Overcoming the Skills Gap: 6 Steps to Develop Solid Sales Skills

Overcoming the skills gap 6 steps to develop solid sales skills

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Not having the right set of skills and knowledge will hamstring any team—no matter how good their mindset is. Training up sales reps to ensure they have the necessary skills to perform in their role is vital, but it’s not always easy.

The skills salespeople tend to lack

  • Getting in front of the target market: Selling does not rely on luck. It’s about reaching the right person at the right time. It’s something today’s salespeople tend to struggle with—especially with the growing reluctance to target potential clients via the phone.
  • Good account management: Having strong account managers who know the techniques and strategies to upsell and cross-sell to existing clients to increase the amount they purchase is a huge asset to growing companies.
  • Negotiation skills: The ability to uphold price and sell on value comes down to a salesperson’s ability to negotiate with clients.
  • Consultative selling: It’s the one skill to rule them all. Consultative selling is an extremely effective selling method that encourages prospects to self-close. It’s ideal for salespeople who are not strong at closing or handling objections.

Learn more: See how salespeople in your industry rank on the 12 vital sales skills

The importance of sales skills training

Sales skills training is a bit like a sharpening a set of tools: without it, the tools are blunt and they’re more difficult and time consuming to use. However, with the right training, a salesperson can learn to hone their selling tools for better efficiency and cut-through.

There’s just one problem. More often than not, sales training doesn’t work. Research shows that 85 to 90 per cent of sales training has no lasting impact. Moreover, less than half of the companies in Australasia actually have the sales skills they need to grow.

Therein lies the crux of the dilemma: how do companies ensure their sales teams can learn and retain the skills they need for growth?

It comes down to your approach and strategy.

6 steps to building effective sales skills

1. Identify where your skills gaps are

Use a sales assessment tool to uncover the skills your team has and where they need to improve.

“It is far easier and cost-effective to analyse your team to understand what skills are missing from the get-go. It removes all guesswork,” says Paul O’Donohue, SalesStar’s Founder and Global CEO.

2. Make it relevant to the job and sales process

The training you provide should be based on your sales process. Map out the skills your team has against it. Are there any gaps?

“Skills training that isn’t related to a salesperson’s industry or role won’t sink in,” says Paul. “They need to be the right skills for the right job and the right process.”

3. Train as a team

While individual training is important, don’t forget to train together as a team as well. This ensures everyone is on the same page when it comes to skills, knowledge, process and best practice.

“We’ve gone into companies that have 10 staff who have done 10 different types of training,” says Paul. “There’s no consistency in their approach. The knowledge and methodology is split, not shared and this makes it hard for Sales Managers to coach the team”.

4. Embed it in your culture

The goal of sales training is to change behaviour, but that takes time. A one-off training event isn’t going to cut it. It’s all very well conducting sales training, but unless you incorporate the learnings into your workplace and encourage your staff to execute on them, nothing will change.

“A majority of sales teams lack consistent skill-based training. They just wing it,” says Paul. “Often we hear “John Smith was trained 10 years ago, so he’s good to go”.

“High-performance athletes must continually train to stay competitive and at the top of their sport. It’s the same for sales.”

This is where coaching from sales managers is vital. With consistent, ongoing coaching, they can help turn learnings into everyday skills that their teams can call upon.

Tip: Aim to conduct skills training at least twice a month.

5. Use blended learning

Not everyone learns the same way, so why provide all training in the same format? Instead, use a variety of formats and mediums to cover all your bases. You can do this with the 70/20/10 principle. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 10 per cent of training through formal training, such as live workshops.
  • 20 per cent through ongoing coaching.
  • 70 per cent through experiential learning in the field.

“Most of your training should involve getting your sales team out there in the field, trialling the tactics, making mistakes, learning from their losses and their wins, with their sales managers riding shotgun to observe,” says Paul.

6. Train your managers too

The best player doesn’t always make the best coach. Sales managers also need skills-based training. The list of skills is quite long, from the ability to run effective meetings to forecasting and planning. However, two essential skills sales managers are often missing are coaching and recruitment. Without these, a sales team’s ability to grow and improve is limited.

We coach our clients through this HIGH PERFORMANCE SALES PATHWAY to help them get clear on their strategy, transform their sales team and achieve sales growth, without stress and uncertainty of going it alone.


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