Train Your Sales Team Using an Effective Sales Process

Most sales people know that they need to develop a relationship with their clients. If they don’t know this in today’s society and business climate, then they are probably living in a coal mine in Tibet. However, what they may have difficulty with is knowing what to do to develop that relationship as well as how to do it. Sales training and a sales process are the keys to knowing the “how”.

The “what” to do is addressed by a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) strategy combined with CRM technology. This strategy and technology combination helps sales reps with knowing what they need to do next in order to move the relationship forward. For instance, given the right contacts at an account, they may need to establish a meeting with the decision maker, schedule a demonstration, and develop a proposal. However, these are just the mechanics of a sales process – the “what” to do for each step of the way.

While the mechanics are critical to the sales process, what they don’t address is the “how”. How do sales reps reach the decision makers to set up a meeting? How do they develop the best solutions-based proposal? How do they demonstrate the product in a fashion that reveals the best solutions to the prospect’s problems? The way to build a relationship with a client is to learn the “how” of selling, which is obtained through sales training. Sales training comes in many shapes and forms, but the best ones are those that follow a process. Each step of the process moves the relationship one step closer to a win-win solution and encapsulates the selling skills necessary within each step.

A basic flaw in many sales rep’s style is when they try to solve the client’s problems by educating them with a product pitch. Customers, especially decision makers, are not interested in the technical details. What they need to understand is how your solution will fix their problems and remove their pains. What often happens is that sales reps tend to make these product pitches to lower-level employees who are not the decision makers. Obviously, this wastes everyone’s time. What needs to be done instead is to focus more on asking the right questions, listening carefully to what the client is saying (or implying), developing the right solution using your products or services, and presenting those solutions as they directly relate to the client’s problems, all done with the right decision maker.

Each of these steps, and more, are learned processes and skills. The saying, “Good sales people are born, not made,” is false. Selling is mostly a science, not an art. With proper sales training and a solid sales process, nearly anyone can become a successful sales professional. So what does a good process look like and what are the skills needed for each step?

Let’s look at one in particular, the PEAK Sales ProcessÔ. PEAK is an acronym, which stands for: Prospect, Engage, Acquire, and Keep. Picture a 4-level pyramid where each step in the PEAK Sales Process builds upon the prior.

Step one, or the bottom level of the pyramid, Prospect, is where the initial contact is made which involves cold calling in order to find a prospective client. At this point, this is really just a raw lead rather than a qualified prospect. Here, the training would involve how to make cold calls, your attitude, the first impression you make, and the approach you make during the first phone call or meeting. Once you’ve prospected and found a candidate, you need to Engage them in the process of the sale, which is the second level in the pyramid. This training involves learning how to qualify what is now considered to be a “suspect” by asking them the right questions and listening carefully to their responses. Listening skills are paramount at this stage since the next steps in the process are based on what information is discovered in this engagement stage.

The goal of the Engage step is to understand the client’s problems and requirements in order to match the right solution to their needs. As a result of good questioning and listening, the sales rep will not only understand this critical information, but they will also ensure that the suspect is fully qualified. To be qualified, the client must have a budget, have the authority to make the decision or at least introduce you to the decision maker(s), have requirements for which you have good solutions, and be able to make a decision and purchase within a reasonable timeframe.

Once qualified, the next stage is where you Acquire them as a new customer. This is the third level of the pyramid and involves moving them from being a suspect to a prospect. In the acquisition stage, the sales rep presents and proposes their solution, negotiates with the client, handles objections, and closes the sale. If the prior steps were handled correctly, then this step becomes much easier since the client’s needs are fully understood, they already told the sales rep what they need, the sales rep’s trust and credibility should already be established, and the close becomes a natural progression of the process, as opposed to the typical “dreaded event” that most sales reps fear and loath. Hence, the goal of the acquisition stage is to get the prospect to become a customer.

The final stage, and the top of our pyramid, is where we Keep the customer. This is where they become a full-fledged customer and when the relationship is most important. Unfortunately, many companies do not have a customer retention strategy and lose the long-term relationship, and therefore any forthcoming business potential. An on-going relationship after the sale is critical to your future business and viability. There are several steps and skills necessary to ensure this relationship continues and to make sure your customer becomes, and remains, loyal to your business.

Having a clearly defined sales process with specific selling skills for each step will ensure that your sales reps will replicate their successes and become more consistent and effective. Regrettably, many sales reps are not trained or experienced with these skills, nor do they perform them in the right order because there is no process. They ask the prospect qualification questions when they should be closing, or they try to close when they should be qualifying, or they do a myriad of other actions at the wrong stage of the sales cycle. Performing the right actions at the right stages of the process is the key to successful selling.

With proper sales training and a first-rate sales process, your sales team will not only learn the appropriate skills but also when and where to apply them to become more successful. Thus, they will learn “How” to sell better. Combine this with “What” to do by developing a CRM strategy and using CRM technology, and you’ll have an unbeatable, world-class sales team.

Good Luck & Good Selling!

Russ Lombardo



Russ Lombardo, President & Founder of PEAK Sales Consulting, LLC, is a nationally recognized Sales and CRM consultant, speaker, trainer, author and radio show host. Russ works with business owners, sales executives and professionals who want to increase their sales results by acquiring new customers and retaining existing ones. He consults with large and small businesses in a broad range of industries. As a speaker, Russ presents sales training seminars and customer retention workshops as we...

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