Can Sales Be Taught? It Depends…

There is one question that most sales managers and sales trainers have asked themselves at some point. 

The question is,

“Can sales actually be taught?”

The answer is, maybe. But it depends on the individual’s commitment level to acquire sales skills. A small percentage of people have an innate ability to be good at sales. However, that is the minority. Most salespeople are not naturally gifted but rather have spent many hours in the field, improving their skills. So yes, sales can and should be taught. But it will depend on the individual whether or not he or she will commit to learning how to sell.

Most of the best salespeople I’ve known created themselves.

They were not born great at sales.
In fact, even Zig Ziglar had to recreate his own self-concept in order to become one of the most renowned sales trainers and motivational speakers of all time.

He considered himself to be an introvert who was not naturally great at selling.

He even changed his name to Zig so he could identify with a new persona he created. A persona that was highly motivational, upbeat and successful. He grew into being a great salesperson.

But he would not have become Zig Ziglar had he not been completely committed to doing whatever it takes to learn how to sell.

I guess this can be said about all masters at any craft.

Anybody can learn how to be good at sales...IF they are committed to doing so.

There are a few things that sales trainers or managers can do to help create an environment for committed salespeople to be a part of.

One of the important factors is how you go about teaching sales.

Have you ever had piano lessons as a kid?
Well, I remember distinctly how two different teachers were able to motivate me at different levels, depending on their style and personal love for the piano.

One teacher did not seem to draw the best out of me and left me feeling unmotivated, while the other teacher sparked musical interest in me, causing me to increase my commitment level big time.

The same can be said about teaching sales. As a result, how you deliver your training matters.

How do you teach sales?

So, if sales can be taught, what is the best way to go about teaching it?

Just like with anything else, the more effort you put into something, the better outcome you will get.

If teaching a new salesperson how to sell is a priority on your schedule, it’s a lot more likely to get done.

However, I know that training salespeople is not the only thing that is on your to-do list.

In fact, it’s probably one of those things that doesn’t even get planned into your day, much less as a priority. 

So the thought of spending a lot of time teaching a new salesperson how to effectively sell a product or service is not appealing to you.

The good thing is, there’s a way around spending hours with each new sales rep. 

Here are four ways to teach a new salesperson to ensure the best results: 

1. Make it relevant

All of your training must directly address a present situation or challenge. Try to stay away from things that don’t directly apply to a salesperson today. 

If your salesperson mainly sells to millennial customers, focus on ways to approach millennial customers.

Additionally, try to deal with real-life interactions and address things that are super relevant to the situation.

2. Make it daily

The way to teach sales is to have a system in place that allows the new salesperson to train every day without the need for you to be present. The best way to do this is to get virtual sales training. You can learn more about what I recommend here.

If you want your sales team to become great at sales, you must make it a requirement that they train every day. The ones that are committed to improvement will train and the others won’t. But these would fall off eventually anyway. Find the ones that are committed and invest your time in them.

3. Make it interactive

Make your training interactive so that it emulates a real-life scenario.

If your sales team is going to spend time training, ensure that they learn in a way that helps them to apply it on the field.

4. Make it accessible

If you require a salesperson to train daily, accessing the training must be easy.

The best way to do this is to offer training that is available on a salesperson’s phone, laptop or tablet.

Your job is to make it as easy as possible for salespeople to get trained in sales. But you also want to free up your own time as much as possible.

How to keep a sales team motivated

The next question that often comes up is how to keep a sales team motivated to get better even when they don’t see significant progress in their sales quotas.

1. Have daily pow-wows

Scheduling a meeting every day for 10 minutes is one of the best ways to keep your sales team motivated and excited to reach their goals.

It doesn’t have to be long.

However, it’s important to keep these talks upbeat, motivational and relevant. Check out this post for additional sales meeting ideas.

2. Get to know each individual's strengths

Know who you work with. Each person has their own strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, look for ways to enable more of their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses by including teamwork.

3. Look for progress and effort

If you want to encourage a salesperson who is not naturally very good at sales to improve and keep learning, praise their efforts and progress as opposed to results.

This might be hard at first because sales is results oriented.

However, in the long run, you might be surprised at the greatness of your team you’ve built up because you’ve focused on effort vs talent. 

Remember that it takes a complete commitment on part of the salesperson to become great at sales. So while you must do your part, you can’t force anybody to be committed. 

4. Set weekly goals

Don’t let things get off track by failing to set weekly goals. Aim for a certain amount of cold calls, or outreaches and let the numbers take care of themselves.

Focus on what your salespeople CAN control and not what is out of their control.

While sales can be taught, it’s highly important that every trainer, manager and owner does what they can to make it as effective as possible.

That being said, if someone truly wants to become great at sales, they will learn to do so anyhow.

So at the end of the day, sales can be learned by anyone who is willing to do whatever it takes to learn the art of selling.

Related Questions

1. How Long Should Sales Training Be?

Sales training should not have an end date. 

I recommend that training be something your salespeople engage in every day. That’s why it doesn’t need to be longer than 15-20 minutes at a time.

Some training programs have a start and end date that usually lasts between eight weeks and ninety days, I don’t think that’s ideal.

The most effective training is one that is ongoing and daily.

This allows for a salesperson to access the training at their own convenience throughout the day and helps keeps knowledge fresh.

So instead of wondering how long sales training should last, think about ways to practically include it into your salesperson’s every day schedule.

2. When Is It Time To Let A Salesperson Go?

There is not a set answer to this question.

However, one of the best indicators that it’s time to let a salesperson go is when they have given up on trying and you feel like their commitment levels have plummeted.

There could be many other reasons to let a salesperson go, most of which are much more clear, cut and dry. 

If a member of your sales team is slacking off on training and is not hitting their numbers, it’s time to reevaluate if sales is the right job for them to be in.

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