However, remember that performance is based on two things:


  • The Talent Level of the Reps
  • The Performance Conditions You Put Them In


At SBI, we often see Sales Talent disparaged as the result of an ineffective Sales Training program.


Click here to get access to the tool you need to begin developing the proper training, our prospect/customer interview guide.


sales training program


So how do you create the right training environment?


Let’s start with a simple test.

When you train your new reps, what is their first assignment on day one?


  • Overview of company history
  • Overview of job responsibilities and expectations
  • Shadowing a top performer
  • Marketing and product demonstration/material review
  • Inspiring speech from Senior Management
  • Sales Skills Overview/Best Practices


If you were honest, there is a 95% chance the answer is above you. It is also wrong.


Consider this scenario instead:

You walk into a room with your ideal customer’s picture on the board.  “This is John,” You say.  “John is the Economic Buyer of our product.  He has been with Acme Corp for seven years, and has three goals: 1, 2, and 3. His biggest obstacles to achieving them are x, y, and z. His career objectives are a, b, and c. I’m going to walk you through how our product helps him in each of these areas, and the questions John will ask you through each stage in his buying cycle”.


This approach does three things:


  1. Prioritizes the importance of the customer
  2. Flips the product from the “Sales” perspective to the “Buyer” perspective
  3. Humanizes the customer and gives the reps something tangible to understand.


These days, your customer no longer needs a rep to tell him about product specifications and features.  That’s on your website.   He needs somebody to understand his pains, help him recognize a problem, and offer a solution that will help him achieve his personal or professional goals. 


So How Do You Do Build This Training Material?


1.  Identify the three biggest roles that are involved in the buying process.  Many times, these are the Economic Buyer (guy who signs the check), User Buyer (guy who uses the product on the front line), and Technical Buyer (guy who evaluates your solution against the status quo and competition).  These people are all important, and very different from one another.

2.  Identify your top 20 ideal customers and prospects. These are accounts that best fit your ideal customer profile.

3.  Schedule a series of interviews to understand each Buyer’s needs, pains, and ambitions.  Use follow up questions to dig deep into their thoughts.  Here’s the first question and an excerpt from our Prospect/Customer Questionnaire. This interview was with Tucker, the User Buyer.


Initial Question: What drives you crazy about your job?

I can’t stand it that we have 24 different processes for one job.  I need to standardize everything to make guys beneath me more efficient.  

Follow Up:  Have you tried to reduce the problems in the past?  What happened?

We tried once, but the solution we chose was too confusing and never amounted to much.  Also, the installation was so disruptive to our day-to-day operations I swore off fixing it again.


Now we’ve got a goal, an obstacle, and a fear. Tucker wants to reduce the amount of processes so his guys don’t have to devote so many hours to the job.  However, his employees need a simple program, and he can’t have implementation tie up operations.


Once you have completed enough interviews, proceed to the last two steps of training content creation. 


4.  Fill out the goals, obstacles, and typical demographic information of the role on a “Persona” template.  Record their fears, success metrics, and anything that will help your reps better understand the Persona.

5.  Reinforce this message and conduct additional interviews on a yearly basis.  If your buyer changes, so should your Persona document.


Now, imagine if your reps meet “Tucker” and immediately talk about the latest features and cutting edge technology.  Instead of selling him, you’re telling him your product is complex, may be hard for his users, and difficult to install.  While this might resonate with the technical buyer, your messaging has just frightened Tucker.  Do you see the importance of understanding the buyer now?


Before you force your team to study another spec sheet or sit through a Product Manager meeting, make sure they understand WHY their customers purchase your solution.  No longer is product pitching and “Solution Selling” going to bring results. Buyers already know your features and solutions, but they don’t know what the solution means to them.  Enable your reps to appeal to their unique perspective.


Too often, talent is blamed when we fail to educate and train. In 2010, the San Francisco 49ers went from 6-10 in the regular season to a 13-3 record in 2011.  The catalyst?  Not a top player or upgrade in talent.  An upgrade in management and training: Jim Harbaugh. Jim refocused his team on the fundamentals and pushed for excellence from a squad many had written off due to “poor talent”.


Your job as VP of Sales isn’t easy.  In fact it’s harder.  The average tenure of an NFL Coach is 2.58 seasons; the average tenure of a VP of Sales is 19 months. You need to improve results quickly. Give your team the performance conditions to succeed in the new age of information.  Learn how to tailor the message to your target buyer both BEFORE and DURING their contact with your sales force. Download the questionnaire to get you started.