The average salesperson is measured by their effort and pipeline — outbound calls, leads generated, engaged leads, and so on — and results, in the form of sales closed and revenue driven.
Exceptional salespeople, on the other hand, set themselves apart with skills that highlight their competitive advantage over other sales reps. Some even formally obtain microcredentials to further their education and validate their special skills.
Increasingly, sales leaders are encouraging their sales reps to level up their expertise with these bite-sized continuing education programs focused on specific competencies and skills. And when even a handful of reps gain new knowledge, sales leaders level up their entire team while driving efficient growth and preparing for the future of work.
In this article, we explore how microcredentials raise the standard for sales professionals, ways they benefit salespeople, and popular program options for sales reps to explore.
These days, there’s more to sales than just connections, charisma, and persistence. Plus, increasingly sophisticated buyers expect sales professionals to be efficient, empathetic, and value-driven with their pitches. Natural selling ability alone can kickstart a person’s sales career, but ongoing training can help supercharge it.
That’s where microcredentials come in. While they’re offered across different industries, microcredentials help sales reps specifically by further developing their hard and soft skills so they can better leverage technology, strategically influence their prospects, and increase their sales performance. Since microcredentials are accessible and flexible — and popular, with 76 per cent of Canadian post-secondary institutions offering online courses for microcredentials in 2019 — more sales professionals are leaning into these additional learning opportunities.
In fact, many programs are affordable or even free. More often than not, they are offered online, allowing employees the flexibility to skill up when it works for their schedules. This convenience makes it easier than ever to proactively build skills while balancing a day job and personal life. Take Trailhead, for example. Salesforce's innovative, free, online training program offers microcredentials in a variety of roles — from Sales to Marketing, Developer, Architect, and even Design — that help reimagine the educational experience by removing a dependence on costly degrees and tailoring learning to individual workplace needs and successes.
Upon completing a new microcredential program, sales professionals can earn formal certifications, which offers them another way to enhance their resume and up their chances for career growth. In short, microcredentials are a win-win-win for the sales rep, sales team, and company as a whole.
To encourage salespeople to pursue microcredentials, it’s helpful for leaders to outline the different ways this type of upskilling will benefit them. Below are some of the most notable advantages of stacking microcredentials.
Bigger deals and commissions
While most sales leaders won’t have the budget to bonus staff based on microcredentials, they can still motivate their incentive-minded staff by emphasizing how filling in the digital skills gap with the right microcredentials can improve sales competencies and conversions.
Career fulfillment and development
Some companies sponsor ongoing education programs, including microcredentials, which help employees make room for reskilling. By picking and choosing the microcredentials they want to attain, salespeople can personalize their own development plans.
Efficiency and time savings
Mastery of no-code platforms, workflow automation, and API usage can help sales reps build apps or other resources that boost productivity so they can focus on what matters. Shifting to a more automated sales workflow also minimizes a sales team’s reliance on support from the engineering and marketing departments.
Promotions and raises
Sales is an incredibly competitive trade. Microcredentials allow reps to stand out from their peers, enabling sales leaders to promote employees from within. Of course, obtaining microcredentials alone won’t earn reps a promotion or raise. Managers need to see their sales staff applying their newly learned skills, too.
Sales leaders can encourage their staff to focus on specific microcredentials, which could help fill in critical skills gaps and level up their entire team. Closing these gaps reduces a sales team’s reliance on other departments — or additional hires — for support. As sales teams become more self-sufficient, they can eliminate more roadblocks during the sales process and accelerate the sales cycle leading to higher close rates and revenue.
Microcredentials can enhance existing skills or help learners develop new ones. Sales reps should keep an open mind toward all microcredential programs — within and outside of sales — since learning and development can reinforce a team member’s understanding of certain competencies or discover new passions and strengths.
A few examples of popular sales-centric microcredentials include:
Good communication is an ever-evolving art, and it is especially important for salespeople who want to learn how to effectively influence potential buyers. While some strategies may feel repetitive in a communications microcredential, sales reps will learn useful and insightful soft skills that can make all the difference in the way they communicate with their coworkers, managers, customers, and prospects.
There are general courses available for data analysis as well as platform-specific modules, such as Data Filtering and Sorting in Tableau Desktop, if sales professionals want a broad refresher or an advanced understanding for targeted use cases. A data-enriched team can help influence resource allocation, work prioritization, and overall strategy.
Knowing which leads to pursue and how much effort to invest in each interaction can help salespeople better manage their time. There are various lead-scoring techniques sales professionals can learn along with techniques to effectively use lead scoring in apps like Pardot.
Whether negotiating a first deal with a client or a renewal with an existing customer, a variety of tactics can help lead to a winning proposition for everyone while also increasing a salesperson’s average deal size.
Some sales teams defer a majority of sales enablement responsibilities to their marketing counterparts. The challenge is that an overreliance on marketing can cause bottlenecks. Instead, high-performing sales teams are taking more responsibility for producing sales collateral and data analysis in order to face fewer roadblocks to conversion. In other cases, they work more closely with marketers to produce even better sales materials and automation resources.
Navigating buyer behaviors requires a thorough understanding of sales psychology. While intuition is useful in many sales interactions, high-performing salespeople use sales psychology to respond more methodically to different buyers and decision makers in an organization.
Low-code and no-code solutions make it easier than ever for non-tech-savvy salespeople to build apps and dashboards that automate repetitive aspects of their work process. This ensures they don’t have to rely solely on engineers to build time-saving solutions for them and frees up more time to focus on adding value to the customer experience.
Virtual events strategies
Webinars and video conferences are now more the norm than the exception. While many salespeople started their careers by closing deals through face-to-face interactions and phone calls, there is a more urgent need to excel with virtual events that keep audiences engaged and reach a wider spectrum of customer.
As B2B sales evolves, leaders need effective ways to facilitate development and learning for their salespeople. Microcredentials provide a helpful, convenient solution since they offer targeted competency training and require low levels of commitment (unlike traditional education and certifications). The overall accessibility of microcredentials makes it easier to garner buy-in from higher-ups, too, since sales leaders also benefit from the efficient and affordable upskilling of their team members.
When managers and directors support their teams by allowing the time and space to earn microcredentials, they help drive efficient growth, close deals, and build customer relationships, all while ensuring sales reps stay on top of new trends and strategies.