The sales team or salesperson is an important role in any business. They research potential clients, actively prospect, write proposals and secure sales. They keep the business growing. However, unlike their corporate counterparts, SMEs operate with a smaller budget and limited resources.

It’s plausible that larger businesses can afford to, and do, invest in the development of their sales teams on a more consistent basis. They’re normally supported by large learning and development departments and invest in training and coaching.

For any sales team, continuous learning is the key to success and business growth. Although investing in sales training and coaching is valuable and a necessary part of your business strategy, there are other ways in which businesses can give their sales teams the training they need as well as see return on investment.

Firstly, businesses must know the essential areas for which a sales team should be prepared. These areas include account planning, prospecting skills and strategy, public speaking and pitching skills, business acumen, proposal writing and resilience. Once a business maps out the core components needed for the role of its sales team, plans and initiatives can be implemented to make sure your sales team ticks the right boxes.

Instead of neglecting sales team training due to lack of resources, follow these tips to guide you through what’s most important for your business. This way, sales training won’t seem so far out of reach.

Time allocation: Where is most of your sales team’s time spent? Is it on the phone actively pitching for work? Is it writing proposals? When you break down the skills and attributes into priorities you can clearly see what areas are of most importance to invest in.

Prioritise your training: When you look at the skills your sales team needs to be trained in, are there areas in which you feel a more qualified person is needed? If so, then concentrate on the areas you can do in-house and just invest in the training that’s essential you seek professional support for.

Reading material in abundance: There are many blogs (such as this one) that give tips, advice and support regarding sales related issues such as resilience, leadership, prospecting and much more. These can be a great source of guidance and help your sales team gain knowledge and further their professional development. They can be given to your sales team to have a read over on a regular basis or they can be used as a point of discussion at your next meeting.

Open communication: Make it a part of your regular business operations to have a monthly meeting purely to discuss things that your sales team are having issues with. This should be a time where they feel comfortable to voice any concerns they may have. As a business owner you will hear what areas your sales team is unhappy in and have a better understanding as to what should be the point of focus for their professional development.

Invest in seminars: Sales seminars are a great source of information and the people who speak at these conferences are highly experienced and knowledgeable in their field. Make the effort and room in your budget to get your salespeople to attend a couple of seminars a year. They will hear from the industry experts and walk away hopefully feeling motivated and focused.

Smart businesses quickly see the value of investing in training of sales teams, even on a tight budget. I have worked with some businesses that have seen a return on investment and a profit increase by up to 30% in only four weeks after training was completed. The increasing complexity of business structure, market changes, people dynamics, customer buying patterns and evolving technology, among other things, have made the job of sales managers and leaders that much more challenging. It is time for businesses large, medium and small to step up their sales training, but most importantly to have a consistent ongoing structure.

Sue Barrett
BY Sue Barrett ON 22 November 2011
Sue Barrett is one of the leading female voices commenting on sales today. An experienced business speaker and adviser, facilitator, sales coach, training provider and entrepreneur and founder of Barrett Consulting, which provides sales assessments, sales consulting, sales coaching and sales training programs.

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