Of all the things that will never change (death and taxes aside), the need for sales training is a constant focus for organizations looking to invest in and nurture their talent. On average, companies spend around $1,459 per salesperson on training, according to ATD’s 2016 “State of Sales Training” report — almost 20% more than they spend on training for all other job roles. Sales training is essential and costly, and it needs to be delivered effectively, or it’s a wasted expense.

As many workplaces begin to reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, sales teams are returning to office and retail environments, and customers and prospects are ready to resume in-person business activities and relationships. Sales associates need to be prepared with up-to-date skills and tactics, whether that means a deep level of understanding of a retail product or presentation skills for a major sales pitch meeting. There is now an added need to deliver high-impact sales training remotely, using virtual learning environments and tools.

Let’s examine the critical sales skills that can help your organization stay competitive and the cutting-edge learning technologies that can enable you to better engage with your learners to deliver effective remote learning programs.

What Are the Essential Skills?

Despite the disruption to sales training and business due to the pandemic, companies have still needed to develop sales skills and support the performance improvement of their sales professionals. From boosting revenue to improving productivity and closing bigger sales, sales training and enablement continue to be top of mind for learning and development (L&D) professionals.

While it depends on your business needs, sales training boils down to several key areas where salespeople need support. For example, sales representatives looking to close complex sales require specific skills to nurture prospects over time. They need to understand the unique business strategy of their organization. Then, they need to work with other functional areas of the business, such as the product management and marketing teams, to ensure their efforts align with the overall strategy.

In lengthier sales cycles, salespeople need skills around building relationships, handling objections and building consensus. Effective sales training can make a significant difference when it comes to how well a salesperson communicates and negotiates with a prospect.

In retail, sales associates need technical and soft skills to communicate effectively with customers. New products and services may require new ways of dealing with typical customer resistance, which means associates must be knowledgeable and able to respond to customer needs.

Collaborate to Deliver Effective Sales Training

The success of sales training depends on multiple factors, including relevance, motivation (the “what’s in it for me?”) and delivery modality, which should support easy access and respect learners’ time. Your content needs to be relevant and specific to each learner’s job role and responsibilities and be engaging and effective at attracting and retaining learners. Maintaining learners’ attention and providing value are essential goals for L&D professionals.

Your sales team can be instrumental in helping you create effective programs. Ideally, you can assemble an internal team composed of learning specialists, business leaders and users (learners). Together, you can build programs that deliver value and become champions of potential change needs within the organization.

Your learners have specific needs, concerns and preferences when it comes to learning modalities and content. Building an engaging and effective program starts with communication, including listening to your learners. Establishing committees or groups to elicit feedback early on is critical to the adoption of sales training programs later.

Leverage the Latest Learning Technologies

Generally speaking, everyone is pressed for time, and sales training that is self-paced, self-directed and respects learners’ time should be a priority. Tools such as microlearning, video learning, mobile learning, virtual and augmented reality, and gamification can enhance learning and make it more motivating, effective and successful.

VR and AR, for example, are excellent for demonstrating a product in virtual space. Learners can manipulate a simulated object, test out its functionality and “see” the product up close. Virtual business simulations can then guide salespeople through different scenarios to practice their selling skills and techniques. When launching a new product, VR and AR can enable sales associates to demo it, while simulations can help them learn to manage interactions with potential customers and deal with typical objections. This level of sales training equips associates with the information and skills to address critical consumer questions and provide quality customer service, which ultimately leads to more sales.

Measuring Results Shows Sales Training Success

There are a number of key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics that you can monitor to ensure that your sales training programs are working and aligned with your business strategy. Intelligent tools and reports drawn from your learning management system (LMS) will enable you to benchmark average deal size, time to close, yearly attrition rates and other metrics.

You can also work with your learning vendor to monitor engagement metrics and program effectiveness. Together, you’ll be able to determine which content is the most relevant to your learners and which content isn’t performing as well. This analysis will help you refine and revise your programs to be more effective, enhancing the content that’s working and removing the content that’s not.

For a more detailed look at available sales training tools and techniques, visit CoreAxis’ website, or contact CoreAxis to learn more about how its team can work with you to develop custom, high-impact training programs to support your sales team and your business goals.