Chapter 1:  How to Think About the Different Types of Sales Training


The word “sales training” means different things to different people, so let’s start by describing the different types of sales training available and when you would consider each type of training. In general, you can categorize sales training in three ways: sales methodology training, sales skill development and product training. Most sales training companies offer some combination of sales methodology training and sales skill development. Sales methodology training is “what to” training. 

A methodology program teaches a series of repeatable steps that, when executed properly, significantly increase your odds of a successful outcome. Implementing a standard sales methodology gives your organization a common language and approach for managing important sales activities, such as sales call preparation and execution, pursuing high-value complex deals, negotiations and strategic account management. Most forms of methodology training will include some aspects of skill development, but this is often to a lesser extent than a pure-play skill development program.

Methodology training is often enabled by a software package (a “tool”), which will often be embedded in a company’s CRM system.

Sales skill training is “how to” training.

Skills training emphasizes practice, using exercises like role playing, coaching sessions and supportive feedback to sharpen your ability to execute the skill when it is needed under high-stress conditions. Skills training works best when it is customized for an organization and reflects the situations that the organization’s salespeople encounter in their actual jobs. It makes everything more real and participants more open and receptive to learning. Skills training also requires a highly capable facilitator with the expertise to bring less tangible concepts to life. The trainers must also have high credibility with the audience and the skill to offer constructive criticism to learners without destroying the learner’s self-confidence.

Sales methodology training provides the “what to” and sales skills training provides the “how to.” One complements the other. For example, managing a strategic account will require a salesperson to make and execute sales calls with buyers in the account. The account manager benefits by having a proven set of steps to follow (a methodology) and the ability to execute those steps successfully (i.e., the skills).

Product training is the third category of sales training.

Product training has traditionally focused on the product’s features and benefits. Product training has greatest impact when it is brought into an organization which has already benefited from solid methodology and skills training. This enables the salesperson to focus less on the product and more on the customer and the problems that the product solves for the customer.

Typically, methodology and skills training are live and instructor-led (ILT). More and more however, product training is done with a virtual instructor on a webcast (vILT) or is done entirely through eLearning.
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