How to Develop a Training Programme for Employees in Sales

14 mins

Unlock staff success and drive ROI with this guide to creating tailored sales training from Pareto's expert consultants.

When it comes to the question of how to develop a training programme for employees in sales, there are many paths that business leaders can take to ensure that their teams are receiving the instruction and resources they need to realise their potential. 

Only 17% of sales-focused organisations report having effective sales training programmes in place for personnel at all levels of seniority. Ultimately, if you’re one of the 83% of organisations that feel your current sales training courses aren’t up to the task, it’s likely that you’re only seeing around half of the sales performance that you could realise by ensuring your team knows what good looks like.

In this guide, we’ll explore why you should want to develop sales training programmes for your staff, illustrating the return on investment you can expect from creating a course that will inspire and motivate them, equipping them with the resources they need to drive customer success. We’ll then go into detail on the topic of how to develop a training programme for employees, looking at five specific areas that you could focus on, from account management to social selling. 

Once we’ve done this, we’ll look at the broader industry for some closing tips and advice on what you can learn from the major sales training providers.

Why You Should Want to Develop Sales Training Programmes

It’s not just about ensuring your team has the essentials in place but understanding—through a rigorous skills audit—how that training will help them to achieve their ambitions and career goals.

Indeed, the question of how to develop a training programme often comes down to the question of why you should want to develop sales training programmes. From sales prospecting training to negotiation skills training, there are a range of benefits that providing your staff with a robust learning and development experience can realise. 

Empower Talent Acquisition and Retention Initiatives

Sales training programmes ensure that your team has the skills they need to drive revenue growth for your organisation, but they also act as a strong incentive to candidates looking to join—or remain with—your business. 

When it comes to the question of how to develop a training programme for employees, you should also be asking the follow-up question of how you shout loudly about this and encourage your staff to champion it in their discussions with peers on platforms such as LinkedIn. 

Showing that you’re committed to helping employees achieve their ambitions and that you’re an organisation which believes in career mobility is a strong employee value proposition (EVP), illustrating that you’re a strong contender for those actively or passively searching for their next role.

Ultimately, businesses that foreground a learning and development culture and make certain that all staff engage with available opportunities can minimise the risk of attrition by 59%, giving you the confidence to know that the talent you bring onboard today will continue to provide you with a return on investment for many years to come.

If you would like more information on the retention of employees, discover our insightful guide - How to Retain Employees in a Challenging Market

Enjoy Consistent Success Even in Times of Uncertainty 

Organisations continue to thrive, even amidst uncertain economic conditions. Their key to success? Fostering a workforce that possesses agility and resilience. 

If you’re seeking ideas on how to develop a training programme for employees in sales, you may have identified skills gaps or just want to continuously develop your team to build their effectiveness and resilience. 

By encouraging your staff to take part in training that is tailored to the realities of their role and the duties they encounter each day, it’s been shown that you can increase job satisfaction and productivity. Researchers at Ottawa University have shown that businesses which incorporate robust sales training courses witness 41% less absence and around 17% additional productivity. 

This means that when you’re developing a sales training programme, you aren’t just investing in the future of your business: you’ll start to reap the benefits and return on investment almost immediately, as long as you’re ensuring that your staff are putting their studies into practice.

Recognise High Performance and Plan for Succession

Leadership talent can certainly be acquired through hiring, but there are likely to be several strong candidates for future management—or even executive—roles on your current sales team. 

Sales training is a great way to recognise and spot your future superstars and talent, ones that will drive your organisation’s future success. This is critical because not always the best sales individuals will make the best sales leaders, as leading and excelling in sales are two very different skills. 

However, you can spot future talent by identifying those who embed their training in their day-to-day roles, react well to coaching, and promote the training to the wider team. 

How to Develop a Training Programme for Employees

So, now we’ve explored why it’s crucial to begin considering sales training courses and their importance in the modern workplace, we can answer the concrete question of how to develop a training programme for employees. 

We’ve chosen to focus on five key topics you can use to give your team a well-rounded education in core sales skills. From account management and development training to social selling, these subject areas will give them the foundation they need to achieve long-term success and drive profitability.

Negotiation Skills Training

Negotiation skills training is crucial to any sales training course, especially for recent starters or early-career hires. This doesn’t mean that this form of sales training isn’t equally valuable for your mid-level staff, though, as they will be able to benefit from a refresher course in negotiating effectively with clients and leads.

Once they’ve studied impactful negotiation techniques, they’ll know how to protect margins and package a solution, moving them away from the negativity of a price-led negotiation with potential or existing customers towards one where they’re offering a genuine, consultative, and problem-focused sales experience. 

Depending on their position and business function, offering negotiation skills training for staff can be complex, which is why it’s crucial to conduct a skills audit, which will enable you to understand precisely where they’re falling short. By identifying these weaknesses at the beginning of the process, you can avoid wasting their time and, instead, offer them information which is highly relevant to their role and the customers or segments they interact with regularly. 

Professional Selling Skills Training

Whatever sector you might serve, discovery calls are crucial in the consultative sales process, and no discussion of how to develop a training programme for employees would be complete without looking at their importance. 

Whether they’re held virtually or in person, these calls rely on professional selling skills and techniques that allow your personnel to guide meetings to the ends they want to achieve, set the next steps, and guide leads through the sales funnel. 

Professional selling skills will typically be taught through a blend of practical role-playing scenarios—often borrowing from challenges that salespeople are facing in their everyday roles—as well as collaborative exercises, which will enable them to see how to leverage the skills of their colleagues to give your customers the best possible experience. 

Once they’ve undergone training in professional selling skills, your team will be able to conduct and administer meetings effectively, ensuring that they’re always coming away from a touchpoint with a customer having moved a step closer to their target, whether that’s uncovering an explicit need, discovering a risk to the deal, or making a connection with a decision-maker in that organisation.

Sales Prospecting Training

Prospecting is an important skill for salespeople to develop, so any discussion of how to develop a training programme for employees. Embedding a resilient, goal-oriented mindset in your representatives ensures that they’re equipped with the practical tools they need to enhance your business and qualify leads for maximum value. 

Experienced sales training providers recognise that training programmes must always provide learners with practical guides to success, and this is perhaps no clearer than in the example of sales prospecting training. 

By studying the impact that a positive mindset can have on the sales process and the benefits of using a lead-scoring framework to prioritise prospects according to their likelihood to convert, your team will understand how to use a call or meeting with a client to achieve their objectives and generate new business—connecting them with decision-makers that have the power to purchase, or helping to move leads that aren’t yet ready to buy further along the pipeline. 

As HubSpot has noted, the barrier to sales success is 95% mindset, which is why powerful sales prospecting training encourages a resilient, strategic, and positive attitude, enabling your team to sell solutions rather than chase potential customers on price. 

Social Selling Training

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we could call an office and be certain that we’d be speaking to a decision-maker before too long. This is no longer the case with the rise of flexible and remote working. 

Despite this, the skills that employees gain in cold calling and negotiation can still be highly impactful in the increasingly digitised professional environment. Training in social selling enables your team to connect with prospects and customers regardless of geographical distance or schedule, driving a speedy cadence which continues to move leads through the funnel and improve account development initiatives. 

Whilst the number of touchpoints it can take to get a B2B customer to make a purchasing decision can vary widely—from 8 at the low end to over 40 when considering complex deals with a long sales cycle—social media and networking platforms give your personnel an opportunity to connect with clients and respond to their queries quickly and effectively.

When asked how to develop a training programme for sales in 2023, it would be amiss of us to say that the development of a social media presence and utilising the latest platforms to create meaningful touchpoints with clients was unimportant. Indeed, course facilitators will often request that trainees bring real-world examples to the classroom with them, ensuring that they quickly understand how to create tailored and targeted messaging that pushes that prospect closer to conversion.

Sales Training Courses: What You Can Learn from the Industry

It’s clear that sales training programmes are a vital tool for retaining and developing your top talent. At the same time, only 35% of Chief Strategic Officers know what they’re looking to improve when they’re providing a training intervention. As a result, training can be ineffective at changing employee behaviours. 

Now that we’ve looked in detail at some of the areas that you can train for, we can look at what you can learn from the broader training and sales industries when thinking of how to develop a training programme for employees in sales. 

This will make certain that the changes you put in place are embedded into your wider organisational culture, allowing you to ensure that—whether they’re a new starter or a seasoned employee—they’re receiving the coaching and support you’ve identified for them to realise their potential. 

1. Don’t Neglect Leadership Training

You can’t just ask how to develop a training programme for employees—you must also provide their managers with the resources and support they need to properly mentor and coach for the performance gains you want to see. 

Leadership training is an incredible tool for ensuring that team leaders, supervisors, and departmental directors have the skills they need to drive revenue growth and that they can motivate and engage staff. Well-being and productivity are inextricably linked.

In sales, it's not uncommon for high-performing salespeople to be promoted into leadership roles solely based on their individual sales achievements. Unfortunately, this trend often results in a leadership gap, where those promoted lack the necessary training in managing and coaching a team. The transition from being a successful salesperson to an effective leader is complex, requiring a distinct skill set that extends beyond closing deals, highlighting the importance of proper sales training. 

2. Ensure that Sales Training Programmes Focus on Real Problems

As we’ve reiterated a few times throughout the course of this guide, asking how to develop a training programme for employees in sales means that you’ve likely identified a noticeable opportunity, whether it’s staff failing to meet targets, poor customer satisfaction scores, or some other weakness that you’d like to address. 

As a result, when you’re providing sales training programmes for your staff, make sure to always relate what they’re studying or practising back to their real customers and leads. 

A roadblock where one of your salespeople is struggling to connect with a decision-maker within a specific organisation can, for instance, be a valuable example to explore in a group training session on negotiation or objection handling. When you deliver sales training courses, you must ensure they’re always relevant to your personnel's daily duties, allowing them to effectively embed their studies.

3. Customer Success Should Always Be A Focus

When you’re delivering sales training programmes, your employees—and those facilitating the course—should always keep in mind that they’re aiming to create long-standing customers and offer the kind of experience that promotes loyal brand champions that will promote to their network. 

However, customer success isn’t only a positive end in and of itself. It also allows you to collect valuable insights that can benefit your entire business from the ground up, supporting product development initiatives by getting feedback and understanding your audience more, making your marketing efforts even more relevant and further refining your product to better meet their needs and continue to minimise the risk of attrition.

4. KPIs Are Your Guide

The knowledge of how to develop a training programme for employees in sales is only as good as your knowledge of how to track and evaluate the success of your team following your intervention. 

As a result, when you’re in the initial phases of designing sales training courses, you should consider the metrics you will use to assess the effectiveness of any learning and development received. There are many to track, including: 

  • Conversion rates

  • Lead response time

  • Cost-per-lead

  • Number of meetings

  • Number of prospects generated over a given period

By tracking KPIs such as these, sales managers and business leaders alike can determine whether their representatives are progressing towards goals within an agreeable timescale, and adjust their efforts or approach if they’re not achieving the results they want to see.

5. Take a Continuous Approach to Learning and Development

Learning and development initiatives aren’t just for a few months. They entail a drastic shift towards a professional development-focused culture within an organisation that will ensure that all team members, whether they’re newly onboarded or they’ve been with the organisation since its inception, receive a consistent, cohesive, and comprehensive education on everything they need to know for success.

When you’re asking how to develop a training programme in sales roles, always keep in mind that this isn’t necessarily a short-term fix but putting habits and attitudes in place that will make sales processes, customer service, and technical knowledge more effective. 

With more opportunities for bite-sized micro-learning opportunities than ever before, you don’t need to regularly pull your staff from their revenue-generating duties, either. Instead, you can offer all team members an intensive training process, followed up with coaching and mentorship meetings alongside easily accessible resources which they can draw on whenever they need a refresher, whether that’s before a client call or a negotiation with a manager about a promotion or raise. 

With over 84% of business leaders, directors, and executives agreeing that building a long-term culture of learning and development leads to greater organisational resilience and a more positive environment for staff, understanding how to develop a training programme for employees in sales is a crucial step for organisations looking to weather an uncertain economy and derive more value from their existing customers.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to develop a training programme for employees in sales, see our recent guide on the topic of How to Set Achievable Sales Targets for more industry-leading insights into the importance of evaluation within the training environment.

How to Develop a Training Programme for Employees: Closing Remarks 

Understanding how to develop a training programme for employees in sales roles is a vital investment for businesses seeking to realise and leverage the full potential of their teams. Research has highlighted that many organisations still lack effective sales training programmes, which can significantly impact performance. 

Furthermore, sales training courses drive employee engagement and well-being, contributing to job satisfaction and reducing absenteeism and the risk of talent attrition. Training interventions allow business leaders to recognise and reward high performance, enabling organisations to plan for succession, nurture internal talent and foster loyalty. 

This guide has also delved into five key areas of sales training: account management and development, negotiation skills training, professional selling skills, sales prospecting training, and social selling. Knowing how to develop a training programme for employees is a strategic effort which can drive performance, well-being, and overall profitability, securing businesses a competitive advantage in increasingly volatile markets.

Experts in Providing Sales Training Programmes

With a specialist team of consultants providing sales training programmes covering everything from account management to social selling, Pareto has been committed to championing best practices within the industry for over 25 years. We’re dedicated to enhancing the skills of graduates and time-served professionals alike, helping them to realise their potential and achieve their career ambitions. 

If you’d like to learn more, get in touch to learn how our staff can support you in understanding how to develop a training programme for employees that will guarantee sales excellence.

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