There are really 2 broad categories or ways of thinking about sales training: public sales training seminars and in-house sales training. Let’s take a look at each and break down the best ways to make the most of in-house sales training.
Public sales training brings together a diverse group of individuals from various organizations and industries into one seminar and can be beneficial for networking, and for allowing participants to receive outside opinions on any issues they are dealing with.
In-house sales training, on the other hand, is conducted by one company for its entire sales team. It provides an opportunity to focus on specific items that are causing issues within the business, and can be carefully customized to an organization’s unique set of circumstances.
Here are some tips for delivering effective in-house sales training:
Don’t overcrowd the classroom
For the most effective training programs, a class size ranging from 12-16 individuals is ideal. This ensures that each member receives adequate attention from the facilitator, and increases the likelihood for participant engagement. It’s much easier to communicate and interact with fewer people, and smaller groups encourage healthy group discussion.
Have team members participate in developing the agenda
One way to ensure buy-in from reps is to get their input on the program itself. Have well respected sales reps contribute to the content and design, and assign exercises on real world applications to members who have expertise in areas you are looking to cover. Even something as simple as planning lunch will create a sense of ownership and will ultimately result in participants who are more invested. We value what we help create.
Communicate value to the participants
Many times Sales Training will be met with some resistance from your sales team. To ensure that reps are invested in the training, they need to be convinced that it will in fact be valuable and worth their time. Making the connection between what is being presented and its immediate application in daily operations is critical to a program’s effectiveness. Sales reps need to see how training will immediately allow them to sell more, better. This can be accomplished by having the reps that assisted in the design process endorse the program during a kick-off meeting.
Make training varied and interactive
Sales professionals are typically high-energy, action oriented, and generally not fond of being lectured to in a classroom type setting. To keep participants engaged in an in-house sales training program, make sure that the material involves their participation, and include group discussion and team building activities to keep the interest level high. Varying topics, presenters, and the type of media used is key to avoiding distracted learners.
Keep the training on task and purposeful
Tangents that lead to organic discussion can be helpful in problem solving, but to keep the session as productive as possible, follow the agenda and don’t stray too far off topic. It’s most likely a rare occurrence to have the entire team together, so maximize on that opportunity and get the most out of the time you have carved out.
Choosing an off-site location is a good way to minimize distractions, and putting a team member in charge of time will ensure that you don’t stray too far off topic. Transfer tangents that are worth revisiting to a “parking lot” flip chart where they can be addressed at the end of the program, or picked up another day.
Have experts contribute
When you’re bringing someone in to present on a topic, they should not only be experts in the subject matter, but in the art of presentation as well. New faces that represent thought leadership in your field will maintain a level of interest and excitement, and will make the in-house sales training more appealing to your team.
Include some reinforcement
If the training was deemed worthy of the company resources and time out of production, it is also worth spending some time reinforcing what was learned in the classroom following the training program. Follow up with frequent group coaching sessions with a formal cadence and create an easy vehicle for sharing successes early. Most importantly, have a thorough plan to engage Sales Managers in applying, reinforcing, and coaching what they’ve learned.
Measure the effectiveness of the training
Regardless of the size of the sales team you’re training, your intent should be to provide the most efficient and effective program that you can. To make sure that the session is of value to the participants and to receive backing and a higher budget from your senior management team, make an effort to collect as much data as possible.
How to do this:
• Link the increase in knowledge and skills to sales results using metrics around increased conversion rates, average sale, renewed contracts, number of reps hitting goals, etc.
• Link to specific high-gain activities such as increased account appointments, self-generated leads, key account business review meetings, lunch and learns with competitive accounts, etc.
An in-house sales training program can be effective in encouraging a sales team to adopt new practices that contribute to the growth of the company, but only if it is well planned and executed. With the right implementation, a program conducted in-house will be a good investment not only for the organization, but for individual participants as well.