5 Ways to Optimize Your Sales Team’s SFA Training

By: on October 17, 2016

“You want to work here—close.”

So says Alec Baldwin in “Glengarry Glen Ross,” reflecting the tense feeling of many a sales floor.

What are you to do, then, when you’re trying to implement new sales force automation (SFA) software for your sales team, but the training for that system will take the team away from time spent closing?

In this article, we give you a list of ways to optimize SFA system training, so that both you and your sales team can get the most out of the new software without anybody feeling like their time is being wasted.

Involve Your Team in Software Selection

One way to get your team engaged is to get them involved long before training even begins.

Rather than just selecting the software yourself—or leaving it to system administrators—be sure to actively involve your team when choosing the new system. If you involve your team in the process of selecting the software vendor you will use, it encourages a sense of ownership amongst them.

Sean Burke, CEO of KiteDesk, a company that offers software for B2B sales, explains how to get your team directly involved in this process:

“Document their requirements. Have a conversation with them about how things are working today and what they need personally from a system to help them do their job better, and document those things out. Then they don’t want to resist training because they actually helped develop the requirements themselves.”

Sean Burke, CEO of KiteDesk

Steven Benson, founder and CEO of sales app Badger Maps, adds that when you implement a new system for your sales team you should be certain to include functionalities that will directly benefit the team, even if that raises the cost a bit.

When the sales team rightfully feels like they played a role in selecting the SFA system that they have to spend time training on, and that they are getting something out of it, then they are far more likely to intrinsically see the long-term benefits of that training.

Clearly Communicate Benefits and Expectations

Communication is key when you introduce a new SFA system. It’s best to be precise and direct when you tell your team about both the benefits and the expectations that come with that new system.

The Benefits

When implementing new SFA software, it’s crucial that you sell your team on the system’s benefits, as we explained in our first article in this series.

Communicating these benefits is the key to successful adoption of a new system. According to Neil Davey, managing editor of B2B blog MyCustomer:

“While sales people are increasingly aware of the support that sales automation can provide them in their day-to-day jobs, there is still a stubborn section of the workforce that resents it and sees no value in it for them. Therefore, it is paramount that managers are very thorough when it comes to demonstrating how SFA actually helps them to achieve their goals, rather than just creating another layer of administration that holds them up.”

Neil Davey of MyCustomer

Your team needs to understand that the SFA system is there to help them, not just satisfying managerial needs. With this perspective, they will be far less resistant to taking the time to train on that system. Of course, for that to be the case, you also need to select an SFA system that genuinely is helpful to the sales team.

The Expectations

You also need to be clear and straightforward about any extra duties for the sales team that may come with the new software, even if it may not directly benefit them.

For example, if you are now expecting the team to collect data from customers that will be used by marketing, you should facilitate conversations between marketing and sales so each team is aware of the other’s expectations and limitations. As Burke notes:

“I think that you need to get them in the mindset of stepping away from their own personal interests and look at the company standpoint, and just say, ‘Look, I get that this may cause a little bit more time for you in your day-to-day work, but here’s why it’s so important to the company.’”

Sean Burke, CEO of KiteDesk

Being clear about these individual and company-wide expectations will open a channel of communication that can keep the sales team from becoming resentful and resistant.

Focus on Professional Development

One key way to engage your sales team with the new SFA training is to sell it to them as an opportunity for professional development.

In a Gartner report titled “Five Best Practices to Improve Professional Development in the IT Workforce” (available to Gartner clients), analysts Diane Berry and Lily Mok recommend that managers, “personalize professional development by encouraging employees to develop their own career profiles and take ownership of their careers to maximize the effectiveness of the process.”

Though they are speaking specifically about IT departments in their report, Berry and Mok make a much broader and important point about the positive role that professional development can, and should, play in your company:

“Although ‘hard cash’ in the form of salaries and incentives is still important to fulfill the basic financial needs of employees, its motivational effect is often short-lived … professionals want rewards that go beyond money. They want to feel valued as individuals, and to be able to continuously hone their skills, grow their careers and provide contributions that matter.”

Diane Berry and Lily Mok, Gartner Analysts

Training on new SFA software presents an opportunity for individual professional development. It provides your sales team the opportunity to gain a set of skills that will, in the long run, make them more competent and effective at their job, and more likely to assume leadership positions in the future.

Thus, even though the training may be mandatory, you can use the benefits of professional development as a selling point to your team in order to get them further engaged in the training. Remind them that the skills they get out of learning the new system are immediately applicable to their career growth.

As Burke points out, “The more experience they have with systems, the more attractive they are for other roles.” More generally, you should inform your team that, “the broader experience they have in these tools, the more valuable they can be.”

However, remember to be genuine when you approach SFA training as professional development. Berry and Mok of Gartner report that, “A true commitment to professional development includes proper training with the appropriate investment in time and money.” You and your company need to invest in the training instead of making it the sole responsibility of the sales team.

Involve Management

An important key to getting full team buy-in on SFA training is to make sure you buy in—and get actively involved—yourself.

Berry and Mok’s report emphasizes the manager’s importance when it comes to training and other forms of professional development:

“The criticality and the nuances of this role as it relates to professional development are often overlooked or not realized … The manager helps remove barriers, unlocks many of the opportunities and, in some cases, finds the real ‘gems’ in terms of activities that will truly help individuals grow to their potential.”

Diane Berry and Lily Mok, Gartner Analysts

Management needs to play an active and interested role in sales team training, whether that means leading the training or taking part in it themselves. As Burke notes, it’s crucial for the manager to “create training and make these things happen.” The more engaged you are in the process, the more engaged your team will be.

Train in Shifts

One of the biggest complaints sales teams have about SFA training is the fact that it means less time actually making sales. You can minimize this problem by doing training in shifts. There are two ways to do this:

  • Train on one part of the system at a time: Don’t try to train your team on everything in one long day of training. Instead, hold multiple shorter training sessions over time, slowly implementing individual pieces of the new SFA system into your sales process as you go along.
  • Train small groups of employees: Instead of training the entire team on the new system all at once, focus on smaller groups. Benson recommends that you “do a fully live trial with a few people on your team. You will often find kinks in the workflows that way, that otherwise would have slipped by unnoticed.” From there, you can train your team in smaller groups with hands-on sessions that take up less of their time than an all-company meeting would.

Next Steps

Here are some next steps as you figure out what approach to training will work best for your team:

  • Email me at andrewfriedenthal@softwareadvice.com for more information. I’m happy to help you figure out what your own SFA software needs might be and connect you to one of our expert software advisors for a free, no-obligation consultation!

This is our second article in a series exploring ways that you, as a sales manager, can convince your team to buy into new SFA software.

Explore the rest of the series here:

We’ve also summed up the full series in an easy-to-follow infographic:

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