Creating Sales Training: 17 Questions You Should Ask Before You Start – Part 3 of Our Series on “Why Sales Training Isn’t Enough”

Over the short three decades of my career to date, I’ve interacted with sales training in many ways:

  • Received training from both in-house and external programs
  • While in the role of a sales leader, I was recruited by a sales trainer to implement the program being delivered to one of their clients
  • Created and implemented programs and training as an employee
  • Created and delivered only sales training as an external provider
  • Created and implemented both sales training and sales programs as an external provider

And there’s probably more . . . but you get the idea. I’ve seen a lot of variations on how sales training is delivered, and most methods fail to deliver sustainable results on their own.

The reason for this consistent outcome comes down to two absolutes for conducting sales training:

  • The desire to get all of the sales team on the same page regarding strategy, systems and processes, and execution.
  • The attempt to keep the sales team on that same page as they face persistent variations to the ideal selling scenario.

No organization is like another, no client is like another, and no human being – sales or decision maker – is like another, so it is unreasonable to expect any pre-set training program to be an effective model for every person in any business.

Also, keep in mind the impact sales operations has on improving the selling skills of each person. For example:

  • Place a great salesperson into a poorly structured sales operation, and they will likely become frustrated, then leave.
  • Place a mediocre salesperson in a phenomenal sales operation, and they are more likely to learn how to be more effective, and rise closer to expectations than they would if they were able to hide in a poorly structured operation.

Either of these scenarios will likely play out as described, regardless of the selling skills training the team has received.

Still, ongoing sales training is a critical element of an effective sales program. So, what do you do?  Design a sales program that fits the uniqueness of your organization. Use the following questions to assess the criteria a sales training program should address, as well as deliver the selling skills your team needs to succeed in your operation:

  1. What are the issues your product or service was created to solve? Determine why your organization formed and what your core values are.
  2. What is different about your product? Address the competitive advantages you have and how you deliver your solution(s).
  3. What markets need the solution(s) you provide? Address which markets are most likely to buy most often, and why.
  4. What are the types of clients in that market who need your solution? Address what types of accounts within those markets are the best fit, whether it is a range of revenue, number of employees, or some other factor by which you can rank individual client fit.
  5. What are the common issues those potential clients share that your solution solves? Identify the common challenges that most of the clients who buy from you are seeking to solve. 
  6. What are the related, common issues that your solution does not solve? In addition to clarity on what you can do, be equally clear on what you do not or cannot do.
  7. Who are the decision makers involved in bringing your solution on board? Identify which roles are the primary decision makers for each market as well as their hierarchy in the organization.
  8. Where do those decision makers go for information to seek the advice they trust? Locate where and how your sales team will be most effective in delivering the message.
  9. What are the personal issues your solution solves for those decision makers? This one is all about messaging. Understand the common personal motivation decision makers have for wanting your solution delivered on their watch, such as more time back in their day, more prestige, more employee satisfaction, etc.
  10. How will/can product configuration and pricing vary to meet different levels of value? Be very clear on the range of value you have to offer, and the ROI you deliver at both the personal and organization level for your clients, and set absolutes on pricing and terms. 
  11. What is the typical timeframe from initial contact to a closed sale? Recognize the expected, average time from initial contact to close for each product and value variation, by market.
  12. What are the common steps a decision maker goes through? This will be the second longest answer in this set of questions. Combined with the above answers, it is the backbone of your qualification and needs analysis for each new client. Clarify the common buyer process and timelines that include both the “yes” and “no” decision points. Is it a one call with a handshake, or is there a lengthy RFP?
  13. What information does your organization need in order to deliver the solution (what you don’t know)? This will be the longest answer you have in this set of questions. How this information is able to be gathered will drive how far, and how fast, an opportunity moves through your sales process.
  14. How can the variations in market, client size, need, buy side processes, and internal information be efficiently captured in a CRM? Analyze and implement sales automation for as many steps as possible to make the sales tools a benefit, instead of a burden, on your sales team, and free them to generate more revenue.
  15. Who will capture and monitor CRM details to modify process and behavior as needed? Identify to whom and to what the sales team will be accountable.
  16. What are the consequences for the organization if sales goals are not met? Clearly identify the integral role sales plays in the cultural, structural, and financial health of the organization, as well as the key points of integration and roles with whom they will most commonly collaborate.
  17. How can the sales compensation plan incentivize the team for behaviors and activities that will deliver the right accounts, with the right solutions at the right price? Clarify what it is the sales team is being rewarded to do, and to not do. Include both exceptional rewards for exceptional performance as well as consequences for missing key process, integration, and revenue milestones.

Whew, that was a keyboard full!  Hang with me, we’re almost there – just three more points. For sales training to last, it needs to cover:

  • What the team needs to do;
  • How to do it; and
  • Why doing it that way is important.

By addressing the 17 questions above, your sales training program will be structured to deliver both the operational and selling skills excellence your team needs to consistently drive new revenue to your top line.

Need a quick read on how effective your sales training program is in delivering sustainable results?  Take the quick and free Sales Agility Assessment and see right away what your sales operation might be missing.