If you’ve worked in sales training, you know that the most successful people understand that learning isn’t over once you earn a degree, pass a course or qualify for a certificate. Instead, they’re constantly striving to learn and grow.

Rethinking Sales Training

Most companies don’t invest in ongoing training because they view training as a quick fix to a problem rather than a way to reinforce and improve on what’s already working.

Before digitization, companies could effectively take a one-off approach to sales training. Because most customers came through the same sales channels, businesses could safely assume that their prospects had very similar needs and challenges. They could rely on a script to make the sale. But technology has opened new possibilities, making it more difficult to take a one-size-fits-all approach to sales.

For example, in my industry of wealth management, the advent of new technology has led to the disintermediation of the banking sector and the rise of financial advisors. Unlike brokers, who sell products, financial advisors must connect with potential clients on a deeper level, which involves soft skills like empathy and problem solving. You can’t effectively build these types of skills in a day.

Creating a Culture of Learning

Any good sales professional looking to connect with clients and prospects must demonstrate empathy and understanding, even when dealing with situations outside their own frame of reference. This requires a level of mastery that can’t be achieved by a traditional, three-hour (or even three-day) sales training course. Rather, these skills should be continually practiced and refined through sales enablement — a process that aligns people, the process and tools.

While some companies are reluctant to invest in this long-term training, mentorship and coaching, the ones that do find it helps them stand out in a crowded marketplace by producing consistent, bottom-line results.

Here are three ways sales trainers can adapt their methods to focus on long-term learning, coaching and mentorship.

1. Consider different scenarios. 

Practicing different scenarios based on customer personas in sales training is always helpful. After all, regardless of the industry, prospects have different goals and pain points, and it’s beneficial to get sales professionals thinking on their feet and discovering the shifts they need to make. For example, when dealing with someone new to their industry versus an experienced professional. Practice scenarios in small groups; this works well because sales trainees can practice their communications skills and offer advice while learning from their peers, which has consistently proven to be one of the most effective — and enduring — methods of skill building.

2. Integrate all the tools in your arsenal.

Many sales trainers believe technology isn’t as important as the conversation. But modern technology platforms are designed to be interactive. If your training doesn’t include the full suite of tools and technologies, advisors cannot naturally incorporate those elements into a sales presentation — and that’s a lost opportunity.

Remember, effective sales training incorporates three elements: the people, the process and the tools. So, when all the elements are aligned, known as “near transfer,” it creates the closest possible replication of a client interaction and, thus, offers the highest probability of success; professionals can return again and again to this successful framework.

3.  Invest in ongoing skill practice.

Just as necessary as the training, organizations must continually provide their salespeople with opportunities to practice, reinforce learned skills and correct mistakes as needed. One way to do that is by setting up coaching sessions to follow formal instruction. These sessions can highlight various aspects of the training — such as new technology — to reinforce new skills. Another option is for managers to take one skill weekly and ask their team to practice during regular in-person or virtual meetings. The more incorporated these lessons are into the everyday work environment, the more they’ll become ingrained into the team’s collective muscle memory.

The growth of technology has provided customers with more choices — from where to shop and stay on vacation to how to get their financial advice. To appeal to this wider universe, sales trainers must effectively put themselves in their customer’s shoes, practicing various techniques to meaningfully connect with their target audience. Professionals cannot simply rely on the old tried-and-true methods. Instead, they must experiment and engage, deepen their communications skills, and companies must commit to investing in their people to help them grow as professionals. It will not come as quickly as a one-day training course; it requires more effort and time.

The sales training industry is changing, creating new and untapped opportunities. Sales trainers that recognize the value of adapting their programs to focus on mastery and mentorship will create enduring value for their clients.