Successful sales teams know that testing is an integral part of developing new and effective strategies. They A/B test their messaging, their product positioning, and every script before they take it to the client. 

Does your team test itself, however?

Now, keep in mind there are various types of meetings - sales pipeline review meetings is one. But I'm not talking about that.

The school of thought, when it comes to building internal testing as a routine within the sales force, is that the team that’s always prepping for an upcoming evaluation or recertification is a team that’s always learning and on top of best practices. And it brings reps together, helping to eliminate the rough spots that can creep into your sales force’s work.

“In my experience, bad habits are created over time and lead to new bad habits,” said Matthew Barden, president of SEOptiks, a digital marketing agency, in an e-mail interview. “Having a formal test or certification period allows everyone to ensure they are on the exact same page.”

It seem intuitive, that sales training for certification — and recertification — puts us in the middle of the game, whereas resting on past successes potentially leaves us behind the cutting-edge. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how your team can benefit from building test-prep into its schedule.

Honing Skill Sets: Tests Drive Sales

Marketing and sales so often come down to the individual — what he or she knows, and how that stacks up against competing reps when it comes to implementing strategies and closing deals. We’re talking about the skill set, and it is a time sensitive asset.

“The half life of a learned skill used to be about 30 years,” wrote Salim Ismail, Michael S. Malone, and Yuri Van Geest in their recent book Exponential Organizations. “Today it’s down to about five years.”

Meaning, you have to work at keeping sales skills sharp and relevant in an ever-changing industry. Testing your team on a regular schedule can do that. Consider the following benefits.

  1. Customers expect expertise. When your sales team is freshly trained, and that’s an ongoing process, your customers know it. They hear the answers to the most pressing and evolving questions in their space, and they perceive that your products — and pitches — are responding the newest scenarios affecting their business types.
  2. Testing brings products back into focus. As companies grow, so do the services and products they offer. But sales teams can fall into ruts when it comes to dealing only with the ideas and items that apply to their current crop of clients. Placing a testing phase into the work flow creates a chance to expose the full spectrum of what your company sells, and that can breed inspiration in terms of selling new services into established channels.
  3. Certification refreshes sales teams on industry changes. Technology transforms sales strategies at a dizzying pace. From programmatic media buying to new algorithms that dictate how online content reaches customers in search, a periodic testing schedule is a chance for sales teams to readdress their industry’s freshest challenges, revisit best practices, and stay abreast of everything important that is new. 
  4. A team that learns together, sells better together. Common efforts bring us together. Test prepping is a time when the stakes shift from immediate revenue goals to longterm improvement. Sales managers can reinforce strategic aims and company philosophies. Senior reps and newer team members can get to know each other without the rush of the phone, the laptop, and the client on-site at full tilt. This fosters a closer-knit unit, and that’s to everyone’s benefit.
  5. A cutting-edge sales force creates more conversions. Data shows that an end result of testing sales teams is a positive revenue scenario. One recent study, reported by Critical Path Strategies, shows a 15% increase in sales within three months of certification-style tests. Six months later, that sample set of sales reps were closing 25% more than teams that didn’t go through the process.

Finally, whether you build your testing/recertification program in house or you bring an outside testing firm into the equation, prepping isn’t just about finding gaps and closing them. Also consider the impact that re-upping your team’s skill sets can have on sales morale.

“Just as it’s important for a sales leader to know a discrepancy exists, I have found the individual contributor being just as grateful for opportunity to improve themselves as well,” Barden said.  “Testing or certification formalizes the process and forces a serious tone to the topic.”

Better educated, closer working, and more successful teams. The test is a powerful approach to developing your sales force, and with it the future of your company’s reputation, effectiveness, and returns may well get a whole lot brighter.

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[PHOTO: Flicker: Creative Commons: Kevin Dooley: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/6861256042]

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