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*Unless otherwise noted, all statistics come from the 2016 Salesforce State of Sales Report.

How important is your sales department to the success of your business? Our guess: pretty important. But maybe that’s because we didn’t actually guess—we asked you. And 89 per cent of top-performing sales professionals said that their empowerment has increased in the past five years—2.1 times the amount their underperforming colleagues cite. Are you willing to empower sales professionals who aren’t properly trained? Probably not.

Who needs formal sales training? Everyone. Even if your team is full of 20-year, top-performing veterans who live, breathe, eat, and sleep sales, training them is one of the most important investments you’ll make for business success.

You know those top reps we talked to? A full 80 per cent of them are great at training, too, compared to 51 per cent of average reps and 33 per cent of underperforming reps.

Reasons to Train

A vague idea that training equals success isn’t enough of a reason to pull your reps off the floor to train them. Here are the real reasons.

Your Business is Unique

Any fresh hires, no matter how experienced, need help learning the ropes at your organization. What are your goals, expectations, and procedures? How does your team work together to streamline the sales funnel and offer the best customer experience? How do you use your CRM?

Some of your new hires may have worked in similar industries, but they’ll still need to be brought up to speed on your products or services. While many of the basic principles are the same, selling vacuum cleaners is not the same as selling carpet cleaning services, and selling for Hoover isn’t the same as selling for Dyson or iRobot.

One of the top challenges sales teams face when it comes to customers is the expectation that a sales rep be a trusted advisor. How can customers trust a rep who doesn’t know your business inside and out?

Customers are Constantly Changing

Customers drive business. In fact, six of the top eight goals for sales teams are directly related to customer relationships:

  • Growing new leads
  • Increasing retention
  • Becoming trusted advisors
  • Personalizing the customer experience
  • Increasing face time with customers
  • Improving the quality and accuracy of customer data

When you look at customer expectations, you can understand just how lofty those goals might be. According to sales professionals, customer needs have grown more sophisticated; they're more motivated by value than price and have more experience using competitive bidding to their advantage. A sales professional who doesn’t know enough about who your customers are right now simply can’t accomplish that.

How to Get the Most from Training your Sales Team

Convinced training is worth the investment? Scheduling a training session as you read? Great. Now schedule another one. And another.

One training session may seem like a big investment, but to get the performance results you need, this can’t be a one-and-done kind of deal. Dario Priolo of Richardson Sales Training and Strategy Execution likens one-off training programs to fast food. Sure, it’s quick and cheap, but won’t sustain the results you’re looking for. Instead, Priolo recommends looking at training as a “continuous improvement process.” Once you shift your mindset (and the mindset of your sales team) to expect regular training, you’ll see one of the most important reasons of all to train: However you’re doing now, you can always do better.

James Cash Penney (of JC Penney fame) once said, "No company can afford not to move forward. It may be at the top of the heap today but at the bottom of the heap tomorrow, if it doesn’t."

Your company can’t move forward if one of the most important aspects of your business is standing still. The truth is, the best of your competitors train their sales teams regularly, and if you don’t join them, you’ll fall behind.

Investing in Training

Regular training might sound scary, but it doesn’t have to break the bank or pull your reps off the floor for very long. Not every training session needs to feature hours of highly paid keynote speakers. In fact, short, low-key sessions are far more effective. Weekly meetings, where your team shares successes and failures, are a great way to sneak in some quick, real-world lessons.

The bottom line is that customer-driven markets are demanding a more sales-centric approach, and by empowering your team with the right training and tools for success, you'll leave your competition in the dust.

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