ATD reports that continuous sales training results in 50 percent higher net sales per employee.Sales leaders have recognized this fact. In 2016, especially, many sales executives put a premium on a consistent, ongoing approach to training for their teams. As sales managers have come to understand the importance of continuous training, they have turned away from the old method of quarterly or annual sales conferences to provide regular opportunities for short and effective in-person and e-learning. The methods sales trainers used in 2016 can be summed up in one word: teamwork.
That’s right, the major trends in sales training for 2016 all have one thing in common: sales reps sharing knowledge and guidance with each other.
In 2016 the sales trainer standing at the front of a conference room or lecture hall gave way to a team-based approach that focused on sharing best practices and insights from the field via e-learning tools and one-on-one interaction. Here are five specific team-centric sales training methods that took off in 2016.
1. Sales Coaches and Mentors
A major trend in sales leadership in 2016 is the move away from “managers” to coaches and mentors. Sales coaches provide advice, counsel and strategic direction. While managers focus on quarterly goals and quota, coaches focus on developing complete sales professionals who are able to contribute in an increasingly independent manner. Whereas a manager will help a rep close a specific deal, a sales coach helps the rep create processes for success which can be duplicated across multiple opportunities.
2. Just-in-Time Information Sharing
With 4G, mobile and offline access now the norm for most sales reps just-in-time situational training has become a critical tool for increasing success rates in meetings. With just-in-time e-learning, sales reps are able to access case studies and insights that other reps have shared via secure, enterprise YouTube, or always-up-to-date content. Reps now have access to firsthand accounts of success to best meet the immediate challenge in front of them.
3. Social Media Training
Most sales reps are naturally social, but effectively using social media to sell is a different beast, especially for those sales reps who are not millennials. Even though 78 percent of sales reps who use social media to sell outperform their off-network peers, many reps still struggle to make authentic connections online or understand the appropriate way to interact with prospects on social platforms. Here too, teamwork ruled the day in 2016, as millennials counseled their more senior peers to explain the value and nuances of social selling.
4. Peer Leaders
If sales coaches are the play callers on the bench, peer leaders are the veteran teammates showing rookies the ropes in practice and off-season training sessions. Sales can be a cutthroat business. Burnout is high for new reps, with turnover a major factor in a sales team’s inability to meet revenue goals. In 2016 peer leaders, often from the baby boomer generation, emerged as a critical part of a complete sales training program. They are responsible for teaching younger reps how to prospect efficiently, which deals to pursue, and how to find and access the critical knowledge they need to win a deal.
5. Friendly Competition
No team in an organization likes to compete more than the sales team, which makes gamification one of the more obvious and successful sales training trends in 2016. Gamification encourages sales reps to complete learning paths or other e-learning programs to win badges and points on a sales leaderboard. Sales reps compete against each other to be the first to amass critical sales knowledge. Gamification emerged this year as a fun and light way to encourage sales reps to participate in online, self-directed training.
2016 was a busy year for sales trainers and sales reps alike as they embraced new forms of training that allowed them to be in the field more, and armed with greater knowledge to close deals.