Discussions revolving around sales training topics are generally pretty boring. The advice given to help train your sales team is tried and true, but boring and flat. We all need excitement when learning something new. We need the promise of success to incite us to work harder and evolve.
Sales Training Topics
Sales training topics are often treated as small pinpoints that managers can harp on to motivate and encourage their salespeople. Do this, do this, do this. Mostly it revolves around “hustle more” and “waste less time”. I often see people encouraging salespeople to “network”, with little advice on how to actually teach that goliath topic.
These sales training topics that I am going to be covering in this article are a little out of the box. We are going to take our gaze and focus it on the strategies that you can learn (and in turn, teach) that will transform the sales careers.
Customer: “What are you selling?”
Kenny: “Personality, because this stuff sells itself”
This article will be in two parts. We will open with the advice that other blogs and writers have re-hashed for years, judging the merit and distilling the workable advice in concentrate. Then we will attempt to break new ground, addressing some topics that, when mastered, can have a 10x effect on your salesmanship.
Old Advice – Still Has Value
There are a number of age-old sales training topics that we can review quickly below, before diving into the more interesting topics.
Many managers give simple advice to new car salespeople: “take more ups”. No matter how piss-poor your closing rate is, if you take enough “ups” (fresh/new car sales customers that walk on to the lot), you will sell enough cars to make a living.
There is tremendous value to this for a simple reason. Most “green pea”/new car salespeople are completely hopeless at talking to customers, and the only way they are going to learn is to fail. The beauty of car sales is the incredibly short sales cycle, which allows the new salespeople to fail fast and fail often.
Great! This is good advice for new salespeople. Taking plenty of opportunities early in your sales career is a great way to break down any timidness you may still have left.
“Timid Salesmen Have Skinny Kids”
– Zig Ziglar
Sales training topics are generally addressed in the sales meeting, once a week. Like anything that is repeated weekly, they quickly become boring and rote.
During sales meetings, sales managers will often ask all salespeople to share “success stories”, hoping that they will inspire the group.
I find this to be almost universally a waste of time. The best stories are 90% embellishments, and the vast majority are “veni vidi vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered).
The only powerful part of the “success story” sales training topic is to practice storytelling. I believe that storytelling is the most powerful tool in the salesperson’s arsenal. Sadly, the focus of these stories is generally not the delivery of the story, but rather the “who, what, where, why, how”.
Of all of the current sales training topics floating around online, the most common one I see is the “identification of pain points”. Pain points are the problems that your product can solve.
A pain point is a problem, real or perceived. Entrepreneurs create opportunities for themselves by creating solutions to those pain points. Solutions create value for everyone.
-Jeffrey Carter @ http://pointsandfigures.com/2012/04/27/whats-a-pain-point/
Although a popular topic, I think that pain points are a topic slightly better suited for business to business sales than for business to consumer (like car sales).
A car can provide a solution for a problem (getting A to B etc), but most of the “sales” in the process involve the wants of the customer, not the needs. The selling starts when you attempt to set your dealership, your brand, and yourself apart from the competition.
The New Best Training Topics
You want to stand out, sell more, and succeed. You’ve read the content that is out there. The idea of “failing fast” and “pain points” has resonated, but hasn’t had the impact that you’ve wanted. What are the sales training topics that can 10x your team’s production?
The #1 under emphasized sales training topic is enthusiasm.
What makes this guy infectious? He is enthusiastic. Quick. He cares!
“I have a disease called enthusiasm” – Kenny Brooks
Now, that being said, this “window cleaning” salesperson is actually a stand-up comedian. He is genuinely funny, but he has some great sales training nuggets of wisdom in his skit:
“half of your neighbors in the community say they just gonna get it cause I’m so funny, cause this stuff sells itself” – Kenny Brooks
In that one sentence, Kenny has both shared that others are buying his product and casually pointed out a sales truism. People buy (good products) from people they like.
Enthusiasm is conveyed in a myriad of ways. It’s about the way your face lights up, the rate at which you speak, and your body language.
As a sales training topic, teaching enthusiasm is about getting your salespeople to find passion in the way they communicate.
Start by having your salespeople talk about their favorite place in the world or their favorite restaurant. Ask for details. Tell them why their favorite car or their favorite bike is special. What makes that new video game they just bought so great? How does their new iPhone differ? How much better is the camera?
Get them talking! Then, when the passion starts to ramp up, their eyes lighting and their voice quickening, bring the focus to their passion. Point out the way they are talking, and ask them to use that same style when doing a product presentation. Have them try it out!
Have them watch the video of Kenny!
Specializing In Your Customers
Steve is a salesperson at my dealer that sells almost exclusively to ultra high-end customers. He dresses in a $3K suit every day, networks the hell out of his clients, and pays almost no attention to anyone except the richest customers.
Steve is an expert in high-end brands and other sports cars (so he can talk shop). He cares about Hublot watches and Gucci shoes. He has the passion for these things.
Now, this wouldn’t work for everyone, but he has been very successful in building out a book of very high-end clients in the silicon valley. He works less than many other salespeople but earns a very strong income. It fits him.
As a manager, do I want to encourage this type of behavior? Many would say no right away.
Rather than have twenty decent “jack of all trades” salespeople, I might rather have a few salespeople that go deep on a particular group of customers.
We all like to buy from people that have an air of authenticity. How can we hope to be authentic with our customers if we don’t know anything about them? We need to be able to talk to customers on their level, about what they are interested in. Doing this will create a “safe space” so that your customers can trust you!
The fact is like Kenny was right:
“this stuff sells itself”
Most of us sell strong products that customers will find value in. We need to find common ground so that we can communicate that value. The common ground lies in shared experience.
It’s easy for your salespeople to pigeonhole customers and cultures based on their pattern of experience. These are the names of some of our customers from this weekend:
Many of our salespeople don’t even know how to pronounce these names, let alone know anything about their culture.
We need to specialize in our customers. If your customers are all computer engineers that love excel spreadsheets and grew up in India, you better know something about India! You better stand out!
Rather than sharing success stories, try having your salespeople share things that they know about the cultures of your customers.
Here is a video I did on this idea:
I’ve talked about Shoshin before in a previous article, but I think it’s a teachable sales training topic. Shoshin refers to the fostering of a lack of preconceptions and an attitude of openness. By treating a subject that you may have expertise in with an open mind, you allow yourself to learn new things that you may have otherwise dismissed.
Why is this a good sales training topic?
Many salespeople feel like they are masters of their domain. They know their product inside and out and they have done enough transactions to have memorized the general cadence. They secretly bunch customers into buckets (the lay-downs, the grinds, the cocky bastards) and treat them as such. Once in a while, a customer will break these stereotypes and a salesperson will recite the incident in the sales office.
Here is an example of what that sounds like, see if it sounds familiar:
“I couldn’t believe it! This Indian guy didn’t even ask for more discount! I had already discounted when I presented my first offer because I knew he was going to grind me down, but yeah, nothing! I almost feel like I didn’t need to give him any discount in the first place. Who would have thought that guy was going to be a lay-down!”
Yes, that salesperson put the customer in a bucket mentally because of the customer’s racial background. This is a taboo topic in the USA, but stereotyping is incredibly common and it’s critical as sales manager to get ahead of it.
Teaching Beginners Mind
So how can we teach beginner’s mind?
“…in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”
Start by leading by example. Have your salespeople teach you new things. Emphasize how important you feel it is to learn new things. Have them teach you about the product, have them teach you about the difficulties they are having. Cultivate the ability to listen without interrupting.
Then, actively fight the preconceptions of your salesforce. It can be useful to bring statistics in. If your salespeople think that they won’t make a good commission talking to a certain demographic of customers then your job is to prove them wrong, with examples. Do it with grace!
You won’t be able to tear down preconceptions in a day, this is the start of a longer process!
Review: Sales Training Topics
In this article we reviewed both the “old school” sales training topics and some of my “new school” ideas. Let me know what you think in the comments below, or send me a quick message via the contact me page!