How to Conduct a Sales Training Needs Analysis

8 mins

Explore the importance of training needs analysis with Pareto's latest guide, illustrating its significance in the sales training process.

Businesses strive to empower their teams, enhance customer service, and realise the full potential of their sales workforce. But how do you ensure that your learning and development culture is impactful, motivational, and focused on imparting the knowledge your people need to succeed in their careers? Training needs analysis is crucial to fostering your L&D culture, helping you equip your representatives, managers, and leadership team with the right skills and knowledge.

According to a survey by Xerox, 87% of the training sales representatives take part in is forgotten within twelve weeks. This doesn’t need to happen, though—selling skills training can be an engaging and valuable aspect of your employee value proposition, giving you the opportunity to shape your team to address the unique challenges they encounter. 

In this guide, we’ll go into the intricacies of training needs analysis, showing why it’s vital to sales training. After we’ve defined the process, our guide goes on to explore a few examples of the different areas of performance you can evaluate, from account management training needs to leadership coaching.

What Is a Training Needs Analysis?

At the heart of successful and engaging sales training—and any learning and development-focused corporate culture—is a continuous process of training needs analysis. This serves as the compass that will keep you on your toes, ensuring you’re always reflecting the needs of your dynamic workforce. 

Whether they’re inspired by developing their digital skills, or you see they’re regularly encountering roadblocks during negotiations, a training needs analysis is a systematic practice of evaluating your team’s current skills, knowledge, and abilities, enabling you to identify the gaps that need to be bridged.

A well-executed training needs analysis involves the following steps: 

1. Identifying Objectives and Gap Analysis

The first step in preparing a sales training intervention is to clearly define your objectives. 

What are the outcomes that you’re hoping to achieve? If you’re looking to boost revenue or drive customer satisfaction, you’ve got clear KPIs to keep track of and leverage to continuously evaluate your process. Similarly, you can compare the current competencies of your sales team against your expectations, allowing you to identify the skill gaps to target.

2. Data Collection and Training Design

Gathering the data to evaluate your workforce’s current performance and ambitions is a necessary step in the training needs analysis. You can utilise surveys, interviews, questionnaires, or just have the conversation—what’s important is to get a comprehensive view of their strengths, weaknesses, and attitudes. 

With the gaps identified and the information to hand, you can now consider a personalised, bespoke training plan, which has been tailored to address the needs that you and your team have collaboratively identified.

3. Implementation and Evaluation

After the training needs analysis has taken place, you can closely monitor the progress of any sales training that is delivered according to the hard KPIs you’ve established during the earlier phases of planning. 

It’s vital to evaluate the effectiveness of your training to maintain high levels of engagement, ensuring that you’re able to deliver the results that you—and your employees—desire. It should be an ongoing conversation that reflects on your current business needs as well as the ambitions and interests of your workforce.

How Does a Training Needs Analysis Impact Learning and Development?

A well-executed training needs analysis is a game-changer for learning and development initiatives. Around 92% of the workforce says that well-planned sales training will actively engage them, so it’s crucial to provide learning opportunities that cater to the needs you identify.

In short, the TNA is not simply a checklist, but a strategic tool that greatly enhances the value of your investment in your employees’ professional and personal development.

When you invest in sales training that aligns with your strategic vision, you’re bridging the gap between your immediate skill needs, and your long-term business objectives, so it's your opportunity to align your training and employees’ attitudes towards your corporate vision. 

When employees receive sales training that is tailored to their needs, it empowers them, giving them the skills and confidence they need to exceed expectations in their roles, contributing towards your business’s growth. A training needs analysis doesn’t just discover what your employees need to know, but why they need to know it, informing your broader strategy and enabling you to measure the real impact that any intervention has on performance.

If you’re interested in seeing how analysing your skills gaps can inform your performance evaluations and goals, see our recent guide on How to Set Achievable Sales Targets to understand how you can involve your salespeople in shaping their objectives.

Selling Skills Training: The Areas You Can Evaluate

Now that we’ve understood what a TNA is and why it’s crucial to any sales training intervention, we can look more closely at a few examples of how it helps to identify performance bottlenecks and the need for refined processes in all areas of your organisation.

The broad range of competencies that you can evaluate as part of a training needs analysis means that we can’t cover everything in one guide, but we’ve focused on three key aspects that inform your team’s selling success. 

Account Management Training Needs

Account development and account management training are crucial aspects of preparing your workforce for the sales process, allowing your employees to maximise the value of existing customers through up-selling and cross-selling opportunities.

A training needs analysis can reveal the specific skills and knowledge your team needs to build strength in, identifying the approach to sales training that will transform your representatives into trusted advisors for your clients. 

In sales-forward organisations, building trust with clients is paramount. At all levels of seniority, it can help you nurture your workforce’s customer service competencies, enabling them to identify the accounts or segments that require prioritisation, amplifying your revenue streams.

Leadership and Management Training Needs

Management within sales isn’t just about navigating the unique challenges of your business, it’s about nurturing the needs of your workforce to ensure your organisation can remain competitive and successful. 

Promoting internal talent is incredibly rewarding and ensures the effectiveness of any succession planning, but businesses must regularly assess the roadblocks that their leaders help to surmount to understand how they can train and shape employees to ensure progression opportunities exist at all levels. 

Over half of companies provide no training and support to ease the transition between mid-level sales representatives to team leadership or management positions. Despite this, these senior employees are the first line of defence against poor productivity and other performance issues. 

As a result, a training needs analysis uncovers areas where your management staff require improvement, whether they’re not motivating staff as effectively as they could or looking to leverage data in their performance reviews. 

Effective leadership training aligns with your long-term vision, ensuring that your team possesses the ability to steer your company and workforce towards its goals, and, moreover, that you can pinpoint employees with the potential to nurture into the future managers that will take your company to new heights. 

Negotiation Training Needs

Negotiation is at the core of the sales process. It’s where your people make deals and solidify relationships with the prospects that will one day become your key accounts. 

The ability to take control of a value-led negotiation and steer clear of a pricing-led one is one of the fundamental selling skills, and training needs analysis in this area can be transformative for your representatives. 

From uncovering inefficiencies in your employees’ negotiation styles, to understanding how you can further empower your top performers, training needs analysis can highlight the need for further product knowledge, techniques, or the shift in mindset that can lead to conversion. 

With the consultative sales process holding the key to success in many industries, sales training can ensure that your team is well-versed in ensuring that they can handle objections and deliver high-value solutions to existing accounts and prospects alike.

What We’ve Learned About Carrying Out A Training Needs Analysis

A comprehensive training needs analysis is the lynchpin of effective sales training, and broader learning and development initiatives within the corporate environment. It acts as a guide which can keep your organisation aligned with your vision, as well as the dynamic needs of your workforce. 

By identifying skill gaps through a meticulous training needs analysis, you can set clear objectives for sales training, collect data, and implement bespoke plans which engage your employees. This bridges the gap between their immediate skill needs, long-term ambitions, and ideal career trajectories, and your aims as an organisation. 

This strategic tool not only uncovers what your employees need to know, but also why they need to know it, shaping your broader strategy and allowing you to truly evaluate the impact of any intervention on sales performance. By investing in selling skills training and carrying out the proper preparation to ensure its success, you empower your team, enabling them to foster trust with clients. 

Likewise, a training needs analysis can help you discover and nurture effective leadership candidates within your sales team, allowing you to effectively plan for succession and setting your business on the path towards long-term growth. 

Providing Online Sales Courses in the UK and Beyond

At Pareto, we’ve spent over 25 years championing selling skills training. Our expert consultants are well-versed in conducting various forms of training needs analysis, ensuring that businesses across all industries have access to an objective evaluation of their employees and leadership teams, helping them realise their potential. 

If you’d like to learn more, contact us today to discuss your unique needs with our specialist training facilitators. We offer in-person and online sales courses in the UK and beyond, so we’ll be able to discover a solution that works for you. 

Looking to strengthen your Business?

Let's Talk