5 Sales Training Tips to Make Your Salespeople Smarter Than 5th Graders

June 2, 2015
5 Sales Training Tips to Make Your Salespeople Smarter Than 5th Graders

Sales training can be tough, especially with employees that have extensive selling experience. You know the type: they’ve been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. Hiring a tenured salesperson can be a beautiful thing, but sales training often goes awry when employees think they know it all already.

But as I’ve learned with every new mentor, book, and person that I’ve crossed paths with: there is always something new to learn (and something to teach).

As an example I’d like to refer to the popular television show Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?  The concept of the show is simple: it challenges intelligent adults of varying career backgrounds with questions from textbooks and material from first through fifth grade classrooms. Sounds easy, right? That’s exactly what they’d like you to think.

After beginning with fairly simple questions, they then begin to ramp up the questions, stumping contestants to then pit them against actual 5th graders who are a bit fresher on the topics.

Now I know what you’re thinking: what does all this have to do with sales and training my sales team?

Well, when it comes to salespeople (myself included), it is easy to think the current strategies are working just fine or that there is nothing left to learn. However just like the contestants on Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?, sometimes reflection on the basics is the wake-up call needed to jump start the current sales strategy.

We’ve compiled a list of 5 sales training tips to make your salespeople smarter than 5th graders.

1. Relationships matter.

This back-to-basics tip might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to gloss over in the height of a potential deal or sale. It’s crucial to remind your sales team that relationships matter and that trust comes from strong relationships, not flowery words. Prospects value integrity, sincerity, experience, competence, and honesty.

2. If you never ask, the answer will always be “no.”

My dad once said that if I wanted to learn how to ask customers for business all I had to do was spend 5 minutes at the toy store listening to kids ask their parents for things. As it turns out, father knows best. During sales training, it is important to remind salespeople to ask for business rather than assuming their strong mutual relationship will automatically lead to a close. Tact is important, of course, and your “asking” strategies should be part of your Sales PlayBook.

3. Become a rainbow of joy, a beacon of light.

Yep, I said it: train your salespeople to be rainbows of joy and beacons of light. What does that mean? Most people see dozens or even hundreds of people in a day, and most of these people are flat out grumpy. It is easy for salespeople to get discouraged after experiencing so much negativity on a daily basis, but as a sales manager, you can help!

This one takes a little more effort, however, because training your sales team to be joyous truly starts with you. Ghandi once said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” A positive attitude starts within each and every one of us and as a sales manager, you certainly have the power to influence change.

Encouraging your salespeople to be a ray of sunshine while visiting with prospects or making cold calls will certainly set them apart from the typical salesperson. On the plus side, it will also improve the life of the salesperson, your team as a whole, and will make the world just a little bit brighter.

4. Value, value, value

What is the number one complaint most managers hear about their salespeople? In my experience it has been that the salesperson did nothing but waste their prospects’ time (see our recent article about Professional Visitors to learn more).

During sales training, it is important to emphasize the crucial nature of adding value to the lives of your clients. What can your sales team do to add value to the day or life of a client? Well, they can:

Be a Connector – add value by connecting the client with potential customers or networking opportunities
Solve Problems – as Charles Bernard teaches, “Create an inventory of problems that you solve, because people love talking about problems.”
Educate – provide valuable information that teaches the client something that will help them make more money, be more efficient, or change a system
Give – offer your time or resources to assist clients (Do they need help getting people to attend an open house? Are they looking for volunteers for a project?)

5. Follow systems & be consistent.

Creating a detailed system and having a Sales PlayBook is great, but it won’t work if the system isn’t followed consistently. During sales training and follow-up training, it is important to remind salespeople that the system will only work if it’s practiced. If you notice a salesperson lagging behind with the system it is your job as a sales manager to help get them back on track.

Perhaps implementing bonus compensation through use of Management by Objective (MBO) and focusing one of their objectives on adhering to the system will help keep your staff on track.

We hope you enjoyed these back-to-basics sales tips!

If you're interested in new ideas to help motivate your team, you may also enjoy our Free WorkSheet on Driving Sales Performance through MBO (Management by Objective) Compensation.
Drive Sales Performance through MBO Compensation


  • Geoff Schenck - Reply

    Very well written article. You obviously have a good grasp of this subject matter. Thank You

    • Rebecca Smith - Reply

      Thank you for the kind feedback, Geoff!

  • Michael Cherry - Reply

    Thank You. The author has a very good grasp of this material.

    • Rebecca Smith - Reply

      Thank you, Michael! We appreciate your kind words!

  • Todd Hughes - Reply

    Awesome article and great down to earth foundation pieces that anyone can build success upon! The author definitely has an amazing perspective on the subject matter.

    • Rebecca Smith - Reply

      Thank you so much, Todd!!

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