Posted by Caveo Learning ● December 15, 2014

Leveraging Custom Training to Drive Sales

increase-salesOrganizations spend billions of dollars every year training their employees, yet according to a 2014 Association for Talent Development (ATD) survey, only 7% of the total training budget is spent on improving the skills of sales teams. Given the universal importance of sales to an organization, many companies are missing a tremendous opportunity to share best practices exhibited by top performers. No matter how sought-after the products and services are, if a sales team isn’t effective, the company is not realizing its full potential.

Strong sales is the engine of any thriving company, and requires its own coaching, mentoring, and development opportunities. The lack of new prospects, movement within the sales pipeline, or ability to close new business may be due to the organization’s inability to develop, prepare, and mentor salespeople within their organization.

The first challenge is to isolate specific areas for opportunity. This includes determining the drivers that can initiate sales success, as well as exploring opportunities to improve performance, such as identifying and sharing best practices, ensuring the entire team adheres to an effective sales process, and improving the product knowledge of the sales team.

Invest in Your Sales Team

Simply put, not all sales people are created equally within your organization. For the purposes of exploring the value of custom training, let’s separate sales people into three categories:


These individuals are the rock stars within your organization who are responsible for the majority of your generated sales. Everything a top-tier salesperson touches turns to gold, even when they seem to not be trying.


These salespeople show potential, but are often inconsistent in their monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals. Mid-tier salespeople will have one or two months where their closed sales dramatically exceed quota, quickly followed by several months at or below quota. When you analyze their performance, mid-tier salespeople seem to be doing all the right things mechanically and are often working harder than their peers, but there is something missing that is holding these individuals back from not reaching the next level of performance and consistency.


These salespeople are either new to the team or just require significant guidance. In either case, sales managers typically spend the most time in this category through managing, coaching, and mentoring salespeople in their job roles and responsibilities. Bottom-tier sales people are regularly under quota. Unlike the second tier, it is generally easier to identify the skills these individuals are lacking, although getting them past these performance hurdles is most often the issue.

The goal of most top-performing sales organizations is to promote salespeople to the next level of performance in order to increase overall results. In other words, appointing second- and third-tier salespeople to first- and second-tier roles builds internal skills and competencies, thereby increasing organizational capability for long-term success.

To do this, look no further than the traits, processes, and tactics displayed by top-tier performers. Tools and techniques captured from best practices of top-tier sales people can be successfully used as the foundation for sales training. It is important to remember that a top-tier salesperson is not born with the innate sales abilities you see today. Their abilities have been developed and fine-tuned over time by organizations and sales managers who embarked on a concerted effort to cultivate their skills and provided them with the right tools to succeed.

By analyzing all aspects of how top-tier sales people conduct their business (e.g., communication style, benefits statements, pipeline management, territory management), a custom training program can capture those best practices, analyze them against current processes, and distribute them to the rest of the team. This analysis needs to be done on a regular basis within the team, since a great salesperson will adapt to the current market and customer conditions by discovering and executing new techniques to continue to be a top-tier performer.

Ensure a Consistent Sales Process

When was the last time your sales organization assessed the sales process?

The sales process is a progression of defined steps that identifies prospects, their willingness or ability to buy, and the actions needed to move them through the process. This ultimately results in a sale or, at worst, actionable information to help increase future efficacy. The sales process is the backbone of any sales organization, providing the defined structure, activities, and measurements needed to ensure that the sales team is moving quality prospects through the pipeline and dropping those prospects where efforts will likely be futile. Skipping any step within the sales process, assuming it is properly structured and defined, will typically result in a lost or delayed sale.

If the sales organization is not achieving the intended results, it may be time to look at the sales process and ask the following questions:

  • Is there a defined and repeatable sales process, and is it documented?
  • Does the entire team understand and follow the sales process as defined?
  • Do the steps within the process include clearly defined activities that must be completed before moving to the next step?
  • Are the top sales people following the process, or have they found a “better way”?
  • Are the appropriate measurements in place to ensure that all the steps within the sales process are being executed?
  • Which steps typically cause the majority of prospects to be either disregarded or eliminated entirely?

It is important to remember that sales processes are not set in stone and markets are constantly changing. Sales processes that have been successful in the past need to be reexamined to determine whether they are effective in the present environment, and if there are any opportunities to streamline to move prospects more quickly to close. Part of this effort is engaging the sales management team in determining how to best measure the impact and results of each step in the process. This will ensure that each step is adding value to the sales process for both the prospect and the sales organization.

Equip the Sales Team with Product Knowledge

Marketing and sales departments create differentiation in the marketplace by responding with new products or updates to existing products. How well your sales people understand the product and its features, applications, and benefits will determine how well they are able to present and ultimately sell your product.

Below are a couple of examples of how market knowledge can bring a sale to close. Here, the customer tells you that you lost the deal because your competition:

  • Had a better product. Your salespeople need to understand not only your product or service, but the competition’s as well. If the sales team is not properly prepared with knowledge of competing products, they cannot be expected to effectively communicate the relative benefits of what they are offering. It is all about product positioning.
  • Had a better price point. There are two types of issues that will come up if the prospect tells you that your competition’s product was better-priced:
    • Your competitor is having a "fire sale" to move the product. If your salesperson was truly relationship building and working with the prospect, this should not be a surprise.
    • Your competitor’s price point is lower than yours. This one is where the sales team really earns their money. This is the truest test of how well your sales team understands product features, applications, benefits, and ROI. In order to actively be considered with the competition, your sales team must be able to clearly articulate how the price of your product is a better value to the organization.

A salesperson’s ability to understand the features, applications, benefits, and ROI of your product is only one aspect that needs to be consistently addressed with your team. You also need to educate your team on the strengths and weaknesses of your competitor’s products and services, and how to position them with prospects.

Look Inside for Sales Success

Reinvesting in your salesforce takes more than purchasing a series of sales books or seminars on how to be a better salesperson. Every sales guru claims that they hold the key to jumpstarting your sales engine, but it is most often an upgraded reproduction of the basic skills of being a salesperson. In most cases, the existing sales team has enough experience that they understand “Sales 101.” What is needed is a communication of best practices and emphasis on key knowledge contained within your company to help drive incremental success

Building a custom training plan can improve sales results through:

Sharing Best Practices

  • Identify the best practices exhibited by top producers and develop a program to transfer these practices to the rest of the team.

Adherence to the Sales Process

  • Review the sales process and corresponding activities to make sure salespeople are adding value, not causing bottlenecks or lost opportunities.
  • Create a “manager’s toolkit” designed to ensure that team leaders are actively engaged in the sales development process and pipeline.

Improved Product Knowledge

  • Determine a learning strategy for launching or relaunching one or multiple products.
  • Create product or service reference materials for both internal and external consumption.
  • Implement training solutions to increase product or service line knowledge, sales activities, and techniques to increase new opportunities to the pipeline—and close them.


Reinvesting in your internal sales process and existing team will help bring about increased pipeline activity, improved product knowledge and positioning, and ultimately increased sales. While the tendency might be to look for generic sales training materials externally, key knowledge most likely already lies within your company. The challenge is in identifying and deploying best practices and processes in the most effective way possible to drive sales and increase profitability.

Topics: Metrics & Measurement, Performance Improvement