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It doesn’t matter how much success your company has had to date – effective sales team training will make or break your business.
Of course, before training, you have to build out a talented team. Can anyone be good at sales? Are there specific traits that set great salespeople apart?
“I think the best sellers are better listeners,” says Lauren Bailey, sales expert and Founder of Factor 8, a company dedicated to building confidence with frontline sales reps and managers. But that doesn’t mean that you should only focus on individual talent and development during your recruitment process. Constant sales team training is the foundation of long-term revenue growth.
“We must constantly be willing to learn, grow, and evolve. Stagnation will kill a salesperson,” said Ms. Bailey.
What makes a great salesperson?
Before planning your sales team training strategy, you’ll want to identify the best people for the job. Lauren believes that the ideal salesperson should have the following personality traits:
1. Curiosity. “I want somebody who can have a business conversation, and that starts with curiosity. You have to give a damn about learning about who [your clients] are.”
2. Confidence. “You have to have the ability to speak up and to try again,” she explained. “It takes an average of six to eight calls to get one person on the phone. If you take it personally, every time you get a voicemail and somebody doesn’t call you back, you’re going to live a very long and sad day.”
3. Coachability. “I’ve been in the training business for 20 years, and there hasn’t been one instance where a person didn’t have more to learn about sales, the company, the product, the industry, or all that has changed in the last five years.”
How do you know if your sales team training is effective?
Ms. Bailey maintains that the ideal amount of time for a sales team training program is somewhere between a week and a half to two and a half weeks.
“I see companies who think that three days of orientation is sufficient training, and they are wrong. I see companies that think that giving people three months of training is the right thing to do, and they’re wrong. If you have a seller who’s willing to sit in a training class for three straight months, you do not have a sales profile.”
What should come after training? There should be a constant learning process to get used to the company’s sales tech stack, to sharpen skills, to learn about different products, and to prepare for the next promotion, Ms. Bailey believes. That’s probably why she also founded The Sales Bar, a digital platform offering an unlimited inside-sales-specific curriculum for a monthly subscription.
Beware: Don’t get lost in the mirage of technology
Sales has changed dramatically in the last few years. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of technology even more. But over-relying on technology can hurt not only your team but your own sales goals, as your salespeople will spend more time fidgeting with apps and tech tools instead of making phone calls and closing deals.
“I think that we over-fixated on the tech stack. An average sales representative went from 3.2 to about 14 tools in the last five years. The average lifespan of a sales development representative is down to 15 months. If you find somebody with two years of sales experience, they’re burnt out. We are teaching young people to hate sales,” said Ms. Bailey.
“We overplayed the science and underplayed the art. We gave them more to do and manage with the tools. We segmented their job and uber specialized. We gave them scripts to make up for it, and we hired them younger with less experience, which is why you watched the trust of the public in salespeople plummet.”
She referred to a survey from HubSpot Research that found that only a mere three percent of people consider salespeople trustworthy.
“I think being ruled by technology has sometimes dehumanized sales. As sales leaders, we’re looking for silver bullets. You give them [your sales reps] every tool you can. You try to systemize it. You take all the skill out of it that you can, and you build a machine. And that, I think, is what among many, many other factors have dehumanized salespeople,” said Ms. Bailey.
Now that you have trained the best, it’s time to go global
Once you have conquered your local market, you’ll want to reach more consumers in other territories. But you can’t approach international expansion by simply hiring more sales representatives. You’ll need to adapt many new processes, beginning with the way you conduct sales.
“It’s definitely not one size fits all, and that is true whether it’s your go-to market strategy, your product set, or a marketing language — it’s all of the above.” It also means creating specific messages — and using different languages — depending on each new market.
Your local sales representatives should engage differently with every single potential client, Ms. Bailey adds. “Not all teams are motivated the same. That’s why any kind of training we’re going to do is going to be blended and customized.”
Based on her own experience, she gives this advice to business leaders seeking to expand their sales teams internationally: “The number one piece of advice I have is you’ve got to find the local flavor, you’ve got to find the local expert, whether that’s your leader or your partner.”
Take the next step
Learn more about Lauren Bailey and Factor 8.
Listen to the full episode here.
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