Creating Sales Training: 17 Questions To Ask Before You Start

February 29, 2020

Sales training strategy checklist of questions for creating a customized program template:

  1. What are the issues your product or service was created to solve?
  2. What is different about your product?
  3. What markets need the solution(s) you provide?
  4. What are the types of clients in that market who need your solution?

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on 5/4/17 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehension.

High sales team turnover.

Flat revenue.

No growth.

(Are you cringing yet?)

The answer is sales training and MORE sales training, right?

Not so fast.

Over the past 3 decades of my career, I’ve seen a lot of sales training systems.

What I’ve discovered is that most sales training strategies fail to deliver more than just a short-term boost to motivation. 

Why is that? 

It comes down to two absolutes for implementing a sales training program that most organizations miss – in favor of a “just sell more stuff” objective. 

These two factors are:

  1. Getting all of the sales team on the same page regarding strategy, systems and processes, and execution.
  2. Keeping the sales team on that page as they face persistent variations to the ideal selling scenario.

Cookie-cutter sales training does NOT work

No organization is like another, no client is like another, and no human being is like another, so it’s unreasonable to expect any pre-set training program to be an effective model for all businesses.

Also, keep in mind that there is a huge difference between improving sales operations and improving the selling skills of each person that is part of that operation. 

For example:

Either of these scenarios will likely play out, regardless of the sales training the team has received. 

Still, ongoing sales training is a critical element of any effective sales program. 

So, what’s the solution? 

Design a sales program that fits the uniqueness of your organization. (Or hire a sales consultant to design one for you.)

The following questions will help you assess the criteria of a sales training program, or build a sales training program template to design your own.

Sales training strategy checklist

Diving into these questions will help you develop a sales training template you can customize to gets results.

1. What are the issues your product or service was created to solve?

Explain why your organization was formed and think about your core values.

2. What is different about your product? 

Address the competitive advantages of what and how you deliver your solutions(s).

3. What markets need the solution(s) you provide? 

Cover which markets are most likely to buy most often – and why.

4. What are the types of clients in that market who need your solution? 

Address what types of accounts within those markets are the best fit, whether it is a range of revenue, number of employees, or some other factor by which you can rank individual client fit.

5. What are the common issues those potential clients share that your solution solves?

Identify the common challenges that most of the clients who buy from you are seeking to solve.

6. What are the related, common issues that your solution does NOT solve? 

In addition to clarity on what you can do, be equally clear on what you DO NOT or CANNOT do.

7. Who are the decision-makers (DMs) involved in bringing your solution onboard? 

Identify which roles are the primary DM for each market, as well as client ranking level.

8. Where do those decision-makers go for information and advice they trust? 

Locate where and how your sales team will be most effective in delivering the message.

9. What are the personal issues your solution solves for those DMs? 

This one is all about messaging. 

Understand the common personal motivation DMs have for wanting your solution delivered on their watch, such as more time back in their day, more prestige, more employee satisfaction, etc. 

Describe the what and the why.

10. How will/can product configuration and pricing vary to meet different levels of value? 

Be very clear on the range of value you have to offer and the ROI you deliver at both the personal and organizational levels for your clients. 

Once that’s clear, set absolute limits on pricing and terms.

11. What is the typical timeframe from initial contact to a closed sale? 

Set the expected, average time, from initial contact to close, for each product and value variation, by market.

12. What are the common decision-making steps each DM goes through? 

Combined with the above answers, it is the backbone of your qualification and needs analysis for each new client. 

Clarify the common buyer process and timelines that include both the yes and no decision points. 

Is it one call and a handshake, or a lengthy RFP?

13. What information does your organization need in order to deliver the solution? 

How this information is able to be gathered will drive how – and how fast – an opportunity actually moves through your sales process.

14. How can the variations in market, client size, need, buy side processes, and internal information be efficiently captured in a CRM? 

Analyze and implement sales automation on as many steps as possible to make the sales tools a benefit, instead of a burden, for the sales team. 

The goal is to free them to generate more revenue while providing you the data you need for revenue operations metrics.

15. Who will capture and monitor CRM details to modify process and behavior, as needed? 

Identify to whom and to what the sales team will be accountable.

16. What are the consequences for the organization if sales goals are not met? 

Clearly identify the integral role sales plays in the health of your organization. 

Think in terms of the culture, structure, and the financials, as well as their key points of integration and with whom they will most commonly collaborate.

17. How can the sales compensation plan incentivize the team for behaviors and activities that will deliver the right accounts, with the right solutions, at the right price? 

Clarify what it is the sales team is being rewarded to do, and not do. 

Include both rewards for exceptional performance and consequences for missing key processes, integration, and revenue milestones.

Putting your sales training template together

Here are three additional questions that are important to answer, too. For sales training to last, it needs to cover:

Consistent and effective sales training strategy

By addressing the 17 questions above with these three keys in mind, your sales training program will be structured to deliver both the operational and selling skills excellence your team needs to consistently drive new revenue to your top line. 

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