Professional development opportunities are a major factor in the decision to change jobs. That’s according to numerous research papers, including our recent Sales Team Retention survey. So if you want to improve employee satisfaction and stave off attrition, then a sales team development plan must be a top priority.
By giving your reps a roadmap to build their skills and advance their careers, you give them a compelling reason to stay in your organization. Read on for actionable tips to build the perfect development plan for your sales team.
Why is sales team development critical?
Sales team development is more important than ever. Ambition found that 98% of sales reps would stay with a company forever if they were given ongoing development opportunities.
What’s more, companies that invest in sales team development put themselves at a significant competitive advantage by retaining talent. Losing a salesperson costs an average of $115,000.
Your sales team is only as good as the people on that team. By investing in their development, both as individuals and as a group, you can improve their ability to meet quotas and move the needle.
How to build a sales team development plan
Sales development doesn’t just happen. It’s the result of a lot of intentional strategy and effort and requires a commitment of resources from the organization.
As such, it’s important to have a clear plan to get you from Point A to Point B. A cohesive development plan includes role definitions, resources, expectations, and timelines. Here are some steps you can take to develop your own.
1. Establish a sales development budget
On average, 1–3% of the total annual budget should be earmarked for development. Small to medium businesses are spending more than $77,000 annually on outsourced sales training and development. Large companies spend more than five times as much.
If you under or over-spend on sales development, that will create bigger problems down the road. Over-spending without generating results will cause you to lose buy-in among executive stakeholders. Under-spending is unlikely to generate positive results.
By understanding your needs, you can set a realistic budget that suits your goals and needs and, more importantly, moves the needle in the right direction.
Download our Sales Training Budget Guide to help you determine how much to budget for development.
2. Reallocate unused resources
There’s no point in spending money on tools and resources that no one uses. A great way to invest in development without increasing costs is to look for resources that you aren’t using. Rather than waste those dollars, use them to grow and improve your team.
3. Identify high-impact opportunities
Most companies have limited budgets. This is especially true in today’s economic climate.
The key to an effective sales team development plan is knowing where to spend the most time and money. After all, you want your limited resources to go where they’ll have the greatest impact.
This is where having high-quality managers makes all the difference. When you support your managers and empower them to make decisions around resource allocation, they can effectively support your sales reps at every stage of onboarding and production.
Effective managers understand the best delivery methods for training and development. Live in-person and virtual training sessions are both great options for team training. For companies that are local, live training sessions are refreshing in today’s remote-heavy work environment. Getting reps face-to-face for in-person training is worth the cost of the return. For remote companies or spread-out teams, virtual sessions are a great alternative to in-person meetings. For best results avoid pre-recorded training videos. When participants are able to meet in person or join a live virtual session, they feel more engaged and collaborative, which promotes learning.
4. Prioritize your tools and tech stack
Not all tools and technologies are created equal. For example, many sales teams have a digital resource library—a big expense content bank that no one uses. It’s important, then, to look at your current resources and decide which are actually empowering your team to do their jobs better.
Instead of thinking of technologies by their product class (e.g. “asset management platform”) think of them based on the problems they solve for your organization (e.g. storehouse of information to educate our reps).
When you break out the mold, you may find other more creative solutions to the problem (e.g. interactive, live training sessions vs. pre-recorded talking-head videos).
5. Make use of free resources
While it’s important to invest resources in sales development, there’s a wide range of free courses, webinars, and training available online. In an interactive group setting, these resources can be a valuable tool—and they don’t require additional buy-in from budget holders!
However, it’s not enough to simply throw these free resources at a rep without any context or structure. Prepare discussion questions and exercises to test skills during webinars and presentations.
When reps take part in live discussions and practice the skills they’re learning, they’re more likely to retain and apply them when they hit the floor.
6. Think outside the classroom
Training and lecturing are two different things. Lecturing is telling someone how to do something, while training is actually showing them.
Take new hires out of the classroom so they can see skills being put to use in real-life scenarios and how to put them into action themselves.
7. Focus on moving the needle
Hiring and training salespeople is an investment. To get the best return on that investment, you can’t treat it as a one-and-done. Skill retention requires applied learning and repetition.
Don’t waste your investment by neglecting follow-up sessions, coaching, and feedback. Good coaching builds on the skills learned in training and helps reps understand where they are and where they need to be.
8. Leverage gamification
Gamifying information is an easy way to improve retention and increase problem-solving. New hires who are challenged to solve problems and demonstrate skills outside of the pressure of the sales floor feel safer trying new things. Contests, competitions, and similar tactics help reps use skills in dynamic ways.
Who needs a sales development plan?
You may be wondering: do you even need a sales development plan?
The answer is YES if you want to:
- Meet quota consistently
- Retain your team over the long haul
- Improve morale
- Grow and scale your business
Regardless of size, every sales department needs certain skills and information to be successful. A comprehensive sales development plan lays the foundation for your team to build and adopt these skills.
Reach out to learn more about our customizable virtual sales training programs and get the best out of people.