Building a Data-Driven Sales Training Program

April 15, 2015
min read time
Sam Aparicio
Sam Aparicio
Co-founder & CEO, Ring.io
Building a Data-Driven Sales Training Program

Sales managers are becoming more and more data-driven, but one critical part of building a sales team has remained relatively unchanged: sales training.

By building a sales training program backed by quantifiable data, you’re able to evaluate and improve the process effectively. With data, you can continuously iterate until you’re able to turn your sales hires into world class closers.

In his new book, The Sales Acceleration Formula, HubSpot’s Mark Roberge details how he used these data-driven techniques to build a sales training program that’s helped HubSpot constantly churn out great sales reps.

Define Your Sales Methodology

Before you can develop an effective training program, you need to define your sales methodology. “Always be closing” doesn’t count.

In his book, Mark defines the three key areas of a sales methodology – the buyer’s journey, sales process, and qualifying matrix.

The buyer’s journey starts with a need, and it typically begins long before the buyer engages directly. It’s a process of discovery, and your inbound marketing and sales efforts play a major role in whether that journey leads to a win for your rep.

Your sales process describes what your sales team can do to guide and support the buyer through each step of the buyer’s process. This is where your reps shine as trusted advisers, guiding the prospect skillfully toward a mutually beneficial outcome.

Your qualification matrix allows your reps to focus on the prospects most likely to buy, and avoid wasting time on flimsy leads. You want to establish strong criteria, but not so strong that quality leads slip through the cracks.

Turn Your Methodology into a Curriculum

Now it’s time to develop your sales training curriculum.

Start by breaking your sales methodology down into distinct stages based on key points. Common stages include objection handling, lead qualification, follow up, and more.

Once you have the framework laid out, you can begin developing a training curriculum for each stage of your sales methodology.

This is the perfect time to integrate your top performers into the training process. Identify the best performing rep for each stage, and have that rep share their tactics with your trainees. This allows your top performers to focus on teaching what they do best, without the potential downsides that come with ride-alongs.

Quantify Your Sales Training

Effective sales training programs and well run classrooms share a lot in common.

To evaluate and track your sales reps’ competency, create exams based on your curriculum. Use these exams to test the trainee’s knowledge of your sales tactics, your products, your competitors, and other important aspects of your sales methodology.

For skills that cannot be evaluated in a question and answer format, develop role-play exercises and create a checklist of signs to watch for, such as asking about the lead’s budget in a lead qualification exercise.

When a new rep completes a key stage of training, succeeds in a role-play exercise, or does well on an exam, HubSpot rewards them with a certificate that shows their progress. These certificates give the rep a tangible indicator of success, and make it easy for you to keep track of their progress.

Say Goodbye to Ride-Alongs

The basic concept behind ride-alongs and sales shadowing isn’t a bad one. You definitely want your top performers to share their knowledge with new reps.

It’s just that the ride-along, in practice, isn’t really an efficient way to teach core sales skills.

Your top reps each get the job done in a different way, and what works for one may not work for another.

When building a new rep’s skills from the ground up, you want to provide a clear, consistent message. Sales shadowing often muddles that message, even when everyone involved has good intentions. Ride-alongs also do not yield any quantitative data that you can use effectively.

Evaluating Your Training Process

Sales teams thrive on accountability, and your sales training program should be no different.

HubSpot’s sales reps fill out six-month feedback forms after they complete their sales training program. This feedback is then used to shape their future curriculum.

By asking them to rank training sessions from most to least helpful after 6 months on the job, HubSpot’s sales management is able to quantify just how effective or ineffective each sessions is.

Once your new rep has spent some time in the field, compare their training performance to their on-the-job performance. There will always be outliers, but strong performance in training should correlate with strong performance in the field. If this correlation does not exist, then you need to improve your sales training program.

Use the insights you gain from both quantitative data and feedback from your team to refine your training process until it delivers the results you want.

Commit to Quality

Developing a high quality, repeatable training program requires commitment on your end.

It’s not an overnight process, and you won’t achieve your desired results by taking shortcuts.

Too often, reps with all the raw skills necessary to succeed burn out before getting a real chance to hone those skills. Commit to a quality training process, and every rep you hire will have a shot at becoming a top performer on your team.


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