While training salespeople is an essential task of any sales organization, few companies can do it all in-house. Therefore, finding and choosing a training provider is one of the most important decisions any sales exec will make.
The stakes are huge. On the cost side, training requires downtime from sales reps and expenses for courses, travel, and other needs. Senior reps often resent unnecessary or badly tailored training, which can damage sales morale and discourage younger salespeople. And the whole point of training is to increase revenue and profit. If it does not do that significantly and durably, the whole training exercise is worse than wasted.
What Do You Really Need?
Although there are plenty of first-rate trainers in the field, prepare your questions and develop a hiring strategy before interviewing any of them. This will help cement a productive and purpose-driven relationship.
First, what kind of training do you need? Do you want to change or reinforce the steps in your sales process? Or do you want to improve the skills with which reps execute this process? Both kinds of training are best done live by instructors. On the other hand, if you only need to train reps on products (especially new products), online or e-learning tools are economical and effective.
To help fill in specifics and set training priorities, you must know what is driving your training initiative. Does your company have a new overall strategy that requires a new approach to sales? Or have you talked to customers and discovered problems with reps? You should also talk to sales managers and reps to get their perspectives. Most good training firms can do their own assessment of your needs, but you should have a very good idea at the outset of what specific methods and skills need improvement.
Understand also there are many methods for delivering training – ranging from generic lectures by sales experts, to live sessions more customized for your company, to one-on-one coaching and role plays, and to online, on-demand lessons. The more live, customized, and individualized the better – but also the more expensive. The best training usually mixes several methods.
Realize next that you should commit to the whole package: thorough preparation for the training sessions by your company working with the trainer, effective and enjoyable training sessions, and, crucially, follow-up steps that reinforce and permanently impact training. Be prepared to budget in detail for all these steps. Total training costs are usually two to three times the payments to training providers.
What Are Your Options?
Now you are ready to start search and selection. References from similar companies could be your best guide, but your competitors might not be eager to tell you which trainers they found most effective. You can Google “sales trainers” and check out Websites. Both Selling Power and Trainingindustry.com publish lists of top trainers and promising new training firms. And Brandon Hall’s Excellence in Sales and Marketing awards are also useful.
Check out trainers’ Websites to do a quick screen for basic quality and experience. You want to see awards and well-known client companies. Look for persuasive case studies – especially those addressing needs similar to yours or companies in a similar industry.
Next, use Websites, email, and phone contact to learn more about each training provider. Does it offer training in methods or skills focused on your priority needs? Has it worked for clients whose sales process and skill requirements are like yours? Does it have the online tools you may need for product training or skill reinforcement?
One important consideration is size of your company relative to the typical client of each trainer. If you are a Fortune 500 company, you need a trainer accustomed to scale up for a huge salesforce. If you are small or midsized, you want a trainer that pays close attention to similar-sized clients.
Global reach and local knowledge will be important to multinational corporations. That requires fluency in many languages and experience in many cultures.
How far is the trainer willing to go to customize for your needs? Some trainers are relatively strict in teaching their best-practice sales techniques because they believe strongly in them. Hire them, you hire their method. That may or may not be what you are looking for.
Ask trainers about follow-up methods. These are essential to effective training, and you need to know and budget for what reinforcement training the trainer will do – or what it will expect your company to do.
Give extra points for an experiential component in training – for the ability to blend live and online instruction, for attention to coaching and ability to integrate with your sales tools (for example, your CRM system). Find out how thoroughly the trainer addresses training sales managers.
Try to find out also not just what each qualified trainer can do, but what kind of assignments it does best and has the most experience at. You want to benefit from the trainer’s own lessons learned – not help the trainer learn new lessons.
What Do You Propose?
You should now have a workable list of candidates from which you can request proposals. Keep your RFP focused on your training needs, what outcomes or benefits you expect, plus any hard restraints on the solicitation, such as budget or timing. You want to give the trainer, which has extensive experience in applying a variety of techniques, the maximum freedom to come up with the best solution to your specific goals.
When you send out RFPs, let providers have reasonable contacts with your reps and managers. The better each provider understands your specific company and its sales process, the smarter it can be in proposing a solution.
Next comes evaluating proposals. If you have screened candidates well, all will be qualified. But some proposals will indicate by detail and creativity that the trainer really wants your business. Eagerness is always a good sign.
Price may be an issue, but don’t dismiss higher-cost proposals too fast. You may be able to negotiate better terms. And your goal should be return on total costs – not minimizing provider payments.
Read all proposals carefully – even the costly or less enthusiastic. This is an opportunity to learn what smart trainers think, and that may teach you something that shapes the ultimate training program.
Based on what you have learned, revise goals or requirements and invite three or four of the top candidates to do in-person presentations on how they will meet your revised goals. Decision makers should keep sales leaders informed of changes and reasons for them.
Now you are ready for final presentations. All key stakeholders from your firm should participate – even if they are not decision makers – to make sure they understand and buy into results. The finalist candidates should get about 90 minutes each, with at least 30 minutes available for drill-down questioning. Allow for breaks between presentations so everyone can relax during a tense day. Pay attention to answers to questions, how confident and ready these answers are, and who makes them. Candidates that bring CEOs or very senior managers indicate strong interest in the business.
Let procurement staff, not decision makers, negotiate any adjusted price or scope terms with the selected candidate. To give procurement leverage, pick a number-two choice as well. But the goal is to get the top candidate working in a friendly manner with sales leadership and training decision makers as soon as possible.
Recommended Sales Training Providers
Each of the sales training providers listed below earned a spot on Selling Power’s 2018 Top 20 Sales Training Companies List. Please visit each company’s Website to learn more about their services and solutions.
The Sales Board – with its Action Selling™ and Customer Relationship Professional™ product lines – is the leader in delivering tangible organic sales growth. The Sales Board tracks the ROI of every training engagement and delivers a greater return than any other training program. The keys to ROI success: 1) the highest quality content, 2) the most effective learning transfer system, and 3) training that salespeople love. Want a better sales culture? Let The Sales Board put together a tailored program that fits you perfectly and guarantees sustainable results.
ASLAN is a sales training company with over 20 years of experience empowering international companies to better serve the needs of their clients. We begin with a commitment to helping organizations “bridge the gap” in their sales force execution. We focus on the improvement of sales and service organizations by creating and delivering competency and skill development programs and processes. Our experience and process of serving others first has proven to create the greatest positive behavior change in both the professional and personal lives of our participants. The principle: Private victory precedes public victory.
BTS is a global strategy execution firm headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, with 650 professionals in 34 offices located on six continents. We focus on the people side of strategy and sales – working with leaders and sellers at all levels to help them make better decisions, convert those decisions to actions, and deliver results for their customers. For 30 years, we’ve been designing fun, powerful experiences that have a profound and lasting impact on people and their careers.
For over 40 years, Carew International has been a leading provider of sales training, with a complete suite of professional development programs for sales, leadership, and customer service. Carew built its reputation for delivering dramatic bottom-line results with training programs that provide a dynamic, interactive, and unique learning experience proven to change behavior, facilitate greater influence, and drive lasting performance improvement. Our clients are among the most recognized and respected names in business; their growth and leadership in their respective industries is a testament to the impact and ROI provided by Carew. TAKE THE LEAD®.
Imparta improves its clients’ business performance in the areas of sales and service performance using highly practical and researched approaches and an integrated solution that goes well beyond traditional engagements. Imparta’s Capability Building® system combines assessment, training, coaching, application tools, and impact measurement – using leading-edge technologies to create sustainable performance improvement.
With offices across the United States, Europe, and Australia, Imparta has the capability to deliver in multiple languages with local knowledge and experience. Imparta is also a pioneer in the field of business simulations and creates engaging, immersive SAAS content. This expertise has been distilled into the Virtual Sales Academy®. Imparta’s global client base includes Intel, Cisco, Schindler, Lonza, and Johnson Matthey.
IMPAX is a global sales performance improvement company focused on helping value-leading B2B organizations accelerate success and drive growth. Through partnership, expertise, and a robust offering of training solutions, we support customers looking to adopt a value-based, consultative approach to sales and customer management.
IMPAX combines rich experience enhancing client success with a continuous drive to improve. We are differentiated by our intuitive process, focus on execution, global capability, and significant client results.
Working together, we help customers effectively position their value – enabling growth, differentiation, and a higher level of partnership with their own customers.
Integrity Solutions helps clients win and keep customers by developing excellence in sales, service, and coaching. We go beyond skills training by bringing a salesperson’s self-belief, confidence, and motivation into the equation – the attitudinal elements that are so often missing in sales training. Our approach provides information to the head and engages the heart. Integrity Solutions helps organizations align attitudes and beliefs around a customer-focused strategy so they can increase sales, strengthen customer relationships, maximize productivity, and retain the best talent. We embed our values- and ethics-based approach to sales and service and focus on rapport, relationship building, and trust as pillars to sales success.
When companies tackle sales-related challenges, they want and deserve more than just another sales training program. They are looking for a solution in which knowledge is absorbed, passion is ignited, and sales performance increases as a result of the investment in training. Janek’s research-based sales training programs and skill sustainment solutions have allowed us to consistently deliver this and more.
There is a reason we refer to ourselves as a sales performance company. “Performance” is part of our identity, and our team of experienced consultants, instructional designers, and facilitators is laser focused on providing comprehensive solutions that produce long-lasting, positive results.
Kurlan & Associates is a full-service global sales consultancy that helps companies of all sizes – and from more than 200 industries – develop, train, and coach sales leaders, sales managers, and salespeople.
Kurlan conducts comprehensive sales force evaluations, provides guidance and tools to perfect sales recruiting and selection, creates and optimizes sales processes and scorecards, provides sales enablement services and integrations, and offers the finest training to help sales managers master the art of sales coaching.
A results-focused firm, Kurlan’s Baseline Selling training is engaging, practical, enjoyable, and memorable. The focus on using role play to demonstrate powerful, unique conversations differentiates Kurlan from other companies in the sales development space.
RAIN Group is a global sales training and performance improvement company that unleashes sales potential by delivering transformational experiences for its clients. For two decades, the company has helped hundreds of thousands of professionals, managers, and sales leaders significantly increase their sales results.
Recognized as a world-leading sales method company, RAIN Group offers a full suite of sales training programs across key sales topics. All the programs are research-based with insights from the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research, and the learning system focuses on driving real behavior change and results.
Richardson is a global sales training and performance improvement company. We collaborate with sales organizations to achieve greater levels of success by changing the behavior of its salespeople and sales managers. To help you achieve your goals, we partner with you to develop customized training programs and a culture of continuous learning to help drive improved organization performance.
Sales Readiness Group (SRG) is an industry-leading sales training company. Our mission is to help improve the performance of sales teams by providing customized, skills-based training programs that produce sustainable behavior change. Our solutions include comprehensive sales training, sales coaching, and sales management programs.
With extensive sales performance expertise, deep industry knowledge, and global resources, SPI has assisted more than 1,500,000 sales and management professionals in more than 50 countries and 14 languages achieve higher levels of performance. SPI has offices in Charlotte, NC; Brussels; London; and Shanghai, China. Our clients include Baxter, Becton Dickinson, Emerson Process Management, IBM, Kyocera, MasterCard, Maersk, Orange, Philips HealthTech, and ThyssenKrupp Elevators. For more information, please visit
ValueSelling Associates, a leading global sales training company, offers a practical methodology for selling on value, not price. The ValueSelling Framework® is a proven formula that simplifies the complex B2B sale, and the Vortex Prospecting™ program provides a repeatable process that increases connections and conversations to the revenue pipeline. Once trained on the ValueSelling method, organizations grow revenue and increase productivity. Since 1991, thousands of professionals around the world have chosen ValueSelling Associates for customized training, reinforcement, and consulting to drive sales results. For more information, visit
Wilson Learning is an award-winning global learning services company that improves business performance in the areas of sales, leadership, and workforce effectiveness. We equip sales organizations with the strategies, skills, and processes to boost revenue, increase close ratios, improve margins, and grow market share. Our comprehensive, proven sales curriculum – combined with our extensive consulting and customization services, advanced delivery technology, and implementation expertise – ensures sustainable, measurable results. Wilson Learning delivers high-impact sales solutions for clients in 50 countries and 30 languages.