From using new technologies to improving your conversation, there’s always room to develop your sales approach. And not only is learning an ongoing part of mastering the sales craft, but it’s also central to scaling a high-performing sales team.
Here we show you how professional development can help you successfully scale your sales operation.
The Importance of Professional Development for Sales Teams
With record numbers of professionals changing jobs, investing in development is a powerful way to attract and retain great people. And, by creating a culture that promotes learning and development, you’ll quickly find engagement rises. Win-win.
On the other hand, it’s easy to get caught up chasing targets and numbers when you’re in a sales role. But when individual career development falls to the wayside, it creates a drag on the business and motivation falls.
Ultimately, demotivated people won’t stick around for long. Rather than seeing coworkers quit (which can cost up to 1.5 to 2 times their entire annual salary for the business) here’s how you can rethink your professional development strategy to retain and grow your team.
Top Tips for Tweaking Your Professional Development Strategy
1. Create an Effective Onboarding Process
Development starts on day one, so you need to ensure your onboarding is arming teams with the knowledge and the tools they need to flourish.
Tommy Jester, Sales Director for North America, says, “It’s important not to rush it, as putting someone into a role before they’re ready can harm their development. A well-planned onboarding process should break down the key elements of the company, the product, and the sales process in an easily digestible way.”
2. Set Clear Expectations for Each Role on Your Team
If your sales manager is spending the day on admin rather than leading, something’s gone wrong. Make sure everyone knows what their role is (and give them space to focus on it) and you’ll see the benefits.
Tommy’s advice: “I like to be up-front in every conversation about the current state of the role/team/company and be honest about how that situation can evolve and change. Typically in startups and SaaS companies, there are a lot of gray areas, so being transparent and honest about where things are and where they might be tomorrow is a good way to set clear expectations.”
3. Build Trust with Your Direct Reports
With deals to close, targets to hit, and reports to file, sales can be a high-pressure environment. While a little healthy competition is a powerful motivator, you want to ensure your direct reports know you’ve got their back.
“If the team doesn’t trust their manager, it will be difficult for development to take place. To grow, you need to be pushed outside your comfort zone; you need to be open to being challenged and okay with the fact that you might be wrong sometimes. That goes both ways for managers/leaders and individual contributors. Without trust, development opportunities can come and go without takeaways or growth actually occurring,” Tommy says.
4. Enable Contributors to Define Their Career Path
Everybody has a unique career path—there’s no “right” or “wrong” way. That’s why it’s crucial for you to empower individuals to shape their future roles.
Tommy’s advice: “You need to genuinely want the best for each person on your team—that means allowing them to own their growth by putting the power in their hands. Ask them what they want for themselves and their career. What do they want next? Your job as a manager is to give them the tools to help them make that happen. If they feel that trust and support, that’s when the magic happens.”
Key Professional Development Areas for Sales Teams
With your overall approach defined, it’s time to start thinking about the nuts and bolts of your development program. While this will vary depending on your business, here are a few surefire areas every sales team will want to explore.
1. Basic Sales Skills
Sales approaches are always changing, so this isn’t just a boot camp for fresh graduates. Regular updates on core tenets of sales success will keep your team sharp and consistent. Without regular refreshers, you risk the team becoming fragmented, with new hires and veterans running their sales from different playbooks.
2. Business Tools and Integrations
In recent years, there’s been a proliferation of apps for every business function.
Sales is no exception, with organizations both investing more in tools, and salespeople using more daily. While new tools can offer productivity gains, for new hires and old hands alike, knowing where to start can be overwhelming.
Leadership skills aren’t just for those sitting in the boardroom. Every member of a great sales team will lead at some point, regardless of hierarchy.
Confidence and motivation are key to successful sales, so you want to cultivate these leadership qualities in each and every one of your team members. Leadership training will also help your team grow internally and mean you’re less likely to lose great hires to competitors offering more progression.
Tailor the training on offer to your team’s needs (if you don’t know what they are, send out a quick survey), and seek out a mix of internal experts, third-party training programs, and even thought leaders for TED-X–style sessions for maximum impact.
4. Data Analysis
The amount of data we create and record is growing exponentially. Crunching those numbers can provide insights that will help your sales team build stronger customer relationships. To do this, though, you don’t need a supercomputer.
From call center speech analysis to predictive analytics, new tools can do the heavy lifting, mining your data for trends and even using machine learning to predict customer needs.
5. Digital Marketing and Social Selling
After years of disruption to in-person meetups, it’s no wonder social selling is top of mind for great sales teams.
Social platforms provide a fantastic route to connecting with prospects on a meaningful level. But they require a subtle approach. Provide those new to social selling with tips on how to engage through social and try highlighting thought leaders you think will provide inspiration to your team.
A high-performing sales team doesn’t just hit targets—it exceeds them. However, you can only scale performance if you also scale your team. And for that, development is key.
At its essence, development helps you do two things that are crucial to growing teams and growing targets: It lets you nurture and retain the great talent you have today and helps you create an environment that will attract the very best people tomorrow.
Interested in learning even more about how you can build a stronger sales team? Take a look at our blog covering the 5 essential sales trends to explore.
Published on March 1, 2023.