Almost every company does sales training for their staff when they come aboard. But how many companies are doing it right? Most of the time, ‘sales training’ turns into ‘product training’ that goes on for months. The results are mediocre at best, and the attrition rate for sales representatives is incredibly high.
On the XANT Playmakers podcast, Gabe Larsen spoke to Lauren Bailey, president of sales training company Factor 8, to see what’s broken and how we can fix sales training. Factor 8 has been working with inside sales professionals for ten years to help them drive topline growth.
1. Make Sure Your Sales Training is Done By Experts
Inside sales leaders need to stop trusting Human Resources (HR) with sales trainings, says Lauren Bailey. This is because HR is generally taught to think about compliance and safety – they are by no means risk-takers.
“HR is a different sport than sales. Everything is a different sport than sales. We put so much money into finding good reps and then we let somebody with zero sales experience train them. This is what is setting them up to be successful or wash out in the first three months,” said Lauren.
At the same time, you might not want your sales reps training other sales reps. “Your really great sales reps, sales is an art to them. It’s an art. They don’t know how they do it and they can’t teach it. They just can’t. You need somebody who is creating it into a science,” says Lauren, stressing that sales training must be owned by sales coaches – whose only job is to teach.
Sales executives can be involved in the process by offering feedback and attending the training sessions.
2. Reduce Your Sales Training Time by Half
Lauren has had incredible success at reducing ramp time for new sales professionals in her company. She is a firm believer that when it comes to sales training, ‘less is more’.
“Cut your training in half. Now, I don’t mean that for the people who have two days of training. (…) If you’re at six months of training, you can probably get to three. If you’re at nine months, you can probably get to four to five. When you cut ramp time, it delivers to your bottom line almost 2x as if you’ve cut attrition,” said Lauren, on the podcast.
Lauren’s experience shows that between months four and six after hiring a new sales representative, the attrition rate increases and staff starts to leave. “People get sick of hating their job and not making money,” says Lauren.
A customized sales training curriculum can help these sales reps feel confident about what they are doing and start loving their job, she adds.
3. Sales Training Does Not Equal Product Training
One of the most common mistakes that companies make with sales training is that they make the training sessions about the product.
“As these account executives are coming out of training, I realized that they have weeks of product training, and they knew how to use the system, but none of them knew what to say on the phone. They just didn’t know what to say. What broke my heart was not only that I wasn’t getting commission checks, let’s be frank, but these kids hated their job,” recounts Lauren.
The sales training curriculum must be about the meetings, she adds. It must be about phone calls and face-to-face meeting with customers.
“When the customer picks up the phone, I’ve got to keep him on the phone. I’m not going to do this in a long call close. I must create engagement over the phone. I’ve got to get him to call back, get him to lean in. I’ve got to go find his boss. (…) How do you get someone to lean in? What is a good intro? What’s a good voicemail? That’s what I mean by inside sales training, not field training. Process, and phone tips, and tricks are the quick and easy checklist on that,” Lauren told us.
4. Have Sales Representatives Listen to Their Calls
Recorded and live calls are an essential part of a good sales training curriculum, says Lauren. It’s the equivalent of watching game tapes for professional football players – they watch their own plays, or other people’s plays, the game slows down and they learn to correct their errors.
“Our secret sauce is that we put people on the phones live during training. We teach a concept. We get everybody feeling confident and rock star about it in a role play. Then our coaches will teach the message delivery until it really works and people feel great about it,” said Lauren.
Sales training shouldn’t use scripts, she adds – but rather, make sure that sales reps are confident in a real, live unscripted conversation with a cold prospect. “I hate scripts. Please don’t use scripts. It has to be the rough words that they’re going to feel confidence and sales is a confidence sport,” adds Lauren.
5. Bigger is Not Better, for Sales Organizations
There’s much to be said about the efficiency and productivity of small teams. Research has shown that large companies have higher attrition rates. Lauren advises sales leaders of large companies to break down their workforce into groups, to avoid the cost.
“The larger you are, the more expensive. Bigger companies typically take longer to ramp and have higher turnover. That tipping point is somewhere around 150 reps. When you go north of a center of 150 reps, your attrition spikes. If you have a huge company, break them down into groups. Even if it’s different floors, or buildings, or segments, but make it smaller. Try not to go above this feeling of 75 to 100,” said Lauren Bailey.
Yep. Okay, so now let’s get onto the tips. How can you drastically slash ramp time? I do have some tips about that. The very first one is it can be hard to do, but my inside sales leaders.
6. Build versus Buy Sales Training
When you can’t afford to spare any budget for sales training staff, Lauren advises to consider outsourcing these services – as long as they are customized to your environment, product and industry.
“I think it was Sales Architects who did the study that 85 percent of the best-in-class companies are using an external professional sales curriculum – because it’s better. Somebody spent years and years perfecting that curriculum,” added Lauren.
The sales content provided by external trainers can help anyone in your training staff – even if it is HR, to lower your ramp time for sales professionals. Customized sales training curriculum is what differentiates these services.
“Everyone has generic sales seminars. Nobody translates it. “How does that work for my industry, my customer, and my product set,” adds Lauren.
The Cost of Attrition in the Sales Industry
The workforce is shrinking, attrition rates are getting higher, while the industry just keeps growing, adds Lauren. Making sure you have a solid and engaging sales training process can make sure your account executives love their job and don’t depart for greener pastures.
According to the XANT “State of Sales 2017” research, the average tenure of a sales representative is four years and it takes 5.2 months on average to reach full production.
“We’ve got to help these people feel competent and successful. When they feel that way, they perform and they stay,” said Lauren, on the Playmakers podcast.