Is your sales team performing at its best? Probably not, but corporate managers tend to overlook even lackluster sales performance as long as company profits continue to climb. However, smart sales executives don’t wait for sales figures to start to drop. They keep a close eye on their sales reps looking for telltale signs that performance is starting to founder. They are ready to step in and offer more sales training to get things back on track.
A recent study suggests that only 46 percent of sales reps actually planned to make selling a career, and that most sales reps are unlikely to pursue sales training on their own after work. Informal polls of sales professionals in training reveal that less than 5% would have ever answered “Sales” when asked during their high school years which career they were most interested in pursuing. It’s not surprising that our workforce is filled with “accidental salespeople” who started their working years in technology, customer service, product management, and other roles that are even farther removed from actual selling.
Given these realities, creating an in-house sales development program is a logical next step to organizational success. That said all sales training programs are hardly alike. A well-devised sales training program may be your best strategy to increase and maintain sales volume. Statistics show that without refresher sales training, reps lose 80-90 percent of what they learn within 30 days. Those companies that offer sales training as well as post-training reinforcement see 34 percent of their reps achieve first-year quotas as opposed to an industry average of 29 percent. Moreover, fine-tuning both the initial training and the reinforcement approach so that each precisely resonates with the audience being trained and the offerings being sold can support greater sales success, both immediately and over the long term.
There are any number of indicators that your sales team may need additional sales training. Here are seven of the most obvious signs:
1. Consistently missing sales quotas
Sales quotas can tell you a lot about your sales team’s performance. If there are one or two reps who consistently miss their quota, this may be a sign that they are struggling and need more one-on-one sales coaching to improve performance. If you see a number of your reps are missing their sales targets, it’s possible you have set your sales quotas too high. More likely, they need sales training to help them up their game and rebuild their confidence and enthusiasm.
2. High sales staff turnover
If your sales department continues to lose valued people, it’s likely because they don’t have the support they need and they are frustrated. A common myth is that sales reps have no loyalty and once you train them they go on to their next job. The truth is that sales reps want to be challenged, and they want to be successful. Sales training can help them re-engage with their jobs in a new way. Moreover, it shows you are willing to invest in their success, which in turn fosters employee loyalty.
3. Your team can’t get to decision-makers
If your sales efforts are being blocked because your sales reps can’t get to the right decision-makers (or worse, they can’t identify them), then you need to change tactics. Train your sales team in how to identify and approach decision-makers to start those meaningful conversations that will ultimately become sales.
4. Losing customers and fewer renewed contracts
If your sales reps are losing customers, then they need help learning how to engage more effectively. According to a study by the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, 40 percent of customers want a sales rep who listens and can offer an effective solution to their problem; 30 percent of customers want a rep who makes them comfortable and confident that their long-term needs will be met; and, 30 percent of customers want a sales rep who can challenge them with new solutions and perceptions. These are all teachable skills that can improve customer engagement and retention.
5. Inconsistent sales messages
Your sales representatives are your brand messengers. If everyone is not using the same terminology and pitching similar value propositions, then there is a disconnect between sales and marketing. There should be a level of uniformity across the sales team to show that everyone is selling the same brand promise. A refresher may be needed to get everyone back on message.
6. Salespeople can’t deal with routine objections and competitive pressure
Sales is one of the toughest jobs there is. Sales reps have to deal with ongoing rejection, uncertainty, a lack of control over outcomes, and if they’re giving it their all, long hours as well. It’s not surprising that sales reps are prone to burnout. Sales training is a good way to help your team recharge their batteries and refocus.
7. Sales personnel aren’t using technology
One of the most common complaints heard from salespeople is they don’t have the tools they need to do the job. In many cases, the tools exist; however, the sales reps either don’t know about them or don’t know how to use them. For example, are they mining your CRM system effectively? Many sales reps are “old school” and find technology intimidating. Some feel that being required to use technology tools is a form of micromanagement. The right training can help your team master the technical tools you’ve already invested in to make their work easier, more efficient, and more effective.
These are just a few of the telltale signs that your salespeople are prime candidates for sales training. And remember that sales training should be ongoing. If it is true that sales reps forget 90 percent of their training in the first month, then you need to structure refreshers and coaching sessions to keep them informed and engaged. You’re sure to see positive results, including happier employees and an ever-growing number of satisfied customers.