The best sales reps consistently seem to have a demonstrable “it” factor, an intangible quality that endears them to customers and increases close rates. For the outsider, the trait of the natural-born salesperson seems like something you can’t bottle and reproduce for the less talented.
In reality, the confidence and personality that characterizes this special quality is actually more the result of effective sales rep training than an inherent knack. Sales reps can bring personality to the job. However, developing the right sales skills and building the proper knowledge base are far more consequential to their success.
With a well-planned and responsive coaching strategy, sales rep training can supply the fundamental tools for all team members to close better deals at a higher frequency. Depending on the industry, business model and sales rep opportunities, custom training approaches will likely yield optimal results. That said, certain enduring areas of focus in sales rep training are critical for success in any sales context.
To center your training efforts, we have broken down the top six essential skills to focus your sales rep training efforts.
In-Depth Product Knowledge
Sales reps need to believe in the solutions they sell and customers are wise to uncertainty in product presentations. Product training needs to be a primary focus for new sales team members and long-time veterans alike. Fortunately, product knowledge is one of the easiest sales rep training areas to teach, as it doesn’t rely on engaging skills but rather disseminating information.
The most effective product training does go further. Sales reps should not only be aware of the full catalog of offerings but also the unique advantages of each solution, how they work and what market segments they benefit from.
Exhaustive product knowledge benefits sales reps in several ways. In product presentations, a thorough understanding of the product and how it stacks up against other solutions on the market instills confidence. Customers are far more likely to do business with a sales rep who can speak intelligently about their products and convey a high level of belief in their efficacy.
Connections to Potential Customer Base
Product knowledge greatly benefits the prospecting and qualifying stages as well. Throughout the discovery process, sales reps with in-depth product knowledge can make automatic connections between the needs of the customer and the products they provide for a more effective pitch. This subsequently opens opportunities to “build the basket”, upsell products and maximize the value of the sale.
Rockstar Demo Skills Training
In B2C and especially B2B sales, the product demo is the crux of the sales process. Enhancing demo skills are the most important goals of sales rep training for many businesses for their ability to make or break a sale.
Demo skills involve more than just public speaking. Most presentations are fluid, adapted to address the particular pain points and needs of the customer. Generic sales demos often become too comprehensive, overwhelming customers with confusing and irrelevant information.
Effective demo skills training instructs sales reps not only on how to execute a proper demo but also how to tailor it to keep the customer engaged. By practicing demos with sales reps, coaches can highlight key benefits and best practices to increase wins.
Effective Communication Strategies
Experts have decided that communication is at least 70 percent non-verbal, an important point to address in sales rep training. More than the words that you say, effective communication strategies entail attention to body language, tone of voice and thoughtful reflection of their customer’s style.
Role-playing with sales reps is a great way to identify strengths and weaknesses in communication style and teach effective communication strategies. Reps who develop a habit of speaking clearly and expressively while establishing good posture and body language to supplement their words see a positive impact on their interactions. Their ability to adapt their communication style to match their clients (e.g. level of formality) creates a deep connection and genuine interest in the customer.
The ability of a salesperson to build rapport with a customer is consistent with how effectively they engage active listening skills. In most cases, the customer needs to do the majority of the talking, guided by the active listening of the salesperson to arrive at a close.
Letting customers do the talking is more revelatory for the sales rep, letting them communicate the benefit of their products to meet needs and challenges more efficiently. This also prevents miscommunication, as sales reps continuously reiterate key points to keep both parties on the same page and avoid disruptions in the sales process.
Most importantly, when salespeople let the client do the talking, interjecting to affirm talking points or ask questions for clarity, it displays integrity. It communicates to the client that the salesperson is more committed to finding a solution to the problem than in making a sale, inspiring trust and setting the foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship.
Sales Closing Techniques
Asking for the sale is arguably the most daunting portion of the sales process and the great separator between the exceptional and the mediocre within a team. Sales reps need to build an arsenal of effective sales closing techniques backed by confidence to avoid pushback or the handover of control to the customer.
Sales reps need to be able to utilize an array of techniques to fuel desire and create urgency. Customers seek solutions but they also put up smokescreens and delay commitment as they weigh opportunity costs or even try to convince themselves to stick with the status quo. This is unacceptable when sales reps need to meet timely sales targets.
Sales rep training needs to include consistent development and comfort in transitioning to sales closing techniques. Reps need to be able to fluidly apply the perfect amount of pressure while reinforcing value to get the client’s commitment in the least number of steps.
Time Management Skills
Time management skills are developed by experience and change according to the normal sales cycle of the business. Focusing on time management skills in sales rep training, particularly for new hires, expedites the learning process and maximizes their sales opportunities.
Coaches should engage in one-on-one sessions with reps to discover where they need help in time management. They can help reps prioritize their time, leverage CRM or other sales technology and create timely follow up schedules to speed sales and enrich the customer experience.
Sales coaches need to create clarity and expectations around timelines leading to a close. Making good use of analytical tools is an efficient way to assess how sales reps use their time and engage in timely follow up with their prospects.
Sales reps with good time management skills are adept at filtering low-quality leads and being responsive to high-value prospects. Getting the most out of the time they put in creates a much more cost-effective sales force.
Sales 101 teaches us that earning a new customer is both more expensive and difficult than keeping an existing customer. Sales reps in certain industries, such as retail, are often not taught the value of post-sale follow-up. They fail to understand the continuing value in fostering relationships once the deal is done.
Remembering to thank your customer for their business is the bare minimum expectation. This is a non-negotiable point for sales reps in any industry. Customers who feel appreciated are far more likely to consider returning to the same company for future solutions.
Post-sale relationship building is key to creating opportunities for future sales. Establishing rapport is cut out of the process with existing customers, making for faster and more profitable sales.
Following up with customers for check-ins, updates on product improvements and problem intervention is a priority for the best sales reps. Strong relationships give deep insight into a customer’s situation that allows sales reps to continually sell worthwhile solutions.
The post-sale relationship is less skill and more mindset. One that needs to be consistent with every prospect even from the discovery stage. The more a sales rep qualifies — the more they learn about a customer’s situation. This results in a greater chance of discovering new paths for successive sales.
For example, a client may passively mention another problem they are facing (not the one they are trying to solve currently). The smart sales rep notes this and follows up when a good sale or new product might be worth considering to solve that issue. It may even be a year after the initial sale. This makes a powerful impression with customers and they will be astounded by that level of attention and genuine care.
All of this serves to affect the amount of word-of-mouth business you earn. An appreciated customer has a greater potential for offering referrals and expanding a sales rep’s book of business.
Contact the Selling Revolution to Enhance Your Sales Rep Training Program
The Selling Revolution was formed to provide businesses with the sales and marketing resources to build better sales processes and grow revenue. Our comprehensive services backed by years of experience can strengthen sales training efforts, create better hiring practices and develop more effective marketing support. Contact our team today for more information on how we can build your business or to schedule a consultation.