The Top 10 Most Effective Sales Training Techniques

Written by
Josh Jordan
May 23, 2022

There’s a lot of advice out there about how to become a better salesperson. But there’s only so much you can learn about sales from reading an article. Likewise, there’s only so much you can learn about sales from a 4-week class or training period.

Consider this: On average, more than 84% of content learned during the initial sales training period is completely forgotten within 90 days if it isn’t used. That’s because we mainly remember the things that apply most to our everyday lives. If we don’t use the information, we lose it.

Listen to real stories from software SDRs, and they’ll tell you that corporate training did little to prepare them for the realities of the sales floor. It wasn’t until they started making calls that they really figured out how to succeed. That doesn’t mean in-house training and onboarding is useless. But in order to help SDRs ramp up in an efficient manner, many companies may need to rethink how they handle their training process.

So how do you develop training that actually sticks? How do you train salespeople to be better without waiting for them to gain years of experience? We had the same questions at Prehired. That drove us to develop our Science-Based Sales® training — a career launch program that teaches people everything they need to know to join the top 5% of salespeople in the SaaS industry. After countless hours of research and interviews with the best software sales professionals to help so many launch their careers and succeed, we know what really works.

To help you create a better training program for your reps and start seeing results, here is our top 10 list of the most effective sales training techniques ranked.

Training Preparation

Before you begin developing or redesigning your training process for new sales reps, you need to know what to teach them. With a clear plan, you can work through the material at an efficient pace. It also provides a clear direction for growth during the first 90 days.

Your Sales Methodology

Your company’s sales methodology is the first thing you want to develop. This is your innate philosophy of sales and how you approach the task of selling your product to your customers. It informs how salespeople will handle nearly every situation.

There are a number of predefined sales methodologies out there you can choose from, including the challenger model, SPIN selling, conceptual selling, etc.. Just keep in mind that your unique approach should directly serve your target market. Get to know your ideal customers and tailor your approach to work with their needs. What challenges and worldviews do you need to speak to before closing a deal?  What kind of traits do they respect in a salesperson?

At Prehired, the core tenet of our Science-Based Sales® methodology is Clarity > Closing®. It’s based on the fact that cheap sales tricks and coercive techniques simply don’t work anymore. Instead, we believe in an honest, clear approach to presenting the value proposition to the prospect. We believe reps who strive for clarity when talking to potential customers (instead of just pushing them to buy) tend to close more deals that stick in the long run.

Your Sales Process

Your sales process is the actual set of steps you follow to sell your product on a daily basis. It’s a model for applying your methodology at different stages of the sales pipeline. Your sales process is the most practical thing you will teach your new sales reps. But if you don’t already have a clear process in place, your new reps (and your sales managers) will only be frustrated as they try to develop a system on their own.

Everyone on your team should have access to a fully detailed sales process document. You can also create a sales playbook that breaks up the content of your sales process into bite-sized modules. This way, your reps can easily locate processes for essential tasks like qualifying leads, prospecting on social media or presenting their first demo.

Be sure to introduce your sales playbook early on in the training and onboarding process. This will give new reps plenty of time to get comfortable with the complexities of your sales process.

Best Practices for Outreach

One of the most important jobs of an SDR is outreach to potential customers. Most of the time they are either taking calls, making calls or sending emails. But not every new rep knows how to make a great sales call right off the bat, and writing a good email is a skill that takes time to learn.

To shorten that learning curve, develop call scripts and email templates for reps to study during training and use once they reach the sales floor. You want your reps to start learning your sales process with these in hand and learn best practices through examples. Then, you can drill them on when to use each one.

Test different sequences to find the best combination and include these results in your playbook for regular review. The more they practice, the more efficient they will be at executing the right process.

Your Training and Onboarding Plan

To make the most of your training process, you should approach it with a well-developed plan. In other words, you should implement these training techniques in a conscious order. Know what you are going to teach your new sales reps (and when) before they even walk in the door on their first day. This way, you can organize the content of the training to be more focused, engaging and efficient. 

Part of your goal is to shorten the time it takes for an SDR to fully ramp up. You can’t hold their hand for the full 90 days, so you need to focus your training and onboarding on the most important things. Think of it in this order:

  • Learning Company Basics - Before your reps do anything, they need to know who they’re working for. Start with a bit of company history, introducing the executives and people in other key roles. Teach them the company’s mission, vision and values. You may introduce some basic sales terminology at this stage, depending on the level of experience your new reps are coming in with.
  • Product Training - Sales reps need to have a deep knowledge of your product and the solutions it offers. This is perhaps the most important thing your reps need to learn overall. None of your training about process or methodology will make sense without that context.
  • Customer Persona Training - In order to understand and communicate the value of the product, your reps need to know who your customers are. Why do they need this? They should know what solutions the product provides for these people and how. Drill them on customer personas early on so they get to know them like they were a character in a book.
  • Start Cold Calling - Your reps need to get over that fear right away. Starting cold calling early on in training is one of the most effective ways to start solidifying process knowledge. While you don’t have to use real leads, it makes the experience more realistic if they’re talking to actual potential customers. Have your reps call and try to sell something low-stakes to a stranger — like a pizza.
  • Supervised Practice - You need to get your sales reps onto the floor as soon as possible. The sooner they start to fully inhabit their role, the faster they start making mistakes. You heard that right — get those initial mistakes out of the way so you can correct them and start bringing your reps closer to the mark.

The Top 10 Best Sales Training Techniques (Ranked by Efficacy)

There are a number of sales training techniques we could have mentioned in this list. However, we ranked these techniques based on how well they prepare new hires for the real duties of sales, with #1 being the most effective. That said, all of these are good practices. Some are just more effective than others. Consider the culture of your company and your own experience with your ideal SDR candidates to choose what techniques you want to repeat.

10. Encourage Autonomy

Sales reps need to be able to think on their feet. When an atypical situation arises during a sales call, reps can’t always ask their managers for advice. There’s no time. Instead, part of your training should focus on empowering your new hires to do what they know how to do best — sell.

You can do this by developing opportunities for critical and creative thinking during your training process. Role-play exercises are great for this. Rather than asking them to guess the answer, let them come up with their own solution. This will require reps to synthesize multiple ideas and use all of their pre-existing knowledge to create a solution. The more you make your reps think for themselves, the faster you can trust them to work independently without supervision from peers, mentors or management.

9. Gamification

While the term “gamification” (turning a task into a game) may sound cheesy, it can actually be very effective during training. Some competition is healthy because it encourages your reps to try and outdo one another (and we all know sales people tend to be competitive by nature). Just make sure to encourage good sportsmanship and teamwork at the end of the day.

The core challenge of the game should reflect what your sales reps will actually face on the sales floor. Think about challenges related to meeting quotas, making a certain number of calls or closing deals of a certain size. You can also practice soft skills that help your reps have better conversations.

Here’s an example of a challenge you might use to make role-play exercises more interesting:

Challenge: Too often you hear sales articles say, “Take time to get to know your prospect.” But sales reps can’t jump into a cold call with a busy executive and say, “Tell me about your business,” or “What are your pain points?” The few people who actually do pick up the phone often don’t have time for a long chat. The sales rep has to accomplish so much in the span of few minutes.

Objective: Have your reps hunt for key prospect information and book another meeting with them over the course of a timed sales call.

Training Outcome: Help your reps have more efficient initial conversation with a prospect.

Goals: Have your reps do a mock call (or a real call with a prospect, if possible) and achieve the following goals within 3 minutes:

  • Grab Attention
  • Introduce Themselves
  • Get The Prospect To Listen
  • Learn Key Information About Their Business
  • Book a Follow-Up Meeting

To practice speed and critical thinking, you can have your reps try this exercise without a script. If they can do it without a prepared script, they’ll kill it when they start using one.

8. Recognition

Great training programs have great motivational strategies built into them. While many sales departments award commissions for effective selling, reps typically don’t receive those bonuses until after their first 90 days.

Cash or prizes aren’t the only effective forms of motivation you can use. Something as simple as recognizing good performance can really boost the effectiveness of your training process. You can either recognize your reps privately or give them a shoutout in a public venue like a Slack channel or the weekly company email (depending on their preference).

If you consistently encourage good habits and performance from the start, your reps will emerge from training more confident in their ability to sell your product. They will also have a more positive view of working at your company if your acknowledge and reward values they align with. Such desirable traits can include:

  • Hard work
  • Improvement of a specific skill
  • Demonstrating company values
  • Being a team player

7. Attend Events Related to Target Industries

Part of a sales rep’s job is to connect with customers from a handful of very specific industries. To do this, they need to understand those ideal customers inside and out. A great way for reps to learn this during training is by attending industry-related events and talking to those people directly.

While conferences are a great place for this on-the-ground education, anywhere sales reps can go to connect with people in your target market will work. The main goal is to help them learn how your ideal customers think. It may even lead to a sales conversation. But even if it doesn’t, talking to people at these events can help reps build relationships that may become important connections later on.

6. Scenario-Specific Role Play

Role play scenarios also have a bad reputation among some sales reps for being totally unrealistic. Most sales managers aren’t exactly Hollywood actors. But role-play exercises during sales training can be very effective if done properly.

The idea behind role play is to practice sales skills in a mock scenario without the pressure of a real sales call. There are also opportunities for in-the-moment coaching and feedback throughout the exercise.

To make role playing work, you’ll want to make the scenarios realistic. If possible, try developing a script based on a real-life sales call. This helps the scenario feel more real even if you’re just practicing.

These scenarios should also be specific to certain target industries and customer types. This makes the role playing exercise more focused and helps your reps tailor their approach based on what an actual prospect may need.

5. E-Learning / Video Training

Video lessons are typically much more engaging than reading material. In some cases, they may even be more effective than in-person lectures. By distributing your training via video lessons, you have 3 main advantages:

  • More Control via Editing. Because you aren’t limited by what you can do in a classroom, a video allows you to create a visually engaging and dynamic training modules. You can also include graphics, animations, music and more. This can help reps pay attention longer and retain information better.
  • Asynchronous Training. In a classroom, everyone has to be present at once, and learning happens on a set schedule. On the other hand, pre-recorded videos allow your new hires to work through the training at the pace that works best for their learning style. They can also rewind the content to catch something they missed and re-watch the material as many times as they need. This is especially good for remote work environments.
  • Efficiency. With video, you can edit your lessons to cut pauses and include only the most important information. This usually makes the total duration of the training process much shorter than it would have been if it were taught in person.

This is exactly how we do our training at Prehired, and we’ve seen great results. With a combination of mentors, practice, assessments and video training, our reps emerge fully prepared to take on an SDR role.

4. Review Sales Calls

Just like football players review footage of the last game with their coaches, new sales reps can learn a lot from reviewing sales calls with their managers. Often it doesn’t take much coaching for the sales rep to notice how they could have improved. Listening to a recording of yourself talking to someone is usually enough to turn on your inner critic.

That said, new reps usually don’t have much of an opportunity to make calls at the early stages of training. Instead, you can start by reviewing calls from other reps instead.

Beyond that, you can review other sales material with your reps on a regular basis to increase knowledge retention. Saving notes and scheduling times to frequently review written content can help solidify a rep’s skills over the course of their first 90 days.

3. Peer Shadowing

Shadowing more experienced reps can accelerate the learning process for new hires. It provides a more immersive (and realistic) look at the job they’ll be doing every day. Without the pressure of making calls yet, reps can study the different strategies and techniques of your top-performing sales reps more closely than they could in a classroom setting. They can also take notes and ask questions when the opportunity arises.

This goes both ways, too. Once the rep is confident enough to start taking calls themselves, you can assign the same experienced sales rep to come sit with them. Having this over-the-shoulder support can help them feel more comfortable adjusting to their new role.

If you are in the office, you can have your reps pull two chairs up to the same desk. One of them will make calls and the other will observe. If you are in a remote environment, you can achieve the same effect through screen sharing.

2. Mentoring

When learning sales (or any skill for that matter), sometimes it isn’t about what you learn so much as who you learn it from. Mentors provide a direct model from which new reps can learn attitudes, behaviors and habits through intuition. By forming a close, individual teaching relationship with a new hire, the mentor imprints their knowledge and experience by continuous exposure. They also free up time for trainers by answering their mentee’s questions individually.

Think of it like this: Who is going to have more to offer your new sales reps? A corporate trainer that works through packaged material, or someone who has spent years grinding away on the sales floor? Your best sales reps have a deeper knowledge of how things really work and the experiences to back it up.

That said, it can be hard to pull your best performers away from their job to teach new reps all the time. Assigning mid-tier performers as occasional mentors can actually produce better performance in both parties. As a mentor, your experienced reps have to take what they know and teach it to someone else. The act of teaching these skills to another person causes the experienced rep to reflect on their own performance in a unique way. Doing this often makes them better performers over time.

At Prehired, we provide each of our members with a dedicated mentor that can give them personal advice and help them along their sales journey. Our members form strong relationships with their mentors and gain the support they need to become better salespeople than ever before.

1. Practice + Coaching

While all of these techniques listed so far are truly effective, nothing beats learning from experience. Instead of teaching theoretical concepts in a classroom setting, the most effective sales training technique is practice. To train the most effective sales reps possible, they need to start taking real calls, sending real emails and prospecting as soon as possible.

Of course, you’ll need to teach them some of the basics before they start practicing. Don’t send them out too soon, or you could demotivate them altogether. And if they don’t have enough knowledge and support, they may not ever want to try again. However, at some point you have to let them try. It’s hard to learn how to find your own balance if someone is always holding your hand.

That said, this early-stage practice has to be paired with frequent coaching. Your sales reps are bound to make mistakes during this trial run, and you’ll need to step in and course correct. If they didn’t follow the script, call that out. If they tried to close the deal too soon, show them a better way to steer the conversation. If they weren’t confident in their pitch, give them a boost of encouragement. Over time, this consistent coaching will drive more effective habits and reinforce key knowledge.

Final Thoughts

What does it take for brand new SDRs to become pro salespeople? Is it natural talent? Is it formal education? We don’t believe that at Prehired. Instead, we believe that anyone with a good attitude and a dedication to learning the trade can become truly successful in SaaS sales.

If you listen closely to your top performers, you’ll come to find that many of them learned their skills from great salespeople that came before them — the people who have been in the business for a long time. They succeed by taking advice from those great examples and implementing their systems into their daily workflow.

That’s exactly what we aim to provide at Prehired through our Science-Based Sales® training process. After many hours of research and interviews with thousands of the SaaS industry’s greatest professionals, we’ve created a program that gives people everything they need to join the ranks of the top 5% most successful salespeople in the business.

That means that if you hire a Prehired member, they’ll be ready to jump into your sales process right away. No more wasting extra training hours to support low-tier talent. Armed with the right tools, techniques and mindset for outbound prospecting, Prehired members are bound to produce great results for your sales team.

By becoming a Prehired partner, you‘ll have access to a pipeline of highly qualified SDR candidates. If they don’t last more than 60 days at your company, we’ll replace the candidate.

Start hiring better talent today. Hire a Prehired member and save yourself the trouble of extra training.

Josh Jordan

As Prehired's Founder & CEO, Josh Jordan is leading the mission to help 10,000 people launch 6-figure software sales careers by the end of 2024.

How? With Prehired's Science-Based Sales® process -- born from helping dozens of software companies build their sales teams...

...and then consulting with hundreds of Software Sales Managers on exactly what they wanted new hires to know...

...and then helping hundreds of regular folks break into software sales in 12 weeks, on average.

Josh created Science-Based Sales® to help nearly anyone succeed in software sales, because it creates clarity for prospects. No killer closer instincts, charisma or kissing up to decision makers needed.

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