Your sales team is one of the most important assets of your organisation. By training them, you are not only investing in the individuals themselves but also in your company. Developing your sales team’s knowledge, skills and abilities with an effective online sales training you can see higher profits and increased competitive advantage. In fact, every dollar invested in sales training can result in $29 in incremental revenue.
But sales training is not an easy task. Traditional sales training and enablement techniques need improvement to succeed in the increasingly competitive world. As such, it’s time to say goodbye to those one-off classroom-based sales training sessions and welcome an engaging and effective online sales training strategy.
Before exploring the features that enable you to create an effective online sales training strategy, you need to understand what sales training includes and how online learning can benefit you in the modern era. So let’s dig in!
What is Sales Training?
Sales training is an essential part of a successful organisation. And for a good reason! It impacts your organisation’s revenue and overall performance. Your sales team is on the front lines every day, competing for business against your competitors. The more they learn, the more they can improve their performance to gain a competitive advantage.
If your sales personnel know your products or services inside out, they can sell your company offering better. And every organisation strives to improve sales, right? But your sales personnel need many specific skills to complete a sales cycle. These include prospecting, customer profiling, relationship building and negotiation, to name a few. And that’s where sales training comes in!
In essence, sales training is about preparing your sales team to be able to communicate the value of your product or services to your buyers effectively. With adequate training, your sales staff can improve and enhance their selling skills. Good sales training should build on existing abilities to enhance business performance through increased productivity and profitability.
But sales training doesn’t come without challenges. Companies launch and update products at a breakneck pace. Sales staff turnover is high. In the U.S., the estimated annual turnover is as high as 27%. In addition, new employees come on board constantly. And did you know it takes up to eight months for new hires to reach full productivity?
According to a Training Industry study:
- 43% of participants think that their sales training programme needs improvement.
- 42.5% consider their training programme to meet expectations.
- Only 10.7% of participants think that their programme exceeds expectations.
Salespeople in the highest-ranking training programmes reported 5% fewer losses than their counterparts in the lowest-ranking programmes. For many industries, that kind of shift can make a major difference.
As a result, organisations are increasingly looking for the best ways to train sales staff quickly and effectively in order to get the desired business results on their training investment.
Sales Training in the Modern World
Your phone is probably within arms reach of you right now. You might even be reading this article on a mobile device. Technology is changing almost every aspect of our lives. Modern learners and customers are used to having information available at their fingertips at all times.
The same goes for salespeople. Sales reps often work ‘in the field’, which can make traditional face-to-face training more difficult. Instead, your sales personnel are expecting to get a form of training that suits their modern, mobile and busy lives.
Given the pace of business today, it has never been more essential to offer continuous learning opportunities. As such, those one-off annual training events just don’t cut it anymore.
As 81% of customers perform some kind of internet search before making their purchase, salespeople need to be well informed and ready to adjust quickly to changing trends and focuses. They need to keep up with the information influx to be experts on the product they sell and the market they compete in, which is presumably changing constantly.
While human learning has not fundamentally changed per se, technology has changed how and how frequently we learn. As a result, organisations are increasingly shifting to a digital approach.
Moving Sales Training Online
Face-to-face training is no longer your only option. With online training, gathering your sales stars in a meeting room becomes a difficulty you can assign to the past. Instead, your sales reps can learn and collaborate online and complete up to 60% more content compared to traditional training. And they don’t even need to sit in front of a desktop to do so! All they need is a smartphone and they can access their learning management system (LMS) or learning mobile application.
Online sales training can be effective for all parts of sales training, including onboarding, product training, standards and compliance training, specifics of the industry and performance reviews. As a result, you can provide all the information that is critical to your sales team’s success.
Online training is efficient beyond geographical areas. For example, if your organisation has sales teams in London, Sydney and New York, you don’t have to worry about bringing the teams together physically. Instead, they can collaborate and learn in real-time on the online learning platform.
But how can you create an effective online sales training strategy that makes a real impact?
10 Features for Effective Online Sales Training Strategy
As the business landscape is constantly changing, your sales strategy must evolve to keep up with the changes. Being modern learners, today’s sales reps are thirsty for knowledge and want answers quickly. By adding the following online learning features to your approach, you can meet the needs of your sales teams and take your sales training strategy to the next level.
1. Track Your Training
Tracking is an essential step of an effective online sales training strategy. It is the only way to know if your sales training is working and meeting your training objectives. These metrics are critical for identifying how effectively your sales training is preparing your sales reps and serving your organisation.
With an online learning approach, you can automatically track and produce reports on who has completed the training content and what more they still need to complete. It also helps you to identify who is doing well or who is struggling. You can then recommend additional supplemental learning modules.
Every business wishes to save resources if they can. With an online learning platform, you can identify and show your training ROI. The automated tracking and reporting process also reduces the number of manual tasks required. This frees up your admin team to focus on more important activities. Using, for example, a sales competency framework allows you to identify where your sales staff’s competencies lie and what you can do to improve them.
As such, with an online sales strategy, you can identify any pain points in real-time and make adjustments or improvements quickly while saving your precious resources. That way you can ensure your sales stars are getting the training they need and deserve.
2. Use Games to Your Advantage
68% of employees are disengaged, and sales reps are no exception. Luckily, with gamification, you can take engagement to new heights! Gamification means taking the elements that make games so enjoyable and applying those mechanics to other less exciting contexts.
Humans are competitive beings. While we like to collaborate with others, we also tend to look for opportunities to distinguish ourselves from our peers. Gamification helps you to build that competitive environment where your salespeople can create a sense of achievement. It challenges learners and keeps the competitive aspect of the sales environment alive during training.
The more content your sales professionals complete, or the more they interact with the learning platform, the more rewards they get. The virtual rewards come as Experience Points (XP) or Badges that contribute to the individual’s position on the Leaderboard.
Leaderboards allow learners to track their scores and showcase how well they are progressing. Learning becomes a competition, with every salesperson wanting to take the lead.
3. Make Learning Accessible
Like we explored, the world is becoming increasingly modern, digital and fast-paced. Sales training needs to develop and change accordingly. The fast pace of business means that salespeople need to be able to access learning content at any time. As a result, organisations are increasingly looking for ways to offer just in time training opportunities for their salespeople.
A mobile approach ensures that sales training is no longer an isolated event that happens a few times a year and then stops until the next training session. Instead, your sales teams can access training anywhere and at any time with an effective online sales training strategy.
Mobile optimisation ensures that training is just as accessible and user-friendly on a smartphone as it would be on a desktop. Whether they need to brush up on product knowledge, familiarise themselves with a new launch or refine their negotiation skills, they can now access information efficiently at the point of need.
Mobile learning, combined with microlearning content, is essential in order to offer accessible training regardless of the end-user’s location, language or position. Microlearning is a great way to support sales representatives’ skills development. After all, bite-sized content takes less than 10 minutes to complete.
Smaller bite-sized content that is accessible on a mobile device makes it easier for sales personnel to absorb training content in the field or on the go. Typical modern learners won’t watch videos longer than 4 minutes. As such, short form content keeps them more engaged and encourages them to keep learning.
4. Use the Power of Social Groups
Humans are naturally social creatures. Therefore, it’s no surprise that according to the 70:20:10 model, 20% of all information we learn comes from social interactions. As such, adding social elements to your learning platform is essential to get the most out of your training.
But knowledge-sharing can be hindered for many reasons. Some sales representatives feel hesitant about sharing their hard-earned knowledge. Others may be too busy, or may not get the opportunity for interaction. After all, salespeople often work alone or on the road.
Therefore, making knowledge-sharing more accessible by involving various social features is necessary. By giving your sales personnel the platform to collaborate and communicate, they can share their knowledge easily. Features like Social Clubs, Social Streams, Groups, Expert Areas and Live Chat enable precisely that.
An online learning platform filled with social features allows your sales reps to have dialogues around the online learning content or the industry. These social elements also help to replicate the social environment that sales reps are likely to face in their roles.
Your salespeople can share ideas, related experiences, and critiques so everybody can learn from those interactions. And did you know that 90% of modern learners prefer learning to be collaborative and fuelled by knowledge-sharing.
Social learning is not just a way to supercharge learning and boost sales. It allows you to bring like-minded individuals together and create a thriving and enjoyable working environment.
5. Repeat Yourself (But Logically!)
In the late 19th century, German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus conducted an experiment to explore the strength of memory. Based on his findings, Ebbinghaus created The Forgetting Curve. According to the model, we forget 90% of what we learn within a week without repetition.
You can combat the curve with logical and spaced repetition. Repetition is the key to success as it allows your sales reps to best retain the information they acquire. Spaced repetition means sprinkling the same information in various parts of the learning course or even in different modules. By repeating the same information over time, you can ensure your sales reps can remember the knowledge even in their sleep.
Repetitive training is also more cost effective. According to the Training Industry, salespeople lose 87% of the training within one month without reinforcement. As such, for every £1,000 spent on training, £870 produces no tangible long-term benefit without logical repetition.
However, like most of us know, simply reading the same information gets dull and monotonous very quickly. As such, you should apply the information in different contexts. That way, your sales reps can experience and practice the content in different ways.
Different online learning features help you to apply spaced repetition through your online sales training materials and make it more effective. For example, you can automate the process of enrolling students in a new course after they have finished the previous one. Or you can push content as needed. As a result, your sales personnel are delivered a specific learning module at a determined time to fit the spaced repetition cycle.
6. Offer Balanced Real-Time Feedback
As we explored earlier, following your salespeople’s performance and tracking their progress is essential to supercharge your online sales training strategy. But so is providing them with feedback based on the results.
Providing feedback is the only way for your sales team to recognise and improve their results. And did you know, sales teams that invest in growth-oriented feedback outperform companies that don’t make feedback a priority?
One-off annual performance reviews are no longer enough. In fact, 60% of employees would prefer feedback on a daily or weekly basis. As such, performance reviews shouldn’t be the only time when your sales team receives feedback.
Instead, you should develop a system where every member of your team receives feedback in regular intervals. Timely feedback helps steer behaviour in the right direction and increase the effectiveness of your sales team.
Luckily, online learning platforms help you keep everything in one centralised location, so that providing real-time feedback becomes easy and efficient. You can manage feedback through an automated process, where you can also assign future courses based on your sales reps’ strengths and weaknesses.
You should always keep positive and constructive feedback in balance. Positive feedback makes your sales personnel feel more appreciated, builds trust and loyalty and drives productivity. Constructive feedback is also necessary in order to help salespeople understand (and start filling) their skills gaps.
7. Customise Learning Paths
Not everyone starts from the same baseline of knowledge or skills. Therefore, continual training for your most experienced sales reps should look different to the learning path for an entry-level trainee.
The more relevant the content is to the individual, the more effective training will become over time. As such, it’s no surprise that 94% of organisations say that personalised learning is critical to their success. Furthermore, 60% of learners want content to be highly tailored to their specific needs.
In addition, once your training library is full of exciting content, it can become challenging to make sure all members of the team find all relevant information. Instead of just crossing your fingers and hoping for the best, you should create customised learning pathways.
A learning path is an automated route through your training programme. It gathers content together into bite-sized pieces of information and serves as a roadmap. These learning pathways guide your sales reps on their sales training journey. By making it mandatory to complete specific content at each level, you ensure your salespeople explore all the relevant content in the most beneficial way.
8. Ensure Content Suits the Modern Learner
Modern employees want personalised, timely and quality content. To meet those needs, you must ensure your sales training uses varied content formats and only the most current and high-quality information.
To equip your sales reps to succeed, you need to provide comprehensive training material that includes all of the information that customers expect them to know. In fact, one factor distinguishing highly effective sales programmes is the variety, amount and relevancy of topics that are covered.
Effective online sales training should cover, at least, buyer personas, product details and capabilities, product limitations, common buyer objections, lead qualification and selling techniques. However, you shouldn’t prioritise quantity over quality. 80% of learners claim that ‘quality’ is the most important aspect of any training programme.
You can also get your sales team more directly involved with your training programme by encouraging them to create user-generated content. You won’t only engage them to keep learning. You’ll also benefit from their knowledge and expertise.
Varying content formats also help you to ensure that your sales team stays engaged for longer. As such, you should utilise videos, gamified microlearning units, audio recordings, VR, reading material, case studies and more to win the attention of busy sales reps.
9. Include Scenarios In Your Training
Scenario-based training helps learners learn through real-life scenarios. It allows salespeople to practice what they have learned in a safe and controlled environment. As such, scenarios can be an excellent way to make your online sales training more effective.
Scenarios can help your sales reps understand how your product or service solves the problems of their customers. After understanding the context in which the product will be used, the salesperson can pitch your product more effectively.
Adding scenarios to your sales training also helps to improve the communication skills of your sales team. With branching scenarios, you can create an interactive learning element that presents your sales reps with a series of problems they need to solve. This will teach your sales team to deal with different scenarios, challenges and customer objections with confidence.
Scenario-based training is not only great for enhancing selling skills and improving how your salespeople deal with potential clients. Effective scenario-based sales training can also lead to improved ROI as your employees improve their productivity and performance.
10. Offer Qualifications
According to various studies, human beings have a desire for status. Ensuring that your salespeople can complete qualifications as a part of their sales training can feed that desire.
Qualifications are an excellent way to motivate your sales representative’s true potential and acknowledge their professional accomplishments. By being able to present qualifications relating to their skills, your sales staff can also start making some serious progress in their careers.
By offering an end goal, you will also be able to sustain long-term growth and development as your salespeople now have an added benefit to keep learning. As a result, you will soon notice how your salespeople strive to earn the qualifications, so that they can display their proficiency and prove that they have mastered important sales skills and strategies!
Whether your sales team needs to master product knowledge, negotiation or prospecting, online sales training helps them to get that knowledge in just a few clicks at the point of need. Your sales stars will get the knowledge and skills they need to best perform in their roles. As a result, you are not simply investing in your sales staff, but in your organisation.
Effective online sales training is dreamy when it’s done right. We have explored online learning features that help you to build an unstoppable sales team and achieve the best results.
So, what are you waiting for? Get in touch now, and we can help you to transform your team into super sales machines!