B2B Sales

13 Sales Training Ideas to Build a Top-Performing Sales Team

Sales training is an essential part of any B2B sales management strategy. Sales reps have so much to learn to be successful, and sales managers need to facilitate that learning. 

A solid sales training program should educate sales reps not only about your product and clients, but also about widely applicable sales skills, such as objection handling and active listening. 

The sheer magnitude of teaching they need might seem overwhelming. 

To make it seem less so, we will lay out some sales training ideas that you can quickly integrate into your training program.  

So, let’s awaken the teacher inside of you.

Here are 13 sales training ideas you can employ to build a top-performing B2B sales team. 

Write a Training Plan 

Before embarking on the training, write a plan.

A sales training plan is a written outline of the activities and resources you will use to guide a group toward a specific learning objective. 

In it, include what your reps will learn, the teaching methods you will employ, and the metrics and standards you will use to assess whether they have learned the material. 

A basic sales training plan should cover the following sections:

  1. Product Overview: A sales rep needs to know their solution inside and out. Only then can they find creative ways that the product or service can fit the prospect’s needs.
  2. Industry Overview: Your sales reps need an in-depth understanding of the industry in which they operate if they want to build credibility and rapport with their prospects.
  3. Competitive Overview: Teach your sales reps about the competitive landscape and how to win deals against your top competitors.
  4. Sales Skills: Teach them sales skills that they will need for the job: cold calling, social selling, SPIN selling, reporting, and more. There is a lot to cover here, so some companies outsource this portion of their program to training companies. Alternatively, you can provide them with books or access to online learning. 
  5. Sales Process: Your reps should all follow the same sales process — the same set of steps for turning a lead into a paying client. Make sure they understand the objectives and action items in each step of the process. 

Under each section above, you should also outline the various ways you will teach them that information.

Will there be weekly training sessions? Will you hold mock sales calls with them? Maybe you will give them presentations? Are there any online courses you want them to finish? 

When you make evident what material they should grasp and the best ways to take it in, your sales team will be able to learn on their own, consistently trending closer to performing at their potential. 

Rely on Peer Learning 

Peer learning is when your sales reps learn from other members of the company — especially from the veterans above them. 

For instance, it’s when you instruct your Sales Development Reps to sit in on three demos per week with their Account Executive. 

Not only is this a great way for reps to learn the ins and outs of your specific product and industry, but it also serves the added benefit of creating mentor-mentee relationships within your company. 

This leads to happier reps. Better yet, it removes some of the coaching responsibility from the manager, leading to a happier you. 

Peer learning will familiarize reps with best practices or common problems that they might run into during their sales career at the company. 

For example, they might learn about a common objection to a specific product, along with tips for overcoming it. Experienced reps are stocked with this knowledge about common scenarios. 

To facilitate this peer learning, try the following methods.

Create AE-BDR Teams

Match your newer reps with a veteran rep. An ideal ratio is 1:1, but 2:1 and 3:1 will work as well. 

In SaaS, your Business Development Representative will be in charge of setting meetings for the Account Executive. That means the AE will be invested in the BDRs success

The better they are at their job, the healthier the AE’s pipeline. Therefore, the AE will spend time coaching and helping the BDR grow their skills. 

They will also hold strategy sessions with them to open large accounts. 

Set Shadow Session Quotas

Give your newer reps a shadow quota: a number of sales meetings, demos, or calls they have to sit in on and observe. 

During the meetings, encourage them to pay attention to the prospect’s questions and reactions

Additionally, note how the veteran seller guides the conversation and what questions they ask. 

Encourage Reps to Ask Questions

Clarify with your reps that it’s encouraged to direct their questions at the more senior reps. 

Also, make sure your senior reps are aware of this culture you are trying to create and that they’re open to helping their coworkers. 

In time, peer learning will produce friendships — and it’s much more fun learning from a friend than a slideshow or an online instructor. 

Focus on the Buyer’s Point of View 

Try to teach your reps to see from the buyer’s perspective. 

When reps think in terms of what their customers want, they can engage with customers and spark their interest more easily

Hubspot does a great job of training their reps to have a buyer POV. 

They have designed a training program where their sales reps would feel first-hand the pain points commonly suffered by their buyers. This allows them to develop a customer-centric strategy.

Let’s take a look.

Hubspot’s Sales Training Program

Many of Hubspot’s prospects come to them because they are struggling with creating a website and driving traffic to it. So, Hubspot has its sales reps try to do exactly that.

Reps have to build their own websites and deal with the setbacks and frustrations that their customers often feel. 

Having walked in their prospects’ shoes, reps can more easily relate to buyers, which makes it easier to form relationships. Reps can honestly say, “I feel your pain.”

Seeing from the buyer’s point of view also widens a rep’s perspective of the prospect’s life. 

They can see more of the picture of struggle, including the not-so-obvious examples. 

For instance, instead of only being aware of the main pain points like “we are spending too much time on this” or “it’s hard to get people to our website”, they are also conscious of more subtle pains, such as “I can’t get the formatting right on my blog posts.” 

As a result, they can proactively bring up these common pains in conversation, thereby reminding prospects of another reason to buy

It’s easier to recommend solutions for a problem that you understand and have overcome yourself.

Moreover, the more small answers you give, the more consultation you provide, the more likely your prospect is to buy the ultimate solution: your product or service. 

Encourage a Feedback Culture 

A lot of sales reps feel they don’t receive enough constructive feedback. They might hear what they are doing wrong or right, but managers sometimes forget to give them clear steps for how to improve

Don’t leave your sales reps confused about how to grow. Encourage a feedback culture where concrete feedback is considered a gift. 

To create this culture, you must:

  • Build Trust With Your Reps: Before they can digest your feedback, they need the enzyme of trust. Do your best to stick to your word, help them in any way you can, and prioritize their needs throughout the first months of working with them.
  • Involve The Salesperson: Before telling reps what went wrong, ask them what they think happened. They might even bring up the deficiency or error that you were going to mention themselves. Plus, they will feel heard and in control of their own growth.
  • Give Feedback Regularly: When you consistently give feedback, they will start to expect it. Consider holding 1:1s each week or month. 

Of course, no one wholly enjoys being told what they are doing incorrectly. So, here is some advice on how to give concrete feedback that sits well with reps. 

How to Give Feedback to Sales Reps

This method focuses on highlighting their skills first, then giving them a tip about what they might want to try next time. 

Pretend you just sat in on their demo. Here’s what you could say.

You know what, if you ever left sales, I’d recommend you go into politics. You so easily formed a connection with those executives. It was like they were your old friends. 

There was one way I think we could improve going forward. I didn’t think of it until after the meeting. 

When the prospect made {this objection} you did a great job of handling it. You were quick-witted. 

And I think next time you would do even better with it if, instead of trying to overcome it right away, you took your time and asked a few questions, dug a little deeper. 

What do you think?” 

That way, your rep leaves with confidence along with excitement to try out the new tactic you shared with them. 

Think of positive feedback as a deposit and constructive feedback as a withdrawal. Make sure you keep a positive balance in each rep’s account, or else they might lose confidence and become demotivated. 

To do this, keep your head on a swivel for moments when you can compliment their work. 

If you overhear a good cold call, go congratulate the rep.

Confident in their strengths, they will be more open to hearing about their weaknesses and what they need to change. 

Pre-Board Sales Reps Effectively

Pre-boarding is engaging with a new-hire during the timeframe after their acceptance and before their first day. It precedes onboarding. 

The goal of pre-boarding is to start integrating them into the company culture and sales team. 

You want to assuage any doubts a new-hire might have about joining the company and give them a head start so they can begin performing. 

Here are some of the things you can do.

Have Them Fill Out an About Me Template

In it, they can write their favorite food, most random talent, favorite place in the city, or any other piece of personal information that will help them make connections with current employees.

Before they arrive, pass this document around to your employees and encourage them to email the new-hire about the answers.

This will help establish what they have in common, make the new hire feel at home and help nurture positive relationships.

Send a Welcome Email

You don’t have to go so far as to send a questionnaire. A simple introductory message can make the new hire feel appreciated.

Send a welcome email to the new hire and anyone else in the company you want to include. 

For smaller companies, you might want to include everyone. Then they can reply with welcome emails of their own.

Invite Them to a Happy Hour or Event

If you have a company happy hour or dinner party, invite them. 

That way they can start to get to know the team in an informal setting where conversation trumps work. 

Unencumbered by their regular obligations, your employees will be more able to establish mutual connections.

Send Them Swag

Maybe they mentioned their kids love legos during the interview. If so, send them a lego set. 

Or, send them a hoodie with your company logo, fostering a sense of belonging.

When you take these small tokens of appreciation and acceptance, the new hire is going to be ecstatic about the company they have decided to join. 

They will be motivated to hustle once they arrive on their first day. 

Teach Demoing and Presentation

Every sales rep needs skills in demoing and presentation. They need to know how to keep buyers engaged throughout. 

They need to be able to spot signs of interest in the buyer and hone in on that topic or feature

Furthermore, their presentations should be personalized to the customers’ specific needs and pain points, or else the prospect will become bored and confused. 

To teach them how to demo properly, you can do the following: 

  • Provide Them With Anecdotes: Give them customer stories that they can share with buyers. That way, if a buyer mentions a specific goal, you can tell them how a client of yours achieved that goal. Stories just make any presentation more interesting. 
  • Have Them Hold Mock Demos: Your reps can give demos to mock ideal customers with certain attributes. They can even practice demoing to a group of decision-makers with different titles and interests. After the presentations, you can give feedback.
  • Make Them Craft Their Own Presentations: Have them listen to fake or recorded discovery calls and then craft slide decks, presentations, or demo flows that are personalized to that specific buyer’s needs. 

That way, they’ll know their material inside out and be ready for any eventuality.

Direct Them to Sell Through Curiosity 

Whether they are cold emailing to book a meeting or pitching an upsell, reps have to know how to spark curiosity in the prospect. 

However, the prospect isn’t the only one who should be curious. Your reps should be curious as well. 

Teach your reps how to sell through curiosity. 

Help them form a mindset similar to that of a physician, who, driven by a fascination for the human anatomy, asks countless questions to get to the diagnosis. 

Your reps should also be fascinated by how your prospects’ business works and curious to know their struggles and goals. 

That curiosity will drive them to ask questions, which will help them uncover ways in which they can benefit the prospect’s business

Besides the intel gathered, reps also form relationships built on understanding with the customers. 

Not to mention, a curious mind is a fertile one for learning. What you teach will stick, and what they don’t know they will strive to know. 

They will read sales books, attend colleagues’ demos, and ask questions to veterans. 

So, kickstart their curiosity by giving them books or encouraging them to sign up for industry publications and newsletters

Additionally, make sure your sales training program prioritizes the activities that give rise to the most questions from reps. 

Provide Training in Active Listening

You can’t figure out what your prospects need or think valuable if you don’t listen. 

Active listening is therefore an essential skill for any sales rep, and you must teach it. 

When they actively listen, they pick up on subtle sentiments such as underlying objections or hidden feelings about a feature. What you know, you can address and solve. 

Here’s how you can impart that skill.

The 2-Second Rule

A lot of the time the prospect still has thoughts to share even after they’ve finished speaking, and a lot of useful intel hides in those afterthoughts.

Whenever they think a prospect has finished speaking, they should wait two seconds before taking their turn

This method also prevents reps from focusing on their reply. Instead, their attention rests on the telling swells of their prospect’s emotions and words. 

Practice a Sales Scenario

Create a sales scenario and pretend to be the prospect on a mock call. 

After you purposefully express your pain points in a jumbled manner or give a convoluted objection, ask the rep to summarize what you said and how you were feeling. 

Often, the best way to train them in active listening is through constant reminders of its importance. 

Before their meeting, give them a quick reminder to listen. They will go into it with that intention, and they will practice on their own. 

Use Social Selling

Social selling is the act of selling through social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter. 

On the platforms, reps connect with industry peers and interact with them to find leads that fit their ideal customer profile and eventually book meetings with them. 

They also might use social selling to nurture current leads through the pipeline. 

With 3.6 billion people using social media, social selling has many benefits: 

  • Meet prospects where they are. 
  • Create informal relationships with peers. 
  • Build your reputation as an expert in your industry. 
  • Generate inbound leads with the content you share. 
  • Easily connect with ideal customers. 

It’s important to train your reps on how to properly interact with prospects on the networks. To start, teach them the 3 C’s of social selling:

  • Context: Make sure they provide context about who they are and who they help. Teach them the basics of branding, as well as how to optimize their social profiles.
  • Content: Through social media, reps should share valuable content with their prospects and connections including videos, case studies, articles, and answers to posted questions.
  • Collaboration: Lines of communication between team members should remain open. Your reps should be consistent in their brand messaging. 

This will act as a guide for their interactions with individuals on any network. 

Pro Tip: Encourage your reps to join groups related to your industry. Those are great places to find leads and to practice interacting with individuals who might be a good fit for your solution. 

Being active in relevant groups will help reps develop a deeper awareness of those with whom they want to sell.

Furthermore, they can provide light content in the form of comments on a potential lead’s post. 

Coordinate with marketing to give them the content they need.

Convey to Them That Sales Reporting Is Second Nature to Selling 

After a sales call, your reps should habitually document the findings and important moments of the call. 

Reporting should be second nature to them, because data contains so much useful intel that can be leveraged by your sales team to make data-driven decisions and changes

For example, when reps report on things like reasons for losing a sale, you can start to analyze your sales process and figure out why those losses keep occurring. 

If all of your sales reps have been documenting their closed/lost reasons and associated stages, you can run a report in your CRM to discern the stage where most deals fizzle out, and why it happens. 

Then, you can make adjustments

If a lot of your deals fail in the pricing phase, maybe you need to train your reps on value-based selling or negotiation. 

To gain a clear picture of how to improve, you need to instruct your reps to always report their activity and interactions with prospects. 

Pro Tip: To improve compliance, you could even tie their compensation to data hygiene. Maybe each rep has the task of cleaning and updating 100 accounts/month in your CRM. 

Inform reps that good data practices will make their lives easier as well. More data means they will be able to make better decisions and more sales. 

Prioritize Specialized Selling Against Competitors 

Often, businesses have a list of competitors with whom they vie for customers. Therefore, your sales reps need to learn how to win against each competitive company. 

To do this, compile a list of the companies who come up most often in your sales conversations

Then, for each competitive company, write the following information in a document that you will share with your reps: 

  • Overview: Write a short summary of their offerings.
  • Differentiator: This is 1-2 sentences that answer the question: “What makes you any different from company X?”
  • Drawbacks: You should outline a few weaknesses of the competitor. These should tell you why companies do not choose competitor X.
  • When You Win/Lose: Your chance of winning correlates with the needs and pain points of the customer. Describe situations in which that happens. So, maybe when you have a prospect who focuses on solving {Problem A}, you win, but when you speak to one who prioritizes {Problem B}, you struggle. 

After they have studied this document, you should hold mock sales calls where you pretend to be one of the competitors. 

Then, using what they have learned about the competition, the sales rep will try to win the sale, making sure to personalize their competitive language to the prospect’s specific needs and business type. 

Be Millennial-Focused

Millennials are becoming the largest part of the workforce, and by 2025 they will account for 75% of it.

Therefore, it is likely that they will make up a large portion of your sales team, especially if you are in SaaS sales or have entry-level sales positions. 

It is critical to gear your sales training towards millennial behavior trends. You need to know what makes them tick and how to keep them engaged

Before designing a training approach that fits their mentality, you must understand them. 

Here is what the millennial generation tends to be like.

Digitally Savvy

They spend a lot of time online consuming information, and they tend to work well with technology, finding it useful and time-saving. 

Therefore, it’s a good idea to give them a nice tech-stack. They will learn it quickly and use it intelligently.

Furthermore, you can embed protocols and procedures into the technological systems so that your reps follow them automatically. 

For instance, your sales engagement software could prompt reps to log their call information after a cold call.

Leverage the millennials’ affinity towards digital technologies for the benefit of your company. 

Focused on Authenticity and Corporate Responsibility

Millennials are highly aware of the injustices and corruption in the world, and they care about stopping it. 

What is more, they are fed up with corporate politics and the duplicity that comes with it. So, when training and managing them, it’s important to be authentic. 

Form real relationships with them and develop a corporate culture focused on social responsibility.

Freedom-Loving

Millennials value flexibility. If they begin to feel trapped by the office, they might start spending their time doing what they do best: scouring the web for other life options.

Ensure they have enough time off and flexibility to work from home.

This will not only make them happier, but it will also grow the trust between you and your reps. 

Also, give them some training to do on their own time. Being avid web-users, they will be happy to tackle online courses or reading materials in the interest of self-development.

Enable Them to Identify Bad Customers

Teach your reps to distinguish bad prospects from the good. 

That way, they will know when to reign in their efforts, thereby saving themselves from wasting time on a deal with lousy chances of closing. 

Furthermore, they will spot the prospects who will be bad for the business if they become customers. 

To help them develop this skill, you first need to give them your ideal customer profile: a categorical description of your best-fit customers. 

Any prospects that don’t fit the description can be considered less important than the ones that do. 

Then, give them some red flags to look out for that signal a customer is not worth their time: 

Bad Attitude

If a prospect is bossy, rude, or haughty, they probably think they are above you and your product or that all of their vendors are their servants. 

These customers will be a drain on your company’s energy and resources if you sign them. 

As such, the effort they require might outweigh the financial benefits they bring to the company, so it’s best to avoid doing business with them in the first place.

No Respect for Boundaries

Prospects that always send emails saying “call me now” or “emergency” are best left simmering alone in their nervous minds. 

If this is how they act before they pay you, imagine how they will be when they are.

When prospects show little regard for your time, they can cause a lot of stress for the team in the long run.

Disqualifying Traits

Your reps need to know the traits of a prospect who is just a bad fit for the business. 

If a prospect doesn’t have nearly enough of a budget to buy, they might not be worth pursuing. 

More importantly, if they don’t fit any part of your ideal customer profile, it’s unlikely that they will buy. Even if they do, they won’t receive much value from the service and will probably leave.

Make sure your team is able to identify the most important of these traits to avoid wasting time and resources on prospects who simply do not constitute a good fit.

Conclusion

As a sales manager, it is your responsibility to help your reps grow to reach their full potential as sales reps. 

That means teaching them universally applicable selling skills that aren’t directly attached to your product or industry. 

When you do that, your reps will appreciate you and view you as a mentor, rather than a manager.