team meeting in office
From the initial steps through to periodic reinforcement, consistent training for your sales team is definitely something to consider investing in. — Getty Images/skynesher

For small businesses to successfully drive sales, it means making sure that processes are as streamlined and efficient as possible. With a small number of employees likely making up the sales team, implementing a proper training plan is recommended.

Unfortunately, recent data found that three out of four training programs fail to contribute to a business’s success — with nearly four in 10 sales representatives receiving at least 16 days of sales training during their first year at a company, and then forgetting 70% of what they were taught within 24 hours.

To make sure your business doesn't fall into those statistics, four industry experts provide their best recommendations below.

Put yourself in the customer’s headspace

Alain Gazaui, executive director for SpaKinect, believes in emphasizing the “psychology of sales” to your team in order for them to persuade a potential client into buying your product or service.

This overall strategy involves three key best practices:

  • “First, use the mirroring technique. This involves repeating three to five keywords from your customer’s previous statement in the form of a question,” he said. “For example, if I’m selling iPhones, I ask a customer why they would want one. She says she wants to talk with her grandson more. I respond, ‘If you want to talk to your grandson more, you can actually Facetime him and see what he’s up to with an iPhone.’”
  • Second, “proactively label your customer’s emotions—especially fears—which requires careful listening skills. For example, I’d say, ‘You don’t want to miss out on this phone deal; think of all the time and energy you’ll save.’”
  • Third, effectively summarize how the customer feels and what they hope to achieve after you’ve engaged in active listening. “Use words like, ‘I understand that you feel worried about losing touch with your grandson; this device can help solve that problem,’” said Gazaui, who has used these practices with great success in his own business.

[See more: How to Build a Sales Funnel.]

Practice role playing

Few techniques are as valuable — or as fun — as role playing between a sales manager and a salesperson in need of skill sharpening, said Jared Weitz, CEO of United Capital Source.

“Have the salesperson assume the role of a potential customer in several different sales call simulations. This allows them to put their feet in another person’s shoes, so to speak, so that they gain a completely different level of perspective and empathy,” Weitz said.

By walking a salesperson through the process from the customer’s side, your employee can also understand how to better connect with a prospective client and ask the right questions.

“Go all the way with the role playing — introduce your offerings to this mock customer, and demonstrate the ways that these products or services can be of value,” added Weitz. “Later, switch the roles and evaluate how well your salesperson is able to quickly implement the lessons learned.”

Role playing exercises are best done between an experienced sales professional and a newer member of the team in need of training — two staffers who are consistently paired together can build trust, teamwork and camaraderie.

Salespeople only retain about 20% of what they learn in training and will only adapt 3% to 5% of it unless you review and reinforce what they’ve been taught.

Tara Bryant, senior vice president of global sales for Pipedrive

Reinforce training

One common mistake is assuming your team remembers everything they learn during training. To ensure your team doesn’t forget what they’ve learned, it’s important to reinforce your training periodically.

“Salespeople only retain about 20% of what they learn in training and will only adapt 3% to 5% of it unless you review and reinforce what they’ve been taught,” noted Tara Bryant, senior vice president of global sales for Pipedrive. “Without consistent reinforcement training and coaching, it’s not worth investing in sales training at all.”

Reinforcement can be accomplished via testing, simulating scenarios, mentoring and other measures. For example, you can:

  • Give your sales team members a pop quiz every few weeks that touches on concepts taught earlier.
  • Provide one-on-one coaching to weed out areas in need of refreshing.
  • You can give each salesperson a “homework” assignment that requires them to write a short essay explaining how they would handle a particular sales challenge.

“Also, try recording real sales calls that can later be used as opportunities to review training rules and practices,” added Bryant.

Besides reinforcing the initial information, reinforcement training allows for adjustments to improve the sales process and helps your team focus on what’s important right now — from talking to a customer to closing a deal.

Bryant added that it also “serves as a checkpoint to prevent salespeople from slipping back into old habits.”

Master the value proposition

The key to selling, said Dean Lincoln Hyers, co-founding principal of SagePresence, is to keep prospects’ minds focused on themselves and position your business as a problem-solver. That’s where value propositioning can work wonders.

“Value propositioning involves telling stories about the people you help, not about you,” Hyers explained. “It’s always a mistake to make yourself the main character in the story you’re telling. But it’s an easy mistake to make, especially when you’re asked, ‘What do you do?’ or ‘Tell me about your organization.’”

To structure a proper value proposition story, Hyers suggested addressing the following elements:

  • Here’s who I help.
  • Here’s their problem.
  • Here’s their goal.
  • Here’s what we do to get them there.

“Be sure to speak to their journey — where they are now and where they’d rather be. Put your company in the “hero” position whose services help the main character get to their goals,” he said.

For instance, Hyers said, a well-crafted value proposition to a contracting company client could sound like: “Contractors committed to achieving green buildings come to us when they are struggling to meet stringent certification requirements. We assemble teams of prominent experts in efficiency, waste-reduction, and environmentally conscious systems to design solutions that help you realize your values with the certification to prove it.”

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CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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