How to make sales training workshops more effective by being harder

Many companies accomplish sales force training via sales training workshops. These are valuable services, but sometimes trainees don’t realize the full potential of the training despite the excellence of the instructors and curricula.

In previous blog posts, I have covered many things you can do to increase retention and application. These include:

  • Role play
  • Individual coaching
  • Audio/visual tools
  • Reference library
  • Advanced courses
  • Keynote speeches tied into training

There is another factor which I’ve not really discussed before, and it is a prime factor in making superior practitioners from every kind of training — in any endeavor in the world. From the gym to the sports field to medicine to engineering, this applies:
The harder the training, the more effective it tends to be.

Now, this doesn’t mean that hard training cannot be fun. Our training can be intense and challenge comfort zones, but our students have a great time because they accomplish a lot.

And what can be more fun than success?

So rather than focus on entertaining people, make sure whoever runs your next sales training workshops includes the following to make them more challenging no matter which curricula is used.

Be extremely realistic in role play

I put this one first because I feel that sales training workshops fail to stress roleplay enough. They might devote a few minutes on it, maybe on handling one or two objections, and that’s all. I think a two-hour role play session can be as effective as a couple days’ worth of theory instruction.

But spending extra time is not enough. Intensity matters. Roleplay should be harder than actual sales calls and reflect realistic, tough cases. Students should “bull-bait” each other by presenting hard objections and not giving in so easily. They can start easy and get tougher and tougher as the exercise progresses.

A great method for adding realism is to have salespeople volunteer deals they have had difficulty with and have the class role-play solutions for them. If the deals are still in play, this just might help your salespeople close them when they get back to work!
The point is if trainees just go through the motions when role-playing, trainers are doing them a disservice. Give them realistic situations, making them increasingly tougher, and they stand a better chance to actually implement these skills in the real world.

Practice the entire sales process

As much of the complete sales cycle as possible should be practiced at sales training workshops – from making elevator pitches to making formal presentations, to closing.

Someone might be excellent at building rapport and scheduling a meeting, and then fall flat when delivering the presentation. Or, they could be a decent closer in person, and then struggle setting appointments on the phone. What one salesperson finds obvious, the next might find difficult, so it’s best to practice as many pieces as possible.

This is even easier to accomplish with in-house programs where you are not limited to just one or two days but can practice week after week. The first session could cover breaking the ice, the next getting past gatekeepers or qualifying, and so on and so forth.
Again, each piece should be coached with realism, and become tougher as the student gets better. Here is a sample progression for building rapport:

  • Match tone and body language
  • Break the ice by finding something to compliment or notice about them
  • Discover a common interest through questions and your research
  • Bridge conversation smoothly over to business

Each one of these points could be a separate role play to start, then practice putting everything together.

A quiz, and mandatory review of areas missed, before certification

This last one might not be practical for third-party sales training workshops like ours due to time constraints, but it can work great for internal training programs.

Salespeople should be given a quiz about the material, and pass before they receive a certificate. Taking tests might stress some people out, but it makes them apply themselves and go over the lessons more thoroughly.

The questions should stress applicability. While students can be made to memorize any of the truly important laws and maxims by heart, the majority of the other questions should be scenario-based.

For example: “What should you do with your speech when you encounter a buyer who is a very slow talker?” Answer: slow it down. This is a better question than, “What’s the average cost of customer contact in telephone sales?” Answer: about $33, but does this help anyone sell more effectively?

Sales training workshops can and should challenge salespeople to be better by putting them through the paces. This will increase not only their skills but their sense of accomplishment and pride. Everyone wins as a result.


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