50+ Sales Training Topics: The Essential Checklist

sales-training

 

No matter what sales methodology you use—The Sandler Selling System, The Challenger Sale, SNAP Selling, Conceptual Selling, CustomerCentric Selling, or another—there are critical sales training topics your program should include. If you’re the person responsible for sales training, and you’ve wondered how you can make your team more effective, don’t be afraid to give your current program a quick checkup.

 According to Frank Cespedes and Daniel Weinfurter of the Harvard Business Review, “More than 50% of US college graduates, regardless of their majors, are likely to work in sales at some point. But of the over 4,000 colleges in this country, less than 100 have sales programs or even sales courses, and of the more than 170,000 students who earn MBAs annually, only a tiny fraction learn anything about sales.”

That means what we think it means: organizations can’t take sales skills for granted as they onboard new sales professionals. Effective onboarding and on-the-job training are must-haves. It also means even the strongest sales methodology program may still have gaps.

Our Essential Sales Training Topics Checklist will help you identify areas of strength and opportunity so you can ultimately build or supplement an amazing sales training program.

 

Sales Training Topics

Chuck Cohn neatly outlines differences between B2B and B2C sales in his Forbes post. B2B sales pursuits involve a longer decision process, more stakeholders, lengthier relationships, a smaller lead pool, and a different type of product knowledge than B2C pursuits.

These differences necessitate training tailored to each type of sales pursuit, so we’ve compiled a B2B and a B2C checklist. Use the appropriate checklist to help you answer the question: Where do my sales professionals need to build their skills?

Download the checklist that’s right for you:

sales training topics - essential checklist of 50+ topics

MODALITY MATTERS

It can be difficult to take a sales team out of the field for days or weeks of facilitated training. With this in mind, sales training program managers should consider re-packaging content into modalities that work well for busy, on-the-go sales professionals.

Geoffrey James explains in his Selling Power post Blended Sales Training:

“While most sales managers realize there’s an ever-growing need for better skills and product knowledge among the sales team, few firms can afford to send sales reps to several weeks of classroom training, even once, let alone every year. Fortunately, it’s now possible to combine classroom instruction, online learning, and Web conferencing to simultaneously reduce training costs and increase retention. This can result in sales training programs that are far more effective than ever before.”

The Association for Talent Development’s 2016 State of Sales Training report shares the following recommendations (and we wholeheartedly agree):

  • Content should be short and easily accessible.
  • Training should be tailored to the individual salesperson.
  • Learning should be engaging.

A blended approach that pairs synchronous learning (real-time activities like classroom practice and videoconferencing) and asynchronous learning (self-paced activities with individualized reflection and collaboration time) may fit the bill. A well-designed blended sales training program incorporates the benefits of classroom training and self-paced training, and streamlines content with the sales team’s workflow as much as possible.

 

ESPECIALLY FOR SALES MANAGERS

Training for sales leadership matters too. The ATD’s 2016 report mentioned above shares 50% of respondents believe the top barrier to effective sales training is salespeople are not being held accountable to applying skills learned in training. Sales managers have a critical role when it comes to setting expectations with their teams and providing supportive coaching.

With that in mind, our Sales Training Topics Checklist includes a brief section for sales managers. For a more thorough overview of leadership training topics, download our Leadership Training Topics Checklist.

 

Next Steps

One way to update your current sales training program is to incorporate microlearning. Microlearning is the practice of delivering training in smaller, bite-sized chunks that learners can digest and even re-watch quickly and easily. James states:

“Blended sales training relies upon an important aspect of human memory—the power of repetition…Blended sales training takes this concept to the next level. In this case, classroom instruction, interactive online learning, and Web conferencing are all called into service in order to present the material from a variety of different angles. Because the message is repeated in several different ways, retention goes up and sales reps are far more likely to integrate what’s being taught and incorporate it into their day-to-day behavior.”

If courses are easy to access and high-quality, microlearning for sales training offers proven benefits and can complement older, otherwise effective program content.

Whether you support B2B or B2C sales teams, use the checklist that’s right for you and make sure you’re on the road to world-class sales training.

What is Guided Selling? (White Paper)

what is guided selling
According to Gartner, 89% of businesses plan to compete on the basis of customer experience by 2016. If you find yourself in that 89%, what is your plan to improve your customer experience and use it as a differentiator? Guided selling can help.

So, what is guided selling? This post is an excerpt from our white paper, Deliver a Better Customer Experience with Guided Selling. Download the full white paper to learn more.

 

The Problem With Sales

It’s no secret, sales reps are missing the mark. Whether it’s a lack of training, poor engagement, or high turnover, they don’t always know how to deliver the best customer experience.

Sales reps are missing the mark and guided selling can help

In short, reps are failing to meet buyers’ needs. And without trust, sales don’t happen. People don’t buy from reps pushing product to meet a quota. People buy from trusted advisors who listen to their needs, educate them on their options, and help them make the best decision for them, not just your bottom line.

To earn trust and inspire confidence, your sales team needs to be able to deliver a high-quality customer experience and recommend needs-based solutions every time. Typical sales enablement tools like CRMs, content management systems, and marketing automation won’t close that gap for you. Those tools are primarily rep-focused, not customer-focused.

What Is Guided Selling?

So what is guided selling, and how can it help? Guided selling uses consistent, personalized needs-based assessments to right-fit your customers with the best product or service for them. It’s the art of asking smart questions and using customer responses to drive the best product or solution recommendation. Customer experience for the win!

With guided selling, reps can:

  • Deliver a high quality, personalized, consistent sales experience every time.
  • Guide customers to the best solution for their needs.
  • Generate the trust and confidence your customers need to make a purchase.

Guided selling builds trust by delivering an experience customers want.

Customers want consistency, knowledgeable sales reps, seamless, up-to-date information, personalization, control. Learn more about each of these in the full white paper.

 

Guided Selling Gets Results

The big question is, does guided selling get results? Both B2B and B2C enterprise sales teams using our guided selling tools have experienced results like these:

  • 14-60% improvement in YOY sales.
  • 40% increase in sales rep productivity.
  • 9% increase in return visits from customers.

In addition to great sales results, both your reps and your customers will enjoy these benefits:

  • Reps are more confident when engaging with customers.
  • Reps get up to speed faster and start selling sooner.
  • Customer satisfaction and engagement increase.
  • Customers make more confident purchase decisions.

Guided Selling Technology

Needs-based selling is not new, but the technology that simplifies it is. Our guided selling technology, Unboxed Advisor, pairs a smart recommendation engine with interactive education in a simple-to-use interface. Advisor’s powerful reporting engine captures everything from customer interactions and gives you access to data your CRM and other sales tools simply don’t have.
In the end, it’s all about helping your reps create a better customer experience.

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backward toward the technology—not the other way around.” – Steve Jobs

Download the White Paper

Still looking for an answer to the question, “What is guided selling?” Download the full white paper, Deliver a Better Customer Experience with Guided Selling, and see how adding guided selling to your sales enablement toolkit can help your reps deliver an experience your customers want and your competition will try to mimic.

 

DOWNLOAD THE WHITE PAPER

The Periodic Table of Sales Training

According to the ATD, companies spend $20 billion annually on sales training but report a low return on their investment. That’s not acceptable. There is a way to build a wildly successful, sustainable sales training program. In the periodic table of sales training, we summarize the major factors that influence whether or not you’ll get the most out of your training investment.

We explore the following families of elements:

  • Strategy: Success starts with clearly defined goals and a plan of action to get there.
  • Topics: Reps and sales managers need to master certain skills and behaviors to succeed.
  • Modalities: A blended approach engages different learning styles and allows the organization to identify the best combination of formats for impact and scale.
  • Content: ATD shares 50% of sales teams don’t find their training engaging. Content must be to the point and relevant to team member’s daily work.
  • Learning Platform: Reps and managers are busy. They need a learning platform that makes it easy to access training content and resources.
  • Reinforcement: Use it or lose it. 87% of sales training is forgotten within 30 days. Ongoing practice and reinforcement is a must.
  • Measuring Results: What’s measured gets celebrated and improved.
  • Business Impact: Improvements in reps’ and managers’ performance correlates with improvements in sales activities, like close rates and average deal size.
  • Leadership: Involvement must go beyond approving the budget. Leaders need to champion the training.

The Periodic Table of Sales Training by Unboxed Technology


strategy

 Bg Business Goals  What are the business’ strategy and goals?
Tg Training Goals What will team members be able to do as a result of their training?
Au Audience Who is the training for? New reps? Experienced reps? Managers? Mentors?
 Wo Workflow How can training be integrated into the workflow rather than taking reps out of the field?
To Topics What knowledge, skills, and behaviors do people need to master to succeed?
 Md Modalities Are you using a blended approach to maximize engagement and retention?
 Cu Curriculum How will team members continue to sharpen skills and achieve results at the 101 level, 201 level, and beyond?
 Lo Locations Are team members dispersed across different locations? Will they need to access content virtually or on the road?
De Devices What devices will team members use to access their training?
 It Technology What other IT requirements need to be accounted for?
 Re Results What does success look like? How will results be measured and shared?
Cs Content Strategy What’s your ongoing strategy to roll out new content and drive continued engagement and professional development?
 Cd Content Development Will training be developed in-house, or will you partner with a vendor?
 Bu Budget What’s your budget?

topics

Or Orientation What foundational knowledge, skills, and behaviors do new hires need to be successful?
 Pr Product Positioning How will reps communicate benefits and features in a customer-friendly way? How will they demonstrate the value of your solutions over your competitors?
 Ps Prospecting & Planning How will reps effectively identify and nurture leads?
 Br Building Rapport How will reps build relationships and become trusted advisors?
Ne Needs Analysis How will reps explore needs and recommend the best solution?
 As Ask for the Sale How will reps ask for and receive a commitment?
Ob Overcoming Objections How will reps confidently and successfully address customer concerns?
Su Summarize & Thank How will reps recap decisions and make clients feel excited?
 Fl Follow Up How will reps act as stewards of their accounts and proactively recommend next steps for clients?
Ba Business Acumen Do reps understand how they (and the business) earn money and the impact of their behaviors on results?
Sy Systems & Tools Can reps effectively use tools like your CRM and LMS?
Cg Coaching Framework How will managers and mentors influence team member growth and development?
Fe Effective Feedback Are managers and mentors equipped to give timely, objective, factual, and objective feedback?
Go Goal Setting How will sales managers and reps work together to create and achieve goals?
 Ch Change Management How will the organization introduce and explain change, generate excitement, and gain buy-in?

modalities

Il Instructor-Led Training Does classroom training break up lecture with group discussions and exercises?
 Vi Virtual Instructor-Led Training Do you leverage virtual training events to help minimize travel and out-of-office time?
 Lj Learning Journal For ILT and vILT, do participants have a simple way to take notes, reflect, and record key takeaways?
Sm eLearning Simulations Can reps simulate common customer interactions and scenarios and see how their decisions impact outcomes?
 Ex Explainer Videos Are videos 5 minutes or shorter, and available on demand?
 Pb Playbooks Do managers have the information and tools they need to successfully lead a training session?
Wb Workbooks Can reps go at their own pace and easily save and resume their progress?
Gm Games Do you incorporate games to play to reps’ natural desire for competition and amp up engagement?
Ja Job Aids Are resources easy to find and use on the job?

content

 Rv Relevant Does training clearly demonstrate the what’s in it for me?
 Ct Current Is content up to date?
Cr Clear Is it easy to understand?
Ce Concise Are phrases and sentences short?
Cv Conversational Are everyday words and phrases used? Is jargon avoided (or used sparingly)?
Cn Contextual Do scenarios, dialogue, and examples reflect realistic real-world situations?
At Authentic Does it genuinely reflect your culture and brand?
Hu Humor Does it weave in appropriate, smart humor?
Bz Bite-Sized Is content presented in short segments or chunks?
In Interactive Does it encourage audience participation?
Vs Visuals Does it favor original and contextual visuals over cheesy stock images?
Wi Whitespace Is the design clean and not busy?
Mu Music Does it create the right mood and not a distraction?
Vo Voiceover Is it the right pace and engaging without being over the top?
Ac Actors Are actors authentic and relatable?
Fc Facilitators Are facilitators animated? Do they interact with the audience?
Qa Quality Assurance Has it been proofread? Does functionality work like it’s supposed to?

learning platform

Ez Easy to Use Is it intuitive for users and admins?
Mo Mobile Does it work well on smartphones and tablets?
Cb Cloud-Based Can team members access the platform anywhere?
Ga Gamification Does it weave in gamification (like rewards, badging or leaderboards) to keep users engaged and motivated?
Co Collaboration Can managers and reps work with each other using built-in tools like discussion forums or messaging?
Ug User-Generated Content Can users upload and share content they’ve created, like a video?
Se Search Is it easy to look for content and resources?
Sr Secure What security measures are in place?
Sb Scalable Will the platform be able to support you as your team grows?
Ig Integrations Does the platform integrate with your CRM and other critical tools?
Ss Single Sign-On Does it support Single Sign-On?
Am Assessments Does the platform include quizzing/testing for confirmation of learning?
Ce Certifications Can managers and reps earn and track certifications?
Sh Scheduling Can learners sign up for courses?
Sc SCORM Is the platform SCORM compliant?
Tc Tin Can Is the platform Tin Can compliant?
Rg Reporting What reports are available? Can custom reports be added?

reinforcement

Ca Coaching Do sales managers actively coach reps and give them feedback?
Pm Peer Mentoring Do reps have opportunities to learn best practices from peer mentors?
Rp Role Play Do team members have protected time to practice skills and behaviors and get feedback?
Jt Just-In-Time Content & Activities Do team members get pop quizzes, reminders, or other forms of JIT reinforcement or refresher training?

measuring results

Ts Tests Are quizzes/tests administered to evaluate comprehension and retention?
Su Surveys Are participants empowered to share feedback about the usefulness, quality, and impact of their training?
Sf Self-Evaluation Are reps encouraged to take ownership of their development by assessing their wins and opportunities?
Mc Manager Checkpoints Do reps regularly check in with managers to share progress?
Mb Manager Observations Do managers observe reps on the job to validate and assess application of knowledge, skills, and behaviors?

business impact

Be Behaviors Are high-performing behaviors becoming habits?
Cx Customer Experience Do customers have a consistent experience with, and positive perception of, your brand?
Po Prospects Do reps generate more qualified leads?
Nc New Clients Do more leads convert to clients?
Rn Retention In the client retention rate increasing?
Gr Account Growth Are you doing more business in existing accounts?
Qu Quota Attainment Do more reps reach their quotas?
Ds Deal Size Is average deal size increasing?
Sa Sales Cycle Is the sales cycle moving faster?
Tr Total Revenue Is more revenue being generated monthly/quarterly/annually?

leadership

By Buy-In Do leaders share the vision for your sales training?
Ag Alignment Do leaders help drive alignment with and among subject-matter experts? Do they form partnerships with other teams/channels?
Pn Participation Do they attend reviews and give thoughtful feedback in a timely manner?
Cp Champions Are they excited? Do they proactively share updates and market the training throughout the organization?

Questions about your sales training program? Feedback on our periodic table? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or contact us to chat one on one.

Download the Periodic Table of Sales Training

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