to estimate their future closing. With hundreds of methodologies surrounding sales forecasting, knowing which strategy to use can be daunting. Implementing a company-wide training can help the team to have the same standards, and speak the same “language“ when it comes to pipeline forecasting. 

👉  How to test if your reps are ready? 

Pro tip, you can use one of Palette’s features to organize a competition, team-based contest, or awards. At the beginning of the quarter, ask participants to predict how much they’ll close at the end of the quarter (month, or week, depending on your closing cycle). Whoever got the closest estimation gets a $200 gift card and a dinner with the VP Sales or Chief Revenue Officer. (You can check out this blog post for more Tactics to motivate your salespeople with non cash incentives). 

6/20 – Mutual Plans

The mutual action plan is known by a lot of different names, including mutual success plan, mutually agreed action plan, go-live plan, joint execution plan, and close plan. But regardless of how you call it, it always answers one question: what needs to be done to make the deal happen?  It’s an important part of the sales process as it helps drive engagement and reinforce repeatable closing motions.

👉  How to test if your reps are ready? 

During 1-1 with reps, or even by shadowing a call/meeting with a customer, evaluate if both the reps and the customer have a shared understanding of next steps, milestones, timelines, and business objectives.

7/20 – Deal reviews

Deal reviews are usually team meetings or 1-1 discussions with your sales manager. The goal of these meetings is to review each deal in the pipeline and communicate the details of what you’ve discussed, agreed upon, and committed with a prospect. The deal reviews ensure that you and your manager both understand the deal, confirm what are the most important next steps and whether or not your manager can help in any way. 

8/20 – Storytelling

Storytelling is the process of communicating your value proposition and telling a story about it. More importantly, it’s about generating emotions and (ultimately) actions. Good storytelling is about translating your value proposition into words, images, and actions that make it more relatable to your audience. Storytelling applies to many different topics: the company’s values, missions, value propositions, etc.. 

👉  How to test if your reps are ready? 

Once a week or month, consider gathering your reps and ask each one to tell a story, and make it compelling and fun. Have people vote on the best story at the end of the session. Organize this at the end of the day on a Friday for example. It will also be a way to share quality time with the team and allow sales people to learn from each other. This exercice doesn’t work for everyone (especially reps with a more introvert style) so don’t make it mandatory. It’s supposed to be fun 🙂 

9/20 – Customer research

How many times did you jump on a call with a salesperson, only to realize a couple minutes into the meeting that they hadn’t looked up your profile before, or didn’t really understand what your company was doing or selling?  Train your sales reps to conduct customer research effectively. A trained AE can research and learn almost all important things to know about a prospect in only a couple of minutes, either with online research or using internal tools. 

10/20 – Competitor analysis

This is a topic that needs to be continually updated. Your competitors are developing and launching new products regularly. It’s important that your teams have a clear understanding of your competitors and know how to communicate why your product is different & better. 

👉  How to test if your reps are ready? 

On a quarterly basis, conduct 15 min to 20 min sessions with reps and check how well they know the competition, the pros and cons, and how they can articulate the difference with your product. Consider having someone from the engineering team explain more in depth technical differences. Deals are often won because reps went the extra mile to understand the technical nuts and bolts of the products, including competition.

11/20 – Networking

Networking is the foundation of sales. It is often said that the value of a salesperson is measured by their network. Yet networking can actually be quite a hard skill to develop. Obviously, not every salesperson is a backslapping extrovert and there are excellent Account Executives who hate the traditional methods of networking. Training your reps on this topic could allow them to develop their own method, more in line with their personal temperament. 

12/20 – Signal-based targeted outbound

Signal-based targeted outbound is the process of using purchasing signals to identify, research, and build a list of target prospects. Email outbounding and cold calling is probably one of the very first things you learn as a sales person. But counterintuitively, identifying the right companies to reach out to is often the most difficult and time-consuming part of outbound. Train your reps on how to identify new accounts, conduct good market research or use their network to find companies displaying strong buying signals. 

13/20 – Prospecting

The most successful salespeople are highly skilled at prospecting. They know how to find new prospects and screen them effectively. Training your team on this topic can help them find new prospects and increase their pipeline. However, one of the most important part of prospecting that is often neglected during the training is tooling. There are so many tools available that can really make a difference: advanced lead research on LinkedIn, online prospect databases, email warming tools to avoid falling in the spam folder, data enrichment tools, sales automation, crawling bots, etc.. 

14/20 – Territory planning

Sales territory planning is the process of mapping out your sales regions and assigning your sales reps to it. Good territory planning is critical for a successful sales team. Training your team on this topic can help them to design the right strategy to work with their territory & portfolio, and hit their quota. 

👉  How to test if your reps are ready? 

Ask the reps what are the challenges and ambitions of their territory planning, what is their outbound strategy, how they plan to meet their pipeline coverage ratio, the analysis of their installed base (upsell potential, churn risks). Finally, what is their roadmap and game plan to hit their target? 

15/20 – Customer champion selling

A customer champion is someone in your customer’s organization who supports the purchase of your product or service. They are likely to be an influencer or decision maker. There are several ways to identify your customer champions, but the main signals are: they are knowledgeable about your product or service, the problem it solves, they understand the decision-making process, the budget allocated, the purchasing process and the timeline for the purchase.

16/20 – Pipeline management (focus)

One of the most important skills in sales is the ability to screen and qualify opportunities. Too often, reps spend way too much time on opportunities and projects that aren’t going to close, or will require too much effort. Reps need to understand that, sometimes, filtering is more powerful than convincing. Make sure that your team develops a repeatable framework to score and rank opportunities, so that the reps can know which one to focus on, and which one to put aside. Finally, it takes certain communication skills to tell a prospect that they are not ready to buy your product, without damaging the relationship. 

17/20 – Managing stress

Stress is a major factor in a salesperson’s success or failure. It’s a natural part of the job. The best salespeople deal with stress effectively and separate their work life from their personal life. Training can help your reps to manage stress, recognize when they are under too much pressure, and how to deal with it. Confidence is a also key factor in being successful in. Salespeople who have confidence are far more likely to succeed than those who lack it. Help your reps avoid impostor syndrome, especially the ones that are still ramping up or learning their way into a new role.

18/20 – Crisis management

If you work in sales for long enough, one day you’ll have to deal with an important argument with a prospect, or a big client that wants to churn. It’s more a question of when than if. Does your team know how to identify when a relationship is going south? Do they know how to handle it, which steps to go through, how and when to escalate the problem to management? Crisis can also be a major threat to your business, but when dealt with appropriately, you have the opportunity to turn those unhappy prospects or customers into your company’s best advocates! It’s therefore critical to have a playbook written down. 

👉  How to test if your reps are ready? 

Mock calls are a great way to prepare your reps for difficult conversations. Organize 20 min mock calls with two reps, one impersonating the prospect, and the other one in charge of dealing with the conflict. 

19/20 – Strategic planning

Successful salespeople are good at planning, both at a personal level and at a company level. They are able to look at the big picture and see the implications of their actions. Strategic planning is a lifelong skill, and you can help your team with this by training them to develop this skill. There are several frameworks that you can teach your reps for more effective strategic planning: Balanced Scorecards, Objective and Key Results, Theory of Change, Hoshin Planning, SWOT analysis, Porter’s Five Forces, etc… 

20/20 – Buyer personas

Understanding the buyer persona of your customer is one the foundation of sales. It allows you to tailor your sales approach to your customer’s specific needs, and more specifically, to the person you are talking to. In the end, sales is about people and having a sound knowledge of the buyer personas is critical. Not only does it impact the success of your sales team, but it can also help you prioritize the product roadmap or build more effective marketing strategies.

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