Sales training topics that actually get results can be challenging to nail down. There is the hard sales skills V soft sales skills debate not to mention social selling, customer profiling, outreach tactics and all the steps in the sales process. Still, research shows that expertise, talent, and the sales experience remains the top reason buyers choose a supplier. So, industry knowledge and a good cultural fit take on renewed significance.
When planning out sales training, consider what customers are looking for, what they are trying to avoid, and what tips the scale in favor of the winning supplier. Then most aspects of sales training become clear: build the program around deep industry insights and sales force expertise. Training that gets salespeople to effectively solve the customers challenge at hand. This is what customers are seeking and what converts them into clients.
The challenge is always for salespeople to be able to position your company to be relevant to your customers ongoing and evolving needs. Which requires sales training that clearly helps the salesperson to first understand what those needs are and how they are changing. Then expand a series of sales training topics that make it clear how sales expertise can address those challenges.
We know today that most selling skills deployed is about staying in contact with clients more frequently, educating them, not selling to them. Listening to them, not telling them. Do what it takes to be perceived as a Visible Expert—a respected subject matter expert and trusted advisor.
The rise of relevance in sales. Buyers seek out, are loyal to, and refer suppliers that they believe can drive their success. Increasingly, it takes specialized expertise to beat the competition. For many companies sales talent is now a key differentiator. A salesperson with great sales skills can be the top factor that tips the scales for buyers. That means the quality of sales skills and by default sales training topics expertly communicated directly affects the bottom line.
Here are a list of sales training topics for consideration when choosing program ideas:
- Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence is the ability of salespeople to attend to and use their inner experiences (both good and bad) in a more mindful, productive way for their sales career.
Developing emotional intelligence involves cultivating their curiosity (business and personal), growing their knowledge, and producing new ways of looking at things. On the surface, it’s a repetitive process. So, in your sales training you will need consistency and patience. Training salespeople to tend to their emotional intelligence brings new opportunities from discovering a new sales tactic, having a eureka moment, connecting the dots between two issues, getting involved in a lively sales conversation with a customer. Research shows that one of the most important foundations of emotional competence “accurate self-assessment” was associated with superior performance among several hundred salespeople from twelve different companies.
The Essential Emotional Intelligence Traits
Emotional self-awareness — knowing what one is feeling at any given time and understanding the impact those moods have on sales conversations
Self-regulation — controlling or redirecting one’s emotions; anticipating consequences before acting on impulse in the sales process
Motivation — utilizing emotional factors to achieve goals, enjoy the learning process and persevere in the face of obstacles
Awareness — sensing the emotions of customers or others
Social skills — managing relationships, inspiring customers, and inducing desired responses from them
- Growth Mindset Training
Not one of the top sales training topics for many programs however Over the past thirty years, psychologists have examined what the impact of having a Growth Mindset is. They have found salespeople with a Growth Mindset are:
More responsive to feedback
More resilient and persist for longer
Cope better with change
Have better self-management
Have higher self-esteem, wellbeing, and mental health.
Salespeople who consider their ability to be malleable (a growth mindset) will strive to develop it by setting challenging learning goals. They consider effort an inherent part of the learning process and setbacks to be fruitful experiences to assimilate. Salespeople with a growth mindset are characterised by a greater passion for learning and a decreased anxiety about learning linked to their positive conception of failure. This leads them to stretch and expend efforts to reach their full potential whereas people with a fixed mindset are more likely to develop a hunger for approval that restricts them to their comfort zone.
- Brain Friendly Communication Sales Training
Brain friendly sales communication involves asking meaningful questions, admitting to any lack of knowledge, being honest, and being tentative rather than assertive in speech patterns and words. Communication skills is one of the favored sales training topics on any program, but here we empathise “brain friendly communication”. Simply put, when a salesperson asks their customers thoughtful questions in a caring, curious manner (not cross-examining anyone), they show interest and respect as they learn about the customer and their situation.
Asking questions helps those who are answering the questions too. When asking brain friendly reflective questions and then having the skill to allow customers time to think and then respond, AKA “inquire and retire,”, a salesperson can help them get their own insights. These ah-ha moments not only will engage customers, but also help them remember what the salesperson has discussed and be more inspired to act.
Learning about people and their situations by asking questions also helps us all to improve our perspective-taking, which is what the scientists call looking at issues from others’ perspectives or the more colloquial “putting yourself in others’ shoes.” All humans are social animals, and we tend to gravitate toward people we identify as empathetic and relatable. We appreciate that we can connect faster and deeper and build greater rapport with people who “get us.” And if we also come across as genuine and interested to our customers, that’s even more appealing to their social brain.
When salespeople communicate with a customer, train them to ask three questions:
What do they have to learn from them?
How can they help them or otherwise express interest?
Can they find ways of letting their true personality show?
Key competencies and traits that make up brain friendly communication:
4. Sales Training Topics – The Sales Habit Loop
Again, not a sales training topic you will see on most sales training programs. However, in the digital sales world, for salespeople to change their sales habits, they need to change the sales habit loop. The sales habit loop consists of a cue, routine, and reward. The first step is to understand the cue and then change the routine. Habits are choices that we continue doing repeatedly without actually thinking about ourselves. At one point, we started with a decision, but eventually they became automatic.
The 3 steps in a habit loop:
A cue, a trigger that tells us to put the habit to use and eventually puts it into automatic mode.
A routine, which acts out the sales habit.
A reward, which is the result of the routine and reinforces the habit.
A study in the British Journal of Health Psychology found that 91% people who planned an intention “to exercise” by writing down when and where you would exercise each week ended up following through. Meanwhile, people who read motivational material about exercise, but did not plan when and where you would exercise, showed no increase compared to the control group.
A sales habit loop with a clear implementation intention plan sweeps away foggy notions like “we want to sell more” or “we want to be more successful” and transforms salespeople with a concrete plan of action. Research shows that what pulls that desire out of us and turns it into real–world action is not our level of motivation, but rather our plan for implementation.
Salespeople who make a specific plan for when and where they will perform a new sales habit are more likely to follow through. An implementation intention supports this goal intention by setting out in advance when/where and how they will achieve this goal.
It’s about implementing your if-then routine. “When situation X arises, I will perform response Y.”
- Empathy Sales Training
One of our favorite sales training topics is empathy, because it is a key element of emotional and adaptive selling; it provides the link between salespeople and their customers. It is how salespeople as individuals, understand the wants, needs, past experiences, and viewpoints of the customers they come into contact with. Salespeople with empathy skills are good at recognizing the feelings of others, even when those feelings may not be obvious. As a result, empathetic people are usually excellent at managing relationships, listening, and relating to others. They avoid mind reading or labelling too quickly, and they live their lives in a positive, honest way.
Empathy is also called “vicarious introspection,” it’s commonly described as the ability to put ourselves in another person’s shoes. But make sure we are assessing how they would feel in their shoes, not how we would feel in their shoes. Salespeople need to look at empathy as not a point in time, but across the entire sales cycle. This means from uncovering a need, to researching that need, buying, setting up the relationship (or using the product), and then all of the post purchase activities that can occur.
Train salespeople to create their own customer empathy map to gain a deeper insight into the behavior of their customers. The aim is to step into the shoes of a prototypical customer and to identify their feelings, thoughts, and actions. The focus is on empathy, rather than data.
6. Active listening as a Sales Training Topic
Beyond simply listening or attending to customer comments, all salespeople need training (access for free sales training here) in the skill of active, or effective, listening techniques.
Effective listening means yielding to the customer when they share information, salespeople can accurately adding meaning to the message being received, evaluate the message, and providing feedback at the appropriate time. Active listening consists of focusing on the speaker as well as the message, not being preoccupied, analyzing the message, avoiding interrupting the speaker, providing feedback, asking questions, recording what is being said, and responding.
The characteristics of active listening are Non-judgmental, Non-interruptive, Open minded and take time to listen.
We speak at around 100 – 125 words per minute but think at around 500 words per minute. This means that salespeople need to concentrate on what is being said and the meanings to stop their thoughts from straying. This is the essence of Active Listening. There is no point in asking the right questions unless they listen to the answers. Listening to the customer will allow salespeople to:
Find out exactly what they want.
What the most important issues are for the client.
How they expect to be dealt with.
Listening actively to any customer brings numerous advantages:
Increased ability to respond
Makes the customer feel important
Reduces the chance of conflict
Builds relationships and credibility
Learning and evaluating
- Sales Confidence
Every sales trainer understands that the selling process consists of collecting information about a prospective customer, developing a sales plan based on research, transmitting messages to implement the plan, evaluating the impact of these messages, and making adjustments based on this evaluation.
Research into purchasing emotions shows that buyers are reluctant to back a proposal that’s being pitched by a salesperson who is nervous, fumbling, and overly apologetic. On the other hand, they are likely to be persuaded by someone who speaks clearly, who holds his or her head high, who answers questions assuredly, and who readily admits when he or she does not know something. Confident and assertive salespeople inspire confidence in others: their customers, their audience, their peers, their bosses, and their friends. The ability to gain the confidence of others is one of the key methods in which a self-confident salesperson finds success.
The good news is that self-confidence and assertiveness can be learned and built on and it’s well-worth the effort. To begin, it’s worth noting that projecting confidence should not be an exercise in creating a False Self but in expressing our honest values, goals, ideas, and needs. When people express themselves with assurance, we tend to believe them. This is the “confidence bias”.
When listening to a confident salesperson, psychology proves that customers believe “If that salesperson seems to believe in what they’re saying, they’re probably right,”
Confidence is a choice all salespeople make. “When we say confidence is a choice, we mean it’s a choice any salesperson can make to act, or to do, or to decide. It’s about work and learning to develop an appetite for challenge. All of the hard work a salesperson puts into mastering all their sales skills results in confidence. And that gives them the confidence to try to master new things. it’s not simply about whether they can do a sales task, but whether they assess themselves to be capable of doing that sales task.”
So, there we have seven sales training topics, some are not what you may typically encounter on a sales training program, but they is nothing typical about selling in todays environment.