7 Sales Training Ideas That Will Transform Your Team Into “Top Gun” Reps

By Chris Orlob, August 22, 2018

“I’m running out of sales training ideas,” the director of sales told me, a bit embarrassed.

“My job is to upskill the sales team,” he said.

“But keeping a calendar of sales training topics has been tough to juggle with everything else I have to do.”

This story is more common than many sales managers care to admit.

If you’re on the hook for delivering impactful sales training, but you’re short on time, this post is for you.

I’ll outline several sales training ideas that are proven to have an impact on your team’s effectiveness.

And here’s the best part…

With each sales training topic we cover here…

… You’ll get free sales training material to use with your team:

  • Sales training decks
  • Cheat sheet summaries
  • Training videos and webinars

In other words, not only do you get great sales training ideas, you also get the training material to go along with it!

So read on.

You’re about to arm yourself with a list of crazy-successful sales training topics.

Sales Training #1: Discovery Calls

Your first (and most impactful) sales training should be on discovery.

Why?

Discovery sets the trajectory of the deal.

It influences everything from how the seller presents, to which objections the customer surfaces, to how much negotiating leverage you find yourself with at the end of the sales cycle.

So what do you talk about during your discovery-focused sales training?

To start, show your team the data behind asking great questions.

Asking between 11-14 well-thought-out questions on a dedicated discovery call correlates with the highest close rates, according to our data.

Sales training data - ask 11-14 discovery questions

Where exactly does this data come from?

This data (along with every other data point we’ll cover) comes from analyzing almost two million recorded sales conversations with AI.

These sales conversations were recorded on web conferencing platforms, transcribed from speech to text, and tied to the sales outcomes they produced so we could analyze what selling behaviors correlate with success.

Now that I’ve explained where the data comes from, let’s get back to it.

Be warned.

Question velocity matters just as much as question quantity.

What’s “question velocity”?

It’s how much “breathing room” you leave between asking questions, and how evenly spread your questions are throughout the sales call.

It’s an indicator of having a balanced two-way conversation, rather than a “checklist style” interrogation.

Here’s what the question velocity looks like for top producers, compared to their peers:

Sales training data - Question velocity

You can see that average-performing reps “front-load” their discovery questions at the beginning of the call.

It’s as if they are making their way through a to-do list of pre-populated sales questions.

They have high question velocity (a bad thing).

Top performers, by contrast, have lower question velocity.

They spread their questions evenly throughout the call, leaving plenty of “breathing room” between each major question.

It creates a balanced feel to their sales conversations.

If your reps successfully implement a healthy quantity of questions, tempered with the right velocity, they’ll end up with a winning “talk-to-listen ratio”:

Sales training data - Talk to listen ratio

Once you’ve talked about these data points in your discovery-focused sales training, now it’s time to introduce a “breakout session” with your team.

Split everyone into groups, and have them brainstorm the right questions to ask, specific for your sales process.

Spend 15-20 minutes on this, and get a “spokesperson” from every group to present the best questions they came up with.

. . .

If you’re going to conduct an effective sales training session, you’re going to need some material.

I have two tools for you here.

First, a sales training deck of the data points we covered above.

You’ll use this as your core sales training material before the breakout session.

Second, a cheat sheet summary of the data points we covered above (it looks like this):

You can use this as a “handout” for all of your reps at the end of the session.

Print out a bunch of copies and hand them out to everyone who’s participating.

It’ll help them reinforce what they learned.

They can even tape it to their wall by their desk.

To download both sales training materials, click the banner below (they’ll both be sent to your email):

Sales training cheat sheet for discovery calls

Sales Training #2: Cold Calling and Prospecting

Your sales team can be amazing at discovery, presenting, and objection handling.

But that doesn’t do them any good if they have a thin pipeline.

This is why generating pipeline and prospecting is your next sales training priority.

No pipeline, no glory.

So what can you teach your reps about successful cold calling and prospecting?

A few things…

First, successful cold calls are longer… much longer than unsuccessful cold calls:

The means the bulk of this sales training session should come down to helping your reps map out every potential “path” the call could go down, and equipping them with cold calling techniques to handle each of those situations successfully.

That accomplishes two things:

  1. It keeps the buyer on the phone
  2. It advances the conversation toward a booked meeting

This is your opportunity to make this sales training session collaborative.

Break out the whiteboard with your team.

Brainstorm all of the common paths and scenarios you currently encounter on prospecting calls.

Get your team involved — encourage them to surface these scenarios so every conversation path is brought to light.

Once you have all of these scenarios mapped out, brainstorm how to handle them.

What do you say to advance each “branch” in the conversation tree to the next stage?

Going through this process I just outlined ought to keep you busy for at least one cold call training session 🙂

If you want a second one that has a bit more data behind it, check out this cold call training webinar:

Cold call sales training webinar

It’s a 30-minute webinar you can use for sales training.

It highlights everything we learned from analyzing 90,380 cold calls with AI.

Play that webinar (on 2x speed if you’re short on time) to pack in a follow-up sales training session on cold calling and prospecting.

Sales Training #3: Presenting

Warning:

Do not conduct a sales training program on presenting before you do the discovery training session.

Why?

Because presenting is nothing more than mapping your solution to the priorities, problems, and goals you learned during discovery.

The ideal demo flow, or presentation sequence, maps directly to the topics you covered during discovery:

In other words,the first part of your solution you presentshould correlate with the business problem you spent the most time on during discovery.

The second part of your solution you present should correlate with the business problem you spent the second most time on during discovery.

And so on.

This is called “Solution Mapping.”

Many salespeople do the opposite.

The save “the best part for last.”

They mistakenly believe they are building anticipation (in reality, they are only building frustration).

. . .

What else can you teach your reps about presenting during this sales training session?

How about the fact that the most successful salespeople don’t “wing” their presentations?

They follow a methodical, planned out, cerebral structure.

Most people envision sales reps as stereotypical seat-of-their-pants, adrenaline-pumped junkies.

But, mega-successful reps are some of the most methodical and strategically minded people in business.

Again, we know this from analyzing roughly 2 million B2B sales calls recorded on web conferencing platforms like Zoom and GoToMeeting.

We mapped out conversations to see which topics were discussed, for how long, and when.

The topic mapping for a typical sales call looks something like this:

Now take a look at the image below.

Top producing salespeople transition between conversation topics sequentially.

They follow a systematic sales call process.

They go from topic, to adjacent topic, in a planned, well thought out manner.

Average reps, by contrast, “jump around” topics during a call in a disjointed manner.

There’s little rhyme or reason to which topics they discuss, and when.

The best salespeople are like chess grandmasters.

Not improv comedians.

. . .

Need some sales training material to use during this training session?

Download our training deck and cheat sheet summary of this data below.

Demo sales training cheat sheet

As I’ve mentioned throughout this post, use the training deck during the session, and printed versions of the cheat sheet as “handouts” at the end for reinforcement.

Demo call sales training call to action

Sales Training #4: Objection Handling

Running sales training on objection handling techniques should be next.

If you’ve followed my recommendations so far, you’ve trained your reps on prospecting.

That gives them some deals to work on.

You’ve also trained them on discovery and presenting.

With any luck, doing both of those right together will significantly reduce the number of objections your sellers receive during the sales process.

That said, every sales process is going to have at least some objections.

And if your sellers aren’t equipped to handle them, it could mean a deal that was destined to close dies on the vine.

Sad day.

So what’s the first thing to cover in your objection handling training?

It’s not sexy, but your first lesson is to teach your reps to simply pause, relax, and slow down when they get an objection.

That’s what top sellers do.

Unsuccessful sellers, by contrast, get all anxious and nervous.

Here’s some data to make this more concrete.

Top sellers pause for a longer period of time upon receiving an objection (a couple seconds), while less successful sellers practically pounce on the customer, interrupting them with their “rebuttal”

Sales training data - pause

Successful sellers also speak more slowly and calmly when they receive objections.

Less successful sellers speed up as if they’re insecure and nervous.

Now, as great as these data points are, simply slowing down isn’t going to overcome the objection 🙂

All it will do is prevent you from making the objection worse.

So how do the best salespeople overcome objections?

They respond to them by asking questions.

Sales training data - objection handling questions

Objection scenarios are riddled with potential misunderstandings.

The best salespeople clarify, clarify, clarify to ensure they’re answering the right objection.

. . .

Now that you’ve covered a few interesting data points during your objection handling sales training program, it’s time to do the breakout session (have you noticed I love breakout sessions?).

Get your team together in a room with a whiteboard.

Brainstorm the top 6-8 objections your sales team faces at each stage of the sales process.

What are the top objections they face early in the sales cycle?

What about during pilots or free trials, if that’s part of your sales process?

What are the key objections they deal with late in the game?

Document all of these repeatable, predictable objections.

Now, as a team, brainstorm your best responses.

It may take you a few brainstorming sessions to get all of this down, but you’ll end up with a bulletproof objection handling guide the entire team can use.

A word of caution: Even though you’re brainstorming answers to these objections, make sure your reps remember: The best reps clarify before giving their answers.

. . .

Here’s your sales training material to run your objection handling session.

I have both a training deck for you to use, as well as the printable cheat sheet of our objection handling best practices.

objection handling training material

Download both of them here:

Sales Training #5: Selling Against Competitors

If you don’t train your salespeople on how to sell against the competition, they will eat your lunch.

It’s more important than ever to absolutely dominate your competition in sales.

That’s because the battleground for competitive differentiation has shifted from having a unique product, to having great sales conversations.

Sales conversations — what your sellers say, do, and write during the sales process — is where the perception of difference is created in the mind of the buyer.

Assuming you know what differentiates your product or service, the best way to train your sales team to use it to win is this:

Don’t lead with your differentiator. Lead to it.

Here’s why…

Explaining to a buyer how your product is different means nothing if they don’t value that difference.

You have one shot to answer your buyer’s question:

What makes you different than competitor A?

If you answer with something that the customer doesn’t value, you just shot yourself in the foot.

So what do you do instead?

Educate the buyer on a problem or opportunity they’ve previously undervalued that ultimately leads to your differentiation.

Here’s how we do that at Gong.io:

Our salespeople start by educating the buyer about a unique problem we solve:

The quota attainment delta between top producers, and everyone else:

Sales training - middle of the pack

Once the problem is framed like this, our reps further educate the buyer on why it’s worthy of being solved.

“Overachievement from your best reps is great!

But, it’s canceled out by everyone who misses quota.

You’re left breaking even at best or missing your number at worst.”

Once the moment is ripe, now we introduce the differentiator:

“We’re the only platform that can help you understand in detail what separates your top reps from everyone else

The questions they ask, how they behave on sales calls, and what they talk about (and when).”

Sales training - top reps

See the difference between leading to your difference vs. leading with it?

One is “throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping it sticks.”

The other is more of a strategic approach.

You’re no longer guessing.

You’re selling.

. . .

If you run your competitor-focused sales training session on this point alone, you’ll be miles ahead.

That said, selling against the competition is a big topic that could make an entire sales training program by itself.

So, I won’t leave you hanging.

I’ve got another training webinar you can use for a follow-on sales training session about dominating your competitors.

The webinar teaches5 selling strategies to “box out” your competition in sales.

Watching this 30 minute webinar with your team will make for a game changing sales training session.

Register by clicking the banner below.

Schedule a training session with your team, watch the webinar together, and let the world domination begin 🙂

Sales training webinar on competitive selling

Sales Training #6: Customer Storytelling

Customer stories are an incredibly powerful sales tool, and should definitely be part of your sales training program.

But they’re only powerful if they’re used the right way.

The reality is, I almost never see salespeople using customer stories in the most effective way.

How do most sellers use customer stories?

As data dumps.

They blurt out all of the results customers achieved (usually in terms of “percentage increases”).

There’s no story.

Only numbers.

It’s not that proof points like this are inherently bad.

But, for a proof point to be effective, the buyer must be sold on both A) the problem and B) the solution.

Assuming you’re not yet at that point, there’s a more powerful way to use customer stories…

Take a page from the Alcoholics Anonymous playbook (yes… you read that right).

AA “sells” to a “customer base” in complete denial of having a problem: alcoholism.

A proof point-style customer story would fall completely flat.

What you don’t see on the AA website is testimonial quotes like this:

“AA changed my life. My career is back on track, I’m healthy, and my family life is better than ever.”

No, no, no.

What do they do instead?

They use testimonial quotes about the problem that the reader can see herself in.

They use “customer stories” that describe the problem.

And when you can describe your customers problem better than they can themselves, they’ll come to their own self-discovery, and automatically assume you have the best solution.

(You might want to read that last sentence again).

AA’s “customer stories” sound more like this:

“It started out with a couple drinks on the weekends.

Eventually, it was a couple drinks every night.

Before I knew it, I couldn’t even relax at night unless I’ve had at least three drinks…”

If an in-denial alcoholic happens to read that, they will immediately “see themselves” in the story, which dawns the realization that they have a problem.

. . .

If you conduct a sales training on customer stories like this, your sales team will never tell them the same way again.

Instead of using them as last-minute convincers, they’ll use them as powerful tools that change the trajectory of their deals.

Here’s some sales training material for you to use during your next session…

A slide deck the outlines everything I just talked about:

We’ve actually used this deck as a training resource multiple times here at Gong.io

Feel free to use 🙂

Sales Training #7: Selling to C-Suite Executives

Obviously, this sales training session is only relevant if you sell to the C-Suite.

If you don’t, feel free to skip.

If you do, you’re in for a sales training treat (if there is such a thing…).

First off, the discovery training we covered earlier will not apply to the C-Suite.

There is a striking negative correlation between asking a C-Suite executive discovery questions, and your likelihood of success:

Sales training data - Questioning C-Levels

Indeed, successful sales meetings with the C-Suite involve very little discovery.

Sales training data - 4 discovery questions

C-Suite executives are fatigued by generic discovery questions.

As a rule, your sellers should not be “doing discovery” with C-Suite executives.

Instead, your sellers should be doing the hard work of discovery with other contacts they have throughout the buying organization.

Ideally, they do this kind of hard research with multiple people in the account, not just one (this is called “multi-threading”).

This multi-threaded discovery strategy will inform the sales meeting they finally land with the C-Suite executive.

So, now that you know what not to do, how do you train your reps to sell effectively during their meetings with the C-Suite?

One of our customers, a Chief Revenue Officer, said it best:

“Your job isn’t to ask me what’s keeping me up at night. It’s to tell me what should be.”

That quote holds the key to running an effective sales meeting with a C-Suite executive.

Your sellers’ job will be to educate them on strategic problems they’ve overlooked, or big opportunities that have been sitting under their nose, undetected.

Doing this right is a much bigger topic than I could possibly hope to cover in a blog post.

That’s why we turned this into a training webinar you can use during your sales training program.

In 40 minutes, we cover just about everything you need to know about selling to the C-Suite.

Get your reps in the “war room,” and watch the webinar together.

It’ll make for an amazingly effective sales training session.

Get access to the webinar by clicking this banner:

Sales training webinar - selling to the c-suite

Conclusion: Follow Sales Training with Sales Coaching

These seven sales training ideas should give you enough ammo to train your team for a while.

And many of them are worth revisiting several times.

Especially because most sales training is forgotten within 30 days:

Sales training is forgotten within 30 days

There are two ways to combat this “sales training decay.”

The first, as I already suggested, is repeating key sales trainings until you see a strong uplift of new selling behavior in the field.

A great way to do that is by building athematic sales training calendar.

A simple example of that might be something like:

  1. First monday of every month: Objection handling training
  2. Second monday of every month: Discovery training

And so on.

Here’s the second way to combat sales training decay…

Call coaching.

Sales training without coaching is sort of like generating leads without following up on them.

It’s time and effort thrown down the drain.

Sellers need continual coaching and reinforcement to really transform their selling skills.

Unfortunately, call coaching is incredibly time- and labor-intensive for sales managers.

That’s why we built Gong.io:

So you can transform your team into quota-shattering super sellers, without spending your weekends watching raw GoToMeeting recordings.

Whether you check out Gong.io or not, don’t spend huge sums of time on training only for it to be wasted without follow-up coaching.

And if I’ve piqued your curiosity, check out a live demo of Gong.io by clicking the banner below.

We’ll show you how you can transform your team’s selling skills.

I hope you enjoyed this article. More important, I hope you do something with it.

Sales training platform banner

 

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Codescience maintains visibility with remote sales team using Gong.io

Chris Orlob

Chris Orlob is Senior Director of Product Marketing at Gong.io

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