Effectively managing customer relationships and providing solutions to meet client needs are critical skills for sales reps to master to improve customer experience and increase sales. However, sales management often overlooks how to use sales training effectively to build these capabilities.

Traditional sales training programs often suffer from the following shortcomings: they are rarely measurable, do little to develop employee skills and are not clearly aligned to broader business goals. Trainers often deliver a lot of information as quickly as possible and have little follow-up with trainees. Sharing best practices and peer-to-peer social learning are powerful techniques rarely implemented in the training process. The absence of utilizing best practices decreases the potential for knowledge retention and the application of the lessons learned to the sales process. In short, everyone comes away disappointed.

Fortunately, it’s not as difficult as one would think to transform the way sales reps receive training to ensure necessary skills are developed and improved. In fact, this can be accomplished by leveraging the customer relationship management (CRM) solution you may already be using.

Sales Training through CRM

Although it seems like common sense, sales organizations are only just starting to realize the benefits that incorporating sales training within CRM solutions can facilitate. CRM solution providers have taken note and are working with online learning providers to integrate training functionality within CRM platforms to simplify the learning process. This allows for direct alignment between sales training, business goals and account needs, while reinforcing learning and retention. The result? Better performing sales reps.

Think of it this way: sales teams receive a lot of information at sales training events to review on their own time (i.e. PowerPoint presentations, videos, spreadsheets, and more).  But this “data dump” approach is not how people learn, nor does it provide the opportunity to measure whether the sales rep understands, retains the knowledge or will be able to successfully apply it to his or her sales role.

Maximizing Retention

U.S. Department of Education research demonstrates that blended learning – a mix of classroom training and online learning – is the most effective way individuals learn and retain information. To extend learning beyond in-person sales training events, managers and trainers should develop online training courses based on sales goals and sales rep needs. Since CRM solutions are among the most popular online technologies used by sales teams, it makes sense to incorporate online training into CRMs. Delivering courses and content this way makes the information readily accessible when and where a sales rep needs it.  As any good sales person knows, go to where your audience is. In this case your audience is already in the CRM, so work with them in an environment they already know.

The need to access content, information and subject matter expertise continues long after a training event concludes. With the content from these courses readily available on the CRM, combined with built-in social learning tools to connect with others, the result is a continuous learning environment. Such a model can empower employees to utilize the on-demand access to colleagues, experts and resources as needed.

Measurement that Matters

Sales trainers and management tend to take a very tactical approach to measure sales training “effectiveness.” Quantifying the number of sales reps who completed (or need to complete) a specific course, compiling the results of the reps’ training assessments, and tallying the number of courses completed does not answer the question most important to an organization: Did the sales training work? Is it helping sales reps meet their goals, grow sales and increase company revenues? Do we see improvements in deals closed, clients retained, shorter sales cycles, etc.?

Measurement should be meaningful and demonstrate improved sales performance. With this insight and ability to tailor training, a company can train better prepared sales reps in the field. Sales managers can measure the affect of training on sales growth, certify reps on new products, deliver training to geographically dispersed or traveling teams, and create targeted courses for reps needing improvement.

Let’s take a closer look at training within the CRM compared to traditional training:

Traditional Sales Training Programs CRM Optimized Sales Training Programs
  • Rarely measurable
  • Correlated to business goals
  • Data Dumping
  • Ongoing Learning
  • One-to-many training
  • Social & collaborative
  • Check-the-box training
  • Retention focused
  • Classroom one-size-fits-all training
  • Strategically assigned training based on CRM data
  • Success is completion
  • Success is improving CRM numbers

Whether your goal is onboarding new sales reps, pipeline and account management or general sales skills development, there is a smarter way to provide sales training, and that’s within the CRM. As a result, sales reps improve their skills and are better prepared to make and close deals and increase sales. After all, the more sales reps know, the more they sell.