15 Sales Training Techniques to Build an Unstoppable Sales Team
Show newbies the ropes and you’ll have a strong Number Two willing to follow you into battle.
But once you start to scale, you can kiss those carefree training days goodbye.
Without fail, you’ll be pulled to other tasks, and the sales training for new team members will get pushed to someone else—possibly someone without a ton of experience training.
And that can be a recipe for disaster.
As a part of sales management (whether you're a sales manager, director, or founder), it’s your job to give your sales team the tools they need to be successful. Without effective sales training processes, you’re basically playing a big game of telephone with your values and strategies.
Important strategies and techniques might be passed on correctly. Or they might not.
Before you know it, your vision has been completely thrown to the side and your sales department has devolved into a free-for-all. Not a good look.
The right sales training resources let you download all of your knowledge, experience, tricks, and sales strategies into an easily digestible format for new hires. It’s like Neo getting plugged into the Matrix and learning Kung-fu in a matter of seconds.
We partnered up with Predictable Revenue to bring you 8 customizable templates that'll empower you (and your team!) to consistently and effectively train your team.
Unfortunately, we can’t expect instantaneous kick-ass results from your sales team. But using sales training best practices can ensure your team is set up for success.
This is no small task. So let’s take this one step at a time, starting with assessing your own team, finding the right methods for delivering your sales training, and then end with the 15 lessons to include in your sales training.
Assess Your Sales Team's (+ Your Own) Strengths and Weaknesses
Whether you’re a team of 1 or 100, your sales team has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. Before you start putting together a sales training process, you need to know these inside out.
What questions should you ask to dig into the details?
CEO and consultant Melissa Raffoni spoke with 50 top CEOs of companies with teams from 10 to 1000 to find out how to best assess the quality of sales teams. Here are the questions that came up over and over again:
- What’s your company's value proposition? Sounds simple, but it’s surprising how hard it is for some companies to clearly explain why a customer should choose them over a competitor. If your sales team can’t do this, they won't stand a chance.
- Do you have a clear sales process in place? What is sales at your company? Is it working as well as it should be? If you add more resources, will it grow or break from the pressure? If you need help building a sales process, check out our 8-step guide to building a sales process that gets results.
- What is the cost of sales, and is where it should be? Are your sales sucking your profits dry? What makes you think your costs are acceptable? Are you comparing to an industry standard or mapping to projected sales?
- What key measures are you using to track sales effectiveness? Do you measure what needs to be measured? And are those numbers easily accessible on a dashboard to make sure you’re on the right track? You can’t really optimize if you don’t know which lever you want to pull.
- What are you doing to increase your sales funnel and/or increase your close ratio? Do you have a clear plan for sales growth? Do you know where to go for new leads when the well runs dry? Do you have a good process to stay on top of your sales pipeline? Or experiments you want to take to increase the amount of sales that are closing?
- Is sales compensation driving the right behaviors? We know compensation is a powerful motivator for sales teams, but is your bonus structure driving the right actions? Is there enough value to make it worthwhile for your sales team to push to hit their sales goals?
- How are you taking advantage of changes to the market? It’s a changing world out there with new competitors and solutions coming out every month. What are you doing to experiment? Do you have a culture of failing fast or are you slow to take advantage of new sales channels?
- Do you have the right people? Your team should be your greatest strength. Are they? If not, why? Is it the people, the culture, or the training?
Going deep into these questions will provide insights into how your team functions, where you’re killing it, and where things are falling apart. From there, you can start to craft the basics of your sales training.
Asking these questions once and then moving on is a recipe for disaster. Sales training, like all parts of your sales efforts, will evolve as your team and product changes and adapts to the real world. So it’s smart to revisit these questions annually to find improvement areas.
Choose the Right Format for Your Sales Training Program
With the raw materials in place from your assessment, it's time to look at the different ways you can implement your sales training.
There’s a huge range of options on the table, and no single one is right for every company or team. Instead, experiment with different formats to see which gets results and what works with your team’s structure.
For example, if you’re an early-stage startup with a small sales team, putting together some short interactive courses or conducting in-person workshops can be a great way to build your team’s skills while coming together as a group.
As you scale and grow, it might make sense to bring in an outside consultant or send key members of your sales team off to larger conferences to see what’s coming up and adapt your sales training appropriately.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common formats for delivering sales training:
Use Pre-Planned Sales Training Courses
Nope, we’re not talking about sending your salespeople back to college. However, the course format, either in-person or online, is one of the most effective ways to transfer your sales knowledge to teammates.
Whether your teams are learning from home or the office, some of the best sales training programs from companies like Sandler Training, Action Selling, Rain Group and others are designed to provide learners with flexibility. These might be webinars, gamified programs, or on-demand video series.
You can still monitor the team’s training sessions and keep track of their progress.
Attend In-Person Sales Workshops
Short in-person workshops break up the work day and can be a great way to build excitement around your sales training. If you can handle the whole team taking a few hours off, it’s worth it to close up shop and bring everyone together for training.
Just make sure you choose a provider that offers workshops that deliver value.
That means defining specific objectives in advance and communicating with the training provider of your choices. Plenty of training companies are great at marketing themselves, so read reviews and discuss goals before the training.
You'll also want to refer to your sales team assessment from earlier to ensure you choose a program that fits your needs.
Hire Outside Sales Professionals
If your team is too big or you're ready for a fresh perspective, it might be time to bring in an outside consultant to provide training.
It might seem awkward to bring in someone outside of your team for onsite sales training, but a good consultant can bring a wealth of experience and valuable market information. It can also help you get buy-in with your team faster by bringing in an expert.
Go to Sales and Industry Conferences
Conferences and seminars are fantastic for networking, but they also allow your team to learn from proven leaders and get a pulse on what’s coming up in your market. And remember the Roman philosopher Seneca’s words, “while we teach, we learn.”
Make sure to put the added pressure of bringing back value to the company not just to make sure your entire team gets the benefit of the chosen few attending a conference, but to help those who want to solidify what they heard.
Create Detailed Databases and Wikis on Your Sales Process
While not necessarily a sales training technique like the others, having self-serve resources available for your team teaches them to "always be learning." Set up a wiki or a Trello board with in-house processes and resources for commonly asked questions. When your team asks questions, point them in this direction. It might come across as a bit cold, but you’re essentially training them to help themselves.
Plenty of companies use the advice we share on our blogs and books to train their staff.
Or ResQ Club, a company from Finland that's using our free video resources to train onboard new sales reps.
Now that we've covered all channels you can use to deliver sales training, it’s time to talk about what your sales training should cover so you can evaluate all the options for your organization.
The 15 Sales Training Essentials Your Team Needs to Succeed
Effective sales training can cover everything from how to create a sales plan, account management, to getting over your fears of rejection, staying motivated every day, and more.
The goal is that each component of your sales training helps your team grow and progress, so nobody feels like they’ve hit the ceiling in their career.
If you need inspiration on what to include in your own sales training program, or want to make sure you choose the right facilitator, here are 15 sales training essentials to include in your next training session.
1. How to Become an Effective Listener
As the Greek philosopher Epictetus so succinctly explains, “You have two ears and one mouth—you should be using them in that proportion.”
In the rush to explain features and benefits of your offer, it’s easy to talk over your prospect. This is a common mistake many inside sales rookies make. The problem is, the second someone thinks you’re not listening, you’ve lost them.
Active listening is truly the silent skill of sales. Throughout the sales cycle, prospects will drop hints about what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling, or problems they need solved. Addressing these can make or break your sale. But you’ll miss them if you’re not listening.
Here are a few tips to incorporate into your sales training to help your team learn to listen better:
- Practice active listening: This means listening to what your prospect is saying, understanding it, and then responding with a brief summary of what they’re saying. This shows you’re listening and respect what they’re saying, but will also help you zero in on the details you need to close that deal.
- Echo what the prospect says in your head: One of the barriers to good listening is getting excited and formulating a response before the other person has stopped talking. As soon as you’re thinking about what you'll say, you tune out the rest of what they’re saying. To combat this, try echoing what they’re saying in your head as they talk and wait a few seconds after they finish speaking to respond.
- Summarize what they’ve said: Once they’re finished speaking, take a moment to summarize and repeat back what they’ve said. For example, “It sounds like you’re happy with your current CRM but would like something a bit more user-friendly for new teammates.” This will help clarify misunderstandings and encourage prospects to share more insights, as they’ll usually go a step deeper now that they know you’re listening.
2. Use Empathy and Train Yourself to Think Like a Problem-Solver
Robots might be taking over art and driving, but there's a good chance they aren't taking your sales job any time soon. That’s because working in sales requires constant problem-solving, empathy, and the ability to think fast and act accordingly. To instill these qualities in your team, they need to adopt a problem-solving mentality—which can be done through proper sales training.
This one starts with empathy, seeing the world through the eyes of your prospect. Listening only goes so far, and you should always assume the problem your prospect communicates isn’t necessarily the real issue they need solved. Look at the bigger picture.
Great salespeople go beyond simply solving their customers’ problems to find the problems their customers are unaware of.
As Daniel Pink, author of To Sell is Human, said in an interview:
“If customers know precisely what the problem is, they can find a solution. Where you’re more valuable is when they don’t know what the problem is, or they’re wrong about the problem, and you can identify a problem they don’t realize they have. Or you can look down the road and say ‘Here is a problem you’re going to confront. You’d better get ready for it now’.”
How do you do this? Develop a problem-solving and problem-finding mentality that, when combined with empathy, helps you find the problems your customers need solved. Start by asking a few simple questions:
- What are the problems my customer is not yet aware of?
- How can I solve them?
- How can I sell the solution?
Take your time and be creative.
Solving your prospect's invisible problems is a powerful tool in getting the sale. Reiterate the importance of keeping these questions top of mind throughout your sales training process.
3. Help New Sales Reps Learn the Ropes
Help new sales reps learn new skills and learn more about your sales organization by letting them shadow your jobs and top sales performers. This will help them understand your sales methodology, your tools (if you’re using a CRM like Close, it’s a lot easier to ramp up new sales reps than with more complex tools like Salesforce)—and which strategies are most effective for selling to your audience.
Helping reps learn the fundamentals through on-the-job training is extremely effective and allows you to mold reps to achieve sales success based on the tools, strategies, and offers your organization provides.
By giving them a sense of day-to-day operations and real-life examples, their sales techniques can dramatically improve.
Don't just have them follow one person, though. Schedule blocks of time for various training sessions. For example:
- 9:00-10:30: Watch onboarding training for tools/technology.
- 10:30-12:00: Shadow John (cold calling)
- 12:00-1:00: Lunch
- 1:00-2:30: Shadow Sue (follow up calls)
- 2:30-4:00 Shadow Frank (CRM set up and email follow ups.)
After a few days of shadowing, have them take mock sales calls, where a manager or mentor pretends to be a prospect and walks them through your sales process.
Regardless of the online courses or online sales training you provide, your sales reps will not be able to close deals or manage retention without hands-on experience. We even encourage new reps to start making calls on day 1.
4. Mentoring—One of the Best Sales Management Training Techniques
Building mentor relationships between managers and experienced reps is one of the most effective ways to level up your team's sales skills.
Sales leaders can share their challenges and success stories with sales reps and offer one-on-one sales coaching and mentoring. Take them through examples of previous client experiences and customer relationship success stories.
Encourage reps to share sales pitches and ideas and work on their selling skills directly with managers to refine their sales messaging.
Mentoring can also include teaching new strategies such as account based marketing, the relationship between inbound marketing and business development, how to increase win rates, or any other areas where reps are not reaching their full potential.
In addition to sharing knowledge, mentoring helps encourage internal sales conversations, which can boost everyone's selling skills.
5. Crafting Scripts to Deal With the Most Common Objections
Knowledge is power, and the best salespeople always have a solid foundation to work from.
Use your sales training to help your team learn to identify objections that come up time and time again and create scripts to streamline their response.
You can collaboratively craft scripts to help them deal with these issues or provide the scripts you already have and explain how to use them effectively.
Using scripts is a bit of a touchy subject in the sales community. That's because when used incorrectly, people come across as robotic—which nobody wants. Instead, sales scripts should ensure reps can address client fears and quickly move on to real issues.
Think of it like a basketball team. They spend hours upon hours practicing the basics—dribbling, shooting, defending, rebounding—so that when it comes to game day, they don’t have to think about it and can focus on adapting to the team they’re playing—it's all muscle memory.
In the same way, scripts help your sales team get past common objections quickly and move onto creative ways to close the sale. Not only that, but you’ll have a template you can share across your team and help them level up their sales game quickly.
As part of your training, have your team:
- Come up with a list of common objections they hear from prospects (like ‘it’s too expensive’ or ‘we’re happy with our current service’)
- Brainstorm solutions or questions to respond to these objections.
- Come up with short scripts based on these answers on how to move past the objections.
Make sure to explain the purpose of scripts is to help them offer the most relevant responses—not take away their ability to provide personal responses.
6. How to Be More Effective In Sales Negotiations
Negotiation is a key sales skill, so you want to ensure your reps are familiar with the fundamental concepts and learn advanced skills that help them close more deals.
It's also helpful to ensure they're familiar with different negotiation styles, and the importance of consulting someone from your own team in long and protracted negotiations.
Chris Voss' book Never Split The Difference is a great read on the subject.
"Persuasion is not about how bright or smooth or forceful you are. It’s about the other party convincing themselves that the solution you want is their own idea. So don’t beat them with logic or brute force. Ask them questions that open paths to your goals. It’s not about you."
If you use a CRM like Close which makes it possible to record all your sales calls, you can even run a "negotiation of the quarter" sales training game, where each rep submits a recording of a challenging negotiation with a prospect. You review the recordings, pick a winner, and use that as a training tool to train the rest of your team. (Don't forget to reward the winner.)
You want your reps to master this sales skill so they're able to convey the value your product offers in a compelling manner, and can handle pushback effectively when talking with prospective customers.
7. Identifying the Red Flags of Bad Customers
Time wasted chasing after the wrong prospects can crush your sales metrics and even your company. Large accounts can sometimes take 6–18 months to close. But that’s only if they do close. Sometimes a bad client can be even worse than a lost sale, wasting your time, asking for refunds, and generally speaking poorly about your company.
Your team needs to know what to look out for to make sure they’re going in the right direction—which is where good sales training comes into play. As someone experienced in selling your product or service, you’ve seen first hand the signs that led to a sale, and the ones that made you get off the phone as quickly as possible.
Here are a few key red flags you should be using sales training to teach your team how to spot poor quality leads:
- Prospects who get nasty during the sales process: A prospect that has a bad attitude is likely to be a nightmare customer. So if you see signs of a bad attitude early on, you can be sure they’re not going to get any better once they’ve put money on the table.
- No respect for boundaries: Call me now. Need to speak right away. Emergency. If you’re getting emails with subjects like this at any time of the day (especially at night or on weekends) from a prospect, they’re probably not worth the trouble.
- The guarantee-er: Unless you specifically have some form of guarantee, you can’t commit to hitting goals for a prospect. If they’re trying to get you to say you will, they either don’t trust you or don’t understand the complexity of their own problem. Either way, you’re headed for trouble.
- The too quick to close: This might seem counterintuitive, but a prospect willing to close before the first sales call is done can turn into a nightmare. These impulsive buyers usually don’t fully understand your offer, and will come after you (even though they’re at fault). You might want to slow down the process and suggest another call or spend extra time explaining everything (in writing if you can.)
8. The Basics of Cold Emailing
If you’re using cold outreach over email as one of your main sales strategies, you’ll want to have some form of training on the basics of how you connect with prospects over email.
First off, why email? Despite doomsayers spouting off about social selling killing email, email is 40X more effective at getting new customers than Facebook and Twitter combined. We put together a collection of sales email tips that work you can check out, but here are the main strategies you'll want to cover:
- How to write subject lines that get opened: It might be just one line, but the subject line is crucial. Write like a human, avoid slogans, use lowercase text, and include your recipient's name if you can.
- How to write effective email copy: Don’t waste your prospect’s time. Be brief. Give context. And end with a clear call to action. Each sentence must highlight your value props and push your prospect closer to the next step.
- Unusual ways to make your emails stand out: We all have overflowing inboxes. So to stand out, try a few tricks like: Add value in your signature by including recent blog posts, news, or videos; include a personal note or some company humblebrag in the P.S.; and use formatting to your advantage by bolding important information and using bulleted lists.
- How to test emails: Even the best email templates go stale. Start by deciding what you want to test: CTA, headline, etc. Then, try a few experiments like A/B testing subject lines, changing the ‘From name’, using personalization, or sending at a different time.
- Proper follow-up: If cold prospects aren’t responding, implement this follow-up formula into your sales training process:
- 1 day after your cold email at a different time: Follow-up 1. A modified version of your original email.
- 2 days after you send your second email: Follow-up 2. Restate your call to action only.
- 4-5 days after your third email: Follow-up 3. Say goodbye to the prospect with a breakup email. Sometimes this compels action.
Even better, show them how to automate follow ups using email sequences in Close. Set up your email sequences once and automatically send your follow up sequence over days or weeks.
9. The Basics of Cold Calling
If your salespeople are picking up the phone, you want to ensure they know what to say. Your cold calling strategy should start with a funnel that looks something like this:
- Dial phone numbers
- Reach prospects
- Qualify prospects
- Demo the prospects
- Close the deal
Teach your team to keep it simple and focus on one step at a time.
Can you reach one person? Qualify that person? Demo a prospect? Close a deal? The training should focus on pushing through and getting each prospect to the next step. So don’t worry if the conversion numbers are bad to start.
Close makes it simple for sales teams to increase cold calling productivity with the ability to make calls, take notes, record calls, leave pre-recorded voice messages, and more right in the platform.
The Predictive Dialer in Close allows sales teams to call multiple leads at once and routes the next available sales rep when a lead answers—save time dialing and listening to voicemails.
10. Clearly Articulating Value to Prospects
Nothing kills a sale faster than not being able to explain why they need what you’re selling. People buy results, not just products or services.
Your salespeople need to know how to clearly articulate the value your product or service will provide. They need to be educators and storytellers, explaining why what you’re selling is so great and then getting the prospect to imagine themselves in a better life because of you.
Start by going through your customer profiles. Why are they good prospects for what you’re selling? How can you show them the value you’re providing? Do you have case studies or testimonials you can use?
Role play and get your team to practice articulating the value of your product until they can do it without even thinking.
11. Dealing With Fear in Cold Sales
If you’re dealing with sales training for new or less experienced salespeople, you’ll want to train them just how to sell, but how to feel good about doing it.
Calling up or emailing strangers and asking them to buy what you’re selling isn’t something we normally do. Fear is natural when you're in an unfamiliar position. Training your team how to handle that fear will make them more confident, friendly, and ultimately more successful.
Start by looking at all the places in your sales process where your team might be feeling anxiety or fear and how to address it:
- Fear of rejection: When cold calling or emailing, it’s natural to be afraid of rejection. But hearing ‘no’ is no small part of the selling process. Don’t ignore or squash this fear. Instead, embrace it, verbalize it, and have your salesperson aim for failure and get motivated to push past the rejections. Give them the liberty to fail spectacularly a few times and get comfortable in that space. Those few lost leads are worth it in the long run.
- Fear of presentation: If you’re scared of getting in front of a group and pitching solutions, you might think you’re not cut out for sales. But getting over this fear of performance isn’t as hard as you might think. Try using a solid script so there’s no room for error. It might come across as robotic the first few times, but once your salesperson feels comfortable their fear will disappear, and the presentation will loosen up.
- Fear of asking for the sale: Some salespeople are great at small talk, but can’t bring themselves to ask for the sale. This goes back to the fear of rejection, but if you’ve come this far you don’t want to just toss away the sale. Instead, give them a few textbook techniques for closing the sale. Once they feel comfortable with the basics, upgrade to more advanced closing strategies.
Making sure your sales team stays motivated goes a long way—which is why we've curated the best motivational sales quotes, so you can use them for your team.
12. How, When, and the Frequency of Following Up
Most people assume there’s no interest if a prospect doesn't respond to an email or call right away. But the follow-up is your key to higher conversion rates, and without it you’re not likely to close many deals.
Steli, the CEO of Close, follows a simple follow-up philosophy: Reach out as many times as necessary until you get a response. If a prospect says they’re busy for two weeks, he sets a reminder for 14 days.
Your own follow-up philosophy will come from your values and sales process, but the key here is that you need to have something your team can follow. Decide what frequency you'll follow up, how to track your messages, and which medium you'll use. Then, teach your team to use their judgment and experiment.
13. Enhancing Virtual Selling Skills
Even if your team works from the office, there's a good chance they'll meet with prospects online, give online demos, or interact via virtual channels.
As a result, call coaching is even more important in a virtual sales setting than when you're all in the same room. Train your reps to tap into the power of remote video calls, because leading a sales conversation and delivering a sales pitch on a Zoom call takes a different set of skills than being in the room with a prospect.
Speaking of Zoom: Equip your team with the best remote sales tools on the market, so they're fully equipped to generate the results you want. (And for those reps that really want to take their virtual sales skills to the next level: have them review their own sales call recordings.)
If your sales prospects are active on social media, have your reps engage them there. LinkedIn in particular can be a great channel for generating leads and brand awareness.
14. Consultative Selling
Consultative selling is a method of selling that focuses on clearly identifying the buyer's needs first, and then showing them how your offer can fulfill these needs.
Ask your prospects questions that will provide you with insights—but also show your prospect a new side of their challenge. Your ultimate goal is to educate them, and help them reach their goals faster.
The sales conversation you have with the prospect should create value beyond just moving them towards a buying decision. This is where you really bring in your industry expertise and support the prospect in areas they don't expect.
Consultative selling is broken down into a simple 8 step process:
- Learn about your new leads before talking to them
- Actively listen to what they say.
- Understand the source of their key pain points.
- Custom-tailor your sales pitch for them.
- Educate your prospects.
- Solve problems for them.
- Close them with a win-win deal.
- Provide support after the close to ensure they're successful.
Provide your team with the consultative sales training resources they need to really master this sales technique.
15. Asking for the Close
One of the most important pieces of sales training is how to close the deal.
Without guidelines and processes for asking for the close, you’re basically giving your team the liberty to ask whenever they want. Unfortunately, too many salespeople either ask too soon or wait until that nonexistent ‘perfect moment’ to ask.
Here are a couple of techniques to add to your sales training:
The virtual close: As soon as you’ve qualified your lead and given them your pitch, ask for the sale. At this point, pretty much know they’re going to say no. So follow up by asking, "What’s the process we need to go through in order to get you ready to buy?" With this simple question, you’re getting them to draw you a roadmap to the sale you’ll eventually get.
Wait, earlier we said that prospects wanting to close too fast is a red flag. So which is it?
This strategy should only be used on well-qualified prospects who are obviously hesitating. The goal isn't to close the deal right now, but rather find out why they are hesitating.
Take the sale away: When objections arrive at the 11th hour, it’s easy to get desperate and make promises you can’t keep. Instead, teach your salespeople to "take the sale away" by being decisive on pricing, emphasizing that you’re building a long-term relationship, and imposing a break in the conversation. By using this technique, you’re not only pushing people to close, but showing them that you value the service or product you’re selling.
In Sales, Learning Never Stops
Sales training should be an ongoing process.
There are always new techniques, better scripts, new objections to overcome, new issues to address, or another competitor entering the market that you and your team will need to learn how to combat.
The best salespeople have a drive to learn and be the best, and your sales training will help them get there. Want to build a sales team that can't be beaten? Invest in sales training early and often.
We wrote the Sales Hiring Playbook to help you recruit, interview, and hire the best candidates using specific insights and practical steps to fill your candidate pipeline. It includes an hourly schedule for fully onboarding sales reps in just 4 weeks and much more.