Ongoing sales training is essential for every organization. Sales are a unique and ever-changing skill; however, sales programs are too often standardized and forgotten. This leaves your team floundering in a work-scape that has changed dramatically in the last five years.

There was a time when as long as you offered your sales staff a printed product guide and a list of prospects, you could count on revenue flowing in. When sales was first starting to get adopted, only a few major companies were doing it, and as a result, nothing extravagant needed to be done as long as buyers were getting approached. You could throw in a session on communication skills and cold-calling and that would suffice. That is no longer proving to be effective since people now are less susceptible to being affected by sales. When an individual gets a sales call at 7:00 p.m. on a Tuesday from an unknown number, they are automatically ready to pick up and say they are not interested, regardless what the other person on the line is selling.

Today the rapid pace of changing products, the advent of online sales, the use of social media to secure prospects, the need for amped up organizational skills and requirements for essential background in legal and ethical issues are changing the nature of training programs for sales staff

Businesses who don’t invest in such training will find themselves losing ground. For example, according to a survey by lattice-engines.com, 42 percent of salespeople think they don’t have sufficient information about their company’s products before calling on a prospective customer. Also, according to asalesguyconsulting.com, 78 percent of salespeople are now using social media to outsell their peers.

What steps should you take to create a sales training program that will meet these new and diverse demands?

Start by analyzing the biggest issues in the sales department and establishing a set of specific objectives. If product knowledge is an issue, for example, then involve the sales team in gathering feedback to produce a product guide (printed or online) that covers the highlights of their offerings. The sales team should be experts in the product and fully understand what the value proposition is that they are trying to sell.

If sales staff are not well versed in social media use, set up training sessions on how to gather online connections and turn them into customers. Many organizations are now using online training or live webinars to train their staff with up-to-date sales techniques. Learning from experienced and successful sales individuals is a great way for your staff to gain some valuable tactics to use in the market. You may need to also look at the online sales funnel within your firm and ensure that each member of the team clearly understands how it works.

The old standards, such as basic selling skills, closing deals, building lists of prospects, cold-calling and managing a sales territory will also likely find a place in your training programs. It’s important to note that these skills haven’t gone away, they have just changed, and will continue to change.

Your sales team should also be sufficiently trained in how to overcome objections. In sales, there is a perfect balance of convincing the buyer to purchase your product and becoming overly pushy and aggressive. If a buyer is showing objections, it is the responsibility of your sales personnel to convince them to reconsider without seeming overly pushy and desperate.

Develop a series of seminars for the sales staff that work to solve the gaps in sales performance. Ask for honest and open feedback after each session and keep updating and improving presentations.

Sales is a practice that is continuously evolving and changing. Good sales people are not born with the skills that make them good, but rather they practice and continuously improve their methods. They understand and analyze the different obstacles and objections they can potentially face and find different methods to overcome them.

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