6 Steps to Successful Sales Team Development in 2018

Could sales team training and development be your ticket to a prosperous 2018? Follow these 6 steps to develop a rewarding training programme that sticks.

Thoroughly training your sales staff can hold the key to a better performing and more fulfilled team, but sadly training and development is something that’s often overlooked - especially by SMEs. In our line of work, we see businesses who have passed up on training for as long as possible; instead focusing their budgets on “firefighting” and solving symptoms rather than addressing the root problems.

But good training can be just as much of a sensible investment. Think of the time your team could potentially be wasting through lack of skill or motivation; how profit is eroded through inefficient negotiation; or the possible costliness of staff turnover through poor recruitment, onboarding, management, or development.

However, a focus on training and developing your sales team can help you maximise your in-house skillset – which could, in turn, could be the ticket to a prosperous new year. 

The Benefits of Training

When approached carefully, training can result in a more productive and fulfilled team, full of individuals who feel in better control of their working environment, and have confidence about their place within the wider organisation.

Employee engagement means that you get more discretionary effort; the extra time or focus that people give when they "want" to be in your team. One study indicated that:

"Highly engaged business units achieve a 10% increase in customer ratings and a 20% increase in sales" (Gallup)

What difference would that alone make to your sales performance?

Helping your staff feel better equipped to do their jobs through training leads to increased job satisfaction; in turn creating happier staff, lowering turnover, and creating a better working environment overall.

So, let’s take a look at 6 steps to make the most out of your new year training initiatives. 

1. Identify the goals you would like to achieve and the skills required to make them a reality

Start by objectively looking at what directions you (or your superiors) would like to take your team in, and identify the activities and skills required to achieve those goals. What skills will be needed to bring those plans into fruition? Looking at the overall picture of where you are now and where you want to take your team in future can help identify practical skills gaps that you will need to address.

2. Take stock of the skills you currently have in-house

Carefully list all of the skills you need your people to have to take the business forward. Then, use a “skills matrix” or similar tool to record your honest opinion of each team member’s abilities. The skills matrix is incredibly useful in helping you visualise where a team’s strengths and weaknesses lie, and can be instrumental in identifying opportunities for training.

Remember that not all training needs to be carried out by an external organisation (unless of course nobody on your team is proficient in a crucial skill). Team members who are proficient in transferrable skills such as questioning, presenting, or phone etiquette may be able to train up others who are weaker in those skills; perhaps through shadowing or mentoring.

3. Analyse your training weaknesses

If many people fail in a certain essential area, you need to ask yourself why. Was that skill not prioritised enough when hiring, or through employee initiation processes? Did your organisation train people up in the past, but let them get rusty over time? Or do you simply fall short on training in that area full-stop?

If you feel that your own relationship with training has broken down, you can (somewhat ironically) see this as a learning experience. Moving forward, how are you going to plug any skills gaps with future training (and perhaps also hiring) decisions?

4. Work with your team to craft a training plan

So now we have a good idea of your team’s individual strengths and weaknesses, approach the topic of developing people’s skills pleasantly and without judgement.  If people feel like they are being accused of ineptitude, they are likely to hop on the defensive!

Speak with each person one-to-one about the training you feel would help them, ask them if they have any particular training wants or needs themselves, and listen carefully to any points they make; their point of view will provide invaluable insight. Think carefully about how training would best suit their needs individually and collectively.

It’s important to keep people engaged in discussions about their training - employees may not react well to being told that they will undertake a certain training, but when you involve them and have a genuine, two-way discussion about their needs, you give them a fair opportunity to make decisions about their development; in turn making it far more likely you’ll reach an agreeable solution that works for you both.

5. Link training to specific metrics and amend training plans as you go

All sales training should have a link to practical actions that improve results. As your training initiatives progress and the learners become more proficient, keep a close eye on the individual and team’s overall performance and identify the tangible KPIs that are being improved as a result of training.

However, if KPI performance is generally improving but the company isn’t benefiting from improved sales results, there may be challenges still going unaddressed. Head back to step one and hone your training ideas until you pinpoint problems that are stopping you from reaching your team’s end goal.

6. Give credit where credit is due!

Have your team done well with their training? Have they turned the fruits of their training into actions – and gained positive results?  Celebrate your training successes, but be sure to provide specific feedback about what went well. Don’t be shy about communicating your gratitude for their efforts. Rewarding learners for a job well done is likely to grow a culture around training being a positive endeavour; and all serves to encourage employee engagement through self-betterment.

If you’ve identified a need for external sales, leadership, or innovation training, why not give us a call here at Chilli Pepper Development? We specialise in delivering actionable and supportive training programmes that help your team be the best they can be. Give us a call on 0333 305 6516, or email go@chillipepperdevelopment.co.uk for a friendly chat about your training requirements

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