What is sales training? A complete guide to sales training success

By Elay Cohen
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What is sales training? A guide to sales training success

We’re excited to share sales training insights and trends proven to boost sales performance. The following blog will answer some of the most important questions about sales training.

  1. What is sales training?
  2. Why sales training matters and what revenue metrics to measure?
  3. What’s the different between sales training and sales enablement?
  4. What are strategies to improve sales performance with sales training?
  5. What does high impact sales training look like?
  6. What’s better? In-person or virtual
  7. How can generative AI and ChatGPT enhance sales training?
  8. What are the most important sales skills and competencies?
  9. What are some top sales training courses?

Sales training definition

The best sales training programs help sales representatives learn and improve their selling techniques, and turn those techniques into repeatable processes. Essential selling skills are key to building customer relationships and consultative selling skills. Some of the best sales training programs also focus on sales management training, sales process and sales conversations. Effective sales training can be a virtual course or a live in-person seminar or workshop.

The Training Industry shares; the best sales training programs involves the personal development of skills and techniques related to creating and exploring new sales opportunities, as well as closing sales for an organization.

The best sales training programs start with an assessment of a sales team’s and salesperson’s performance. Performance gaps are enhanced with skills development including learning, practice, role-playing, assessments, and reinforcement. Some sales training programs will result in an accreditation earning individuals a certificate, badge, or another type of professional accreditation.

Why sales training matters & what revenue metrics to measure

Sales training is important to revenue leaders for a number of reasons. Most revenue leaders are looking for ways to quickly boost the sales efficiency of their teams with a focus on ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their sales process and buyer journey. They want more of their customer teams performing like their best. Sales training helps drive consistency of performance and revenue outcomes. Sales training will have different benefits depending on the focus. Front of the funnel sales training will impact sales opportunities, pipeline development and deal qualification, where back of the funnel training will impact sales cycle time and deal size. Using a sales enablement software can help you correlate sales training activities to revenue outcomes.

Here’s a list of sales training benefits you should expect to realize.

Sales efficiency

Sales leadership teams want to lift the efficiency of their existing sales teams with sales training. They want more of their team hitting quota faster and sales training is a proven method to do that. Improved quota attainment is a top benefit.

Grow sales pipeline

Sales training is a great way to master skills to build a high-quality sales pipeline quickly. New sales pipeline developed after a sales training is usually an early indicator that the training is making an impact.

Improve sales cycle time

Sales training is a catalyst to reducing sales cycles by teaching teams the skills and techniques to drive deal qualification, to uncover compelling events and to build mutual action plans.

Improve win-rates

Running better sales plays and understanding how to more effectively and efficiently execute deal pursuits to boost win-rates, is another sales training objective. Teaching sellers how to engage champions and get to power will increase win-rates. Sales training that teaches sellers how to introduce and co-create mutual action plans with champion and economic buyers will also help improve win-rates.

Increased deal size

Sales negotiation training and pricing training will arm sellers with the conversational confidence to successfully execute winning deal strategies. Sales negotiation training will teach sellers how to effectively use give/get tactics to keep their price points higher without giving away too many discounts.

Ramp New Hires Faster

A well-crafted and organized sales onboarding program, delivered to new hires just-in-time as they ramp and progress, will help increase the chances that more sales representatives hit their revenue targets faster. Expect to see new pipeline created faster and time to first deal and time to second deal improve.

Sales training vs. sales enablement

We get asked all the time, what’s the difference between sales training and sales enablement.

Sales training is designed to shift a sales team’s attitudes and behaviors, through group learning, practice, best practices and workshops. Sales training is about getting sellers to master proven sales techniques and personalize their own style of selling and communications.

Sales Enablement is about making the sale process and buyer’s journey more efficient with tools, systems and resources. Sales training is a pillar of sales enablement. Sales enablement looks more broadly across the buyer’s journey including sales content, prescriptive sales aids, digital sales rooms, buyer collaboration and buyer insights. Sales enablement will measure the effectiveness of training, content and buyer engagement to see what’s working and what’s not working in their go-to-market.

To recap, sales enablement provides customer teams with resources and tools needed to progress a deal. Sales training teaches customers teams the activities, processes, and tools to be effective and valued sales professionals.

Learn more about Sales Enablement by reading a chapter from Elay Cohen’s book, Enablement Mastery. Download book chapter here. E-book Enablement Mastery

Sales training strategy: Ten key success drivers

Over the years, we have seen, executed and measured sales training of hundreds of thousands of sales professionals. Here are some of our lessons learned and tips to avoid failed sales training.

1. Explain the why behind the sales training strategy

Sales training fails when the business outcome is not clearly understood by the sales team. The sales strategy isn’t connected with the sales training and mapped out to the entire sales process. Leaders who fail to explain the why miss an opportunity to align their teams and get them to go that extra mile to learn, practice and execute.

2. Focus on sales performance metrics that matter

Be clear on the metrics and KPIs that need to be impacted with sales training. It’s important to be clear on the sales and business goals. Look for leading indicators first then lagging indicators.

Here are some examples of the most commons sales metrics and KPIs with a focus on leading indicators:

        1. Meeting scheduled (#)
        2. Lead conversation (#, $)
        3. Sales pipeline created (#, $)
        4. Stage/deal progression (#, $)
        5. Win-rates (#, $, %)
        6. Sales cycle time (Time)
        7. Cross-sell/up-sell (#, $)
        8. Renewals (#, $, %)
        9. Ramp time (Time, Revenue Contribution)
        10. Average selling price ($)

We recently published a blog called Measuring sales performance: Leading vs. lagging indicators. This blog will help sales enablement and revenue leaders identify, measure, and improve the most impactful metrics, KPIs, and activities that positively impact revenue outcomes. Click here to read or click on the image on the right.

4. Train teams over an extended period of time

Ongoing training is an important tactic that will ensure sales success. Spread classroom learning of new concepts out over a period of time, for example two-hour sessions, once a week, for six weeks.

Don’t make lessons too long. Using bite-sized learning modules, different modalities of learning (blended learning), and ongoing practice, you have a much better chance that the concepts taught will actually be implemented in real life. Top sales training programs adopt ongoing training best practices.

5. Accelerate outcomes with peer accelerated learning

Sales teams learn from each other and from the best. Peer-accelerated learning is a fast path to improved employee productivity and loyalty. It’s also a way to nurture mentorship both formally and informally. The best companies are using technology to develop experiences for peer-accelerated learning. For example, salespeople are increasingly practicing and recording their pitches using video role-play technologies. Make peer-to-peer collaboration a company value, demonstrating the intent and purpose of peer-accelerated learning.

6. Learn by doing

Practice. Practice. Practice: It’s so critical that practice and learning by doing is the cornerstone of your sales training program. Activity-based learning is the secret sauce that high-impact sales organizations are using.

Watch this video to learn about the concept of “Show Me Don’t Tell Me” sales training.

7. Make learning fun and engaging

In this keynote, by Melissa Regan, a very accomplished enablement practitioner, we learn how to make learning and enablement fun and engagement. Melissa uses a role-specific programs for BDRs as an example.

Melissa’s talk is a mini-MBA in creating enablement programs that are fun, engaging and high impact. Melissa uses gamification, micro-learning, spaced repetition and assessments, all wrapped around a carnival metaphor to deliver incredible learning outcomes for her BDRs. Melissa gave us a glimpse into our future with this blended live and online learning experience.

8. Reinforce with ongoing training and sales coaching by front-line managers

Running a sales training for a day, a few days or a week without a reinforcement strategy is a guarantee that the revenue outcomes you want won’t happen. Space out your training into smaller bite-sized learning sessions that happen over weeks and months. Your sales teams need time to process the training and then apply to real customer conversations.

The reinforcement magic happens when sales teams come back together to discuss what’s working and what’s not working. Reinforcement by sales coaches and sales managers is the key to success with sales coaching programs.

We’re depending on front-line managers to do more sales coaching and sales training in their weekly team m eetings and one-on-ones to boost sales performance. Sales enablement teams should build more templates and playbooks to enable and empower managers with guidance and to arm sales managers with guidance to develop their teams and reinforce go-to-market priorities with relevant and practical sales training.

9. Validate training is applied in sales calls and sales conversations

Reviewing live calls to see how the sales training is being applied is a critical step in the verification process. Verify with sales call reviews and conversation intelligence video transcripts and reporting.

10. Use video for self-paced and virtual sales training

Video is a great way to have teams learn sales techniques and tips faster. Video is personal. Video is impactful. Video is cost effective. Why aren’t we using more video for sales training? We know how much it costs to fly teams to central locations to sit through training. Today in a pandemic world, it’s even harder to do this reliably and safely.

How often do you hear: “The event was good but most of what was covered could have been done over video.” Video is the way to improve knowledge retention and best practice sharing by serving up short, accessible videos on-demand for teams to watch and review on their own time.

Best practice sales training example

Here’s an example to better understand how to think about and execute a sales training program with the right amount of pre-work, teamwork, sales coaching and assessments before, during and after a live-virtual video event.

Imagine you have a new corporate pitch messaging sales training being rolled out to your teams. You want to make sure everyone is being trained and practicing. You want your teams to be conversationally competent. It’s not enough to walk everyone through your new pitch or presentation on a live-broadcast.

Here are the recommended steps to sales training success.

    1. Have your teams watch the video of the pitch before the live-broadcast. You can also have them read the talk-track too.
    2. Track their video watching consumption and completion of doing any pre-work like a knowledge check or video practice assignment.
    3. Collect questions about the pitch before your live broadcast to gauge what your teams are thinking.
    4. You can even have your team record their version of the pitch before the live broadcast too. It’s good best practice. (We all know practice, practice, practice is what gets our teams performing better. Avoid having your teams practice with customers and prospect on live calls.)
    5. Then, after your live-video broadcast, roll out an official pitch certification and a knowledge check. Certify everyone starting with sales leadership and sales managers.
    6. Have your teams share live calls for peer and manager review. It’s good get real-time feedback on how the new pitch is working on live calls,
    7. It’s important to share win-stories and successes.
    8. Correlate sales performance data to know how your teams are doing.

These activities when consistently executed gets our teams performing better and boosting their win-rates and sales velocity.

Sales training is hard work and skipping steps will result in sub-optimal sales performance.

The next time you lead a video conference on a sales training topic ask yourself: What are the essential sales skills you’re asking people to improve and how are you measuring it? The answer to the question will guide you through the journey to rethink sales training.

What’s better? In person vs. virtual sales training

There are pros and cons to in-person versus virtual sales training. While one may think that in person is the best way to train teams, the reality is virtual sales training gives teams an opportunity to learn and practice and apply and then huddle up to share what’s working and what’s not working.

Companies spend an estimated more than three hundred billion a year on corporate training. We know how much it costs to fly teams to central locations to sit through training and workshops.

How often do you hear: “The event was good, but most of what was covered could have been done over video”? How much money is wasted annually just on travel and entertainment expenses that could be avoided with more on-demand training? The same is true for sales training.

Knowledge retention from webinars, off sites, or conferences is quite low. Video is a way to modernize these practices by serving up short, accessible videos on demand for teams to watch and review on their own time before and after events. Virtual sales training gives coaches and managers an efficient and effective way to train teams and coach teams in real time with real deals.

That said, don’t get fooled into thinking that running a webinar via a video conferencing will suffice as real sales enablement and sales training. Video conferencing is similar to in-person training workshops except people can really multitask because they aren’t in the same room and they can mute calls.

A video conference will suffer from the same knowledge retention issues we face in workshops. We need to thoughtfully execute pre-work, teamwork, practice, role-playing, knowledge sharing and assessments around the video conferences.

How can generative AI and ChatGPT enhance sales training?

Sales is always changing, and it can be tough to keep up. But leveraging the latest technology can make a difference. Take a look at a few of the ways AI can amplify the effectiveness of your sales training:

Personalized training at scale: Training can easily be customized with your data and adapted to the unique needs of every rep.

Practice scenarios: ChatGPT can craft scenarios for your team. This means sales reps can practice their pitches and possible objections in a more forgiving environment.

Data-driven feedback: Interactions that reps have with AI can be analyzed quickly. This will highlight where they’re strong and where there are opportunities for growth.

Incorporating generative AI and tools like ChatGPT into your sales training isn’t about attempting to replace humans. It’s about arming your sales force with an ally that will help them perform at their best.

Interested in finding how to supercharge MEDDICC adoption and sales execution with generative AI?

Essential sales skills & competencies

A big part of an employee’s development is to have the right skills to build a successful sales career. As enablement leaders, our job is to help our teams be the best they can be by giving them the essential skills and training they need to be successful. Sales training is all about skills. Every employee has their own set of skills needed to do their jobs and develop their careers.

Create a skills map that is tied to job descriptions and career pathing. Salespeople need more foundational sales training from prospecting to asking open-ended questions to negotiations.

Here are some of the common skills including in sales training that will develop consultative selling skills.

Sales prospecting & pipeline building skills

Teach your sellers how to research accounts and people, how to write compelling emails, how to create multi-step outreach sequences, how to engage buyers on different channels and how to leave voice-mails that get replies. Click here to learn more about SalesHood’s prospecting sales training course and you can also check out Winning By Design’s Prospecting with Impact course available in SalesHood too.

Here’s an explainer video on rolling out prospecting sales skills training that will increase your sales opportunities.

Curiosity skills

SalesHood Questions Skills Training
Asking open-ended, layering and probing questions is a skill that sellers must master to be successful. Active listening is another skill that requires sales training to master. Being authentically curious can be a skill that is developed with the right amount of sales training.

Storytelling skills

The best salespeople I’ve worked with are the best storytellers. They share the details of a customer story in a compelling way. They focus on emotion. They focus on value. They use storytelling to deliver confidence and credibility. They tell customer stories from the heart.

They set the context, sharing industry dynamics, size of company, problems solved, and quantifiable benefits, of a company story in a way that engages the listener to immediately relate. They grab the attention of the customer by showing business benefits at the very beginning of a customer story. They demonstrate empathy by relating stories to executives based on their role.

Communication skills

Writing, listening and communicating are important skills that are overlooked. It’s important to invest the time to teach our customer-facing teams how to write compelling emails (not just prospecting emails.) Creating value-based presentations and proposals is an art.

Sellers need to be shown what good looks like and they need to be trained on their slides before they share them with customers and prospects.

Presentation skills

Effectively delivering a presentation is all about being able to facilitate a conversation. Great presentation skills are grounded in curiosity and asking the right questions at the right time and knowing when to stop talking.

It’s important to leave space for meeting participants to process your messages and then share feedback and/or ask questions. Mastering presentation skills is a skill that can be learned with a lot of practice and coaching.

Closing skills

Closing the sale is the hardest but also the most rewarding sales skill there is. It’s important that sellers learn different closing techniques, sales negotiations, objection handling, psychology to tonality and the best strategies to use to close almost any sale.

Account management skills

From relationship building to renewals, strategic account management training focused on the skills required to grow and upsell existing accounts. Many of the core sales skills need to apply from discovery to qualification to closing.

Remote selling skills

Train your teams by practicing and coaching the skills needed to master remote selling from running remote meetings to digital selling to video selling. Effective virtual sellers have all the qualities that traditional sales professionals have. But they’re also technologically proficient and willing to learn all the skills needed to excel in the virtual selling space. Learn more about remote sales training here.

Role-based sales training

Training should be personalized and curated by role. Each customer-facing person needs a different combination of skills and sales courses to be effective at the selling process. There’s a big different between inbound selling skills, inbound sales, outbound sales and field sales. Customized sales training is a critical part of training personalization.

Here are two sales roles to see the differences in what a sales skills development plan would look like.


Sales Development (SDRs)

  1. Sales Prospecting
  2. Emails
  3. Voice Mail
  4. Digital Seilling
  5. Video Prospecting
  6. Discovery
  7. Qualification

Account Executives & Account Managers (AEs/AMs)

  1. Sales Prospecting
  2. Emails
  3. Voice Mail
  4. Digital Seilling
  5. Video Prospecting
  6. Discovery
  7. Qualification
  8. Remote Selling
  9. Storytelling
  10. Consultative Selling
  11. Presentations
  12. Communications
  13. Relationship Building
  14. Mutual Plans
  15. Decision Making Process
  16. Negotiations
  17. Closing

Choosing a sales methodology

Choosing a sales methodology is one of the most important decisions a company and vice president of sales can make to execute a successful go-to-market. A sales methodology is invaluable to grow predictable revenue faster by aligning sales and marketing, training sales professionals, executing deals consistently, and making this part of the sales culture.

Every company should have a documented sales methodology that’s understood by each customer-facing employee, part of training/onboarding, and reinforced by front-line managers and VPs.

Companies need to then reinforce their sales methodology with sales training that’s relevant and customized to their business and customer buying patterns.

Create sales training that reinforces best practices and sales methodology learning outcomes. The training should be action-oriented and include a dialogue about real deals.

It’s a great best practice to introduce the sales methodology early in the onboarding journey of new hires. Include deal-win stories that map to how your teams successfully executed the methodology. Sales training done right will improve adoption of your sales methodology resulting in better win-rates and faster sales cycle times.

If you want to go deeper on sales methodologies, here’s a great summary from Paul Butterfield on considerations for selecting a new sales methodology and sales process.

Top sales training courses

Considering working with a sales training company? Take a closer look at these options. Many of them also offer online sales training programs.

Corporate Visions

Corporate Visions provides science-backed revenue growth services for sales, marketing, and customer success. Global B2B companies work with Corporate Visions to articulate value and promote growth. With Corporate Visions’ sales training, companies can bring together the right story and the right skills to have conversations that win across your marketing, sales, and customer success organizations.

Winning By Design

Winning-by-Design-logo-2 Winning by Design is a global B2B revenue consulting and training company that enables recurring revenue teams to architect sustainable growth. Combining our specialized skills as operators of high-growth companies, we apply scientific frameworks and proven models to help Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success teams at B2B companies and global enterprises achieve impact.

Selling Through Curiosity

Selling Through Curiosity Selling Through Curiosity™ helps companies achieve record breaking revenue growth results. The sales training program is delivered on-demand, live virtually and in-person. Powered by SalesHood, the system helps companies grow top-line revenue faster by automating and prescribing how sales training is delivered, reinforced and measured. The Selling Through Curiosity sales skills content and role-playing is optimized for asynchronous and synchronous learning, coaching and collaboration.

SalesHood B2B Sales Training For SaaS

SalesHood’s sales training is designed to help customer teams navigate B2B SaaS sales. Remote sales and customer success teams significantly increase their productivity with SalesHood’s turnkey sales training Library accessible on all web browsers and mobile devices. SalesHood offers “coaching hurdles” that guide frontline managers and their teams through a structured learning experience that lets them proceed at their own pace while still feeling personally coached.

Sandler Training

Sandler Training offers sales training to help companies transform sellers into highly skilled salespeople who understand the enterprise sales process and can deliver great value to customers. Enterprise processes often mean a higher cost of customer acquisition, a longer sales cycle, and a tougher audience for sales pitches. Sandler Training offers structured solutions for all those hurdles. This course includes training on account management, client mapping, relationship development, client retention, bid review, opportunity navigation, competitive positioning, and more.

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