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4 Sales Training Topics for 2021

Griffin Hill

“There is no such thing as a no-sale call. A sale is made on every call you make. Either you sell the client some stock or he sells you a reason he can’t. Either way a sale is made, the only question is who is gonna close? You or him? Now be relentless.”

– Jim Young, Boiler Room (2000)


Many sales guides cover various sales training topics. They mostly promise the same thing: effortless, instantaneous, over-the-moon results. Some of them even have merit. But over 21 years ago, Dr. Scott Baird of Griffin Hill started studying and recording the best sales training topics by looking at the most successful salespeople. He discovered that many of their skill sets are highly transferable and can be fully grasped in such a way that they become habits.

So, how do you bottle lightning? You can’t. But you can come close. So, let’s look at some killer sales training skills certain to take your sales team to the next level and give your salespeople the edge they need to succeed in 2021’s competitive market.


Critical Sales Training Topics for 2021


1. Topic: Prospecting Potential Buyers

If you want to get sales training correct from the get-go, you need to be able to teach prospecting. Though some may grumble at the thought of having to do it—particularly veteran salespeople—prospecting is the foundation for everything that comes next. 

“Because we’re switching the focus from backward activity to forward momentum, now we know how things are truly progressing in the sales pipeline.” – Cameron Baird, Griffin Hill COO

Cold Calling

Cold calling is one way to prospect for potential buyers, but learning to do it can be problematic at best, intimidating at worst. Set actionable, specific, and smart goals for trainees. Work with their emotions by showing them you’re paying attention. When trainees meet their sales goals, follow through with positive reinforcements and rewards. Foster friendly competition at the same time by offering gift certificates or other small tokens of appreciation for those who meet their goals first.

Teach your trainees not just how to research and target their sales leads, but also how to approach different individuals at different levels. For example, you might explain to newbies that when they call a subject matter expert, that phone call will be very different from what happens when they are calling a departmental director. 

Help your protégés write their own scripts for cold calls and include brevity as part of their training so they don’t spend half their day making the scripts. Teach them to vary their pacing and tone during phone calls in a way that resembles a conversation the prospect might have with a close friend or colleague. Finally, teach them to speak a little faster than prospects, and slightly louder in order to project confidence.

Cold Emails

According to Harvard Business Review, when writing cold emails, they shouldn’t be email blasts or mass emails, but personal and targeted, tailored emails. 

Personalization helps you come across as someone the target invited to send them an email, and quick validation helps establish yourself as a sales expert who can get B2B sales done right. So talk up your authority, credibility, and if applicable, name-drop a little if you get the sense you might share a network with your targets. Do research to identify pain points and address them briefly and effectively in the email. 

Teach your trainees to write the way they talk and keep it brief. The call to action here is a phone call or a meetingUnless the email author makes it super easy for the target (suggest a specific location and time), the email is headed for the trash bin.

Harvard Business Review says the simple inclusion of something along the lines of “Thank you very much, I am very grateful” doubles response rates. It provides just a little subservience to help the prospect feel like they’re in charge, which is a nice feeling to have and may lead to a conversion.  

As a sales training topic, teach cold emails by having trainees practice on each other. Alternatively, do it by looking at old cold emails that worked previously as a team and having a discussion about why they probably worked so well.

Other Prospecting

Other considerations for prospecting new buyers include diversification and building rapport. If you’re training new reps, you probably want to have them start on the phone or have them out pavement-pounding, meeting face-to-face. On the other hand, if you are training veteran representatives, you’ll probably want to help them work on their referrals and polish their professional networks, for example.

For building rapport as a sales training topic, have sales trainees practice role-playing exercises, engage in mock phone calls (record them for lookbacks), and identify green flags on social media that show golden opportunities for making connections.


2. Topic: Discovery

The most successful salespeople are methodical and strategic, not off-the-cuff adrenaline junkies as portrayed in movies and on TV. Knowledge is power and the best sales representatives are trained to always immerse themselves in product knowledge, customer knowledge, competitor knowledge, and shoring up emotional intelligence.

To get this train moving for your sales trainees, start doing research as a group. Create an environment that fosters open communication and sharing of information. You’re competing against the competition, not each other. 

Discovery sessions, whether in person or on the phone, are all about forging a special B2B client relationship. So you want to train your team to approach them very carefully and strategically. The optimal number of targeted questions asked is between 11 and 14, dispersed across the entire meeting (good question velocity), and not “front-loaded” stuffed in at the beginning, according to revenue intelligence platform Gong. 

Additionally, sales conversion rates go up the longer the discussion, to a point. Train your team to strive to take their time and make calls last about two-and-a-half minutes longer than average. Remind them to listen rather than talk the whole time. Those two strategies lead to a smoother funnel.

As a sales training topic, have your trainees do mock discovery calls. Working in pairs, have them test each other on both sides of the call, then have each pair share to the entire group what worked and what didn’t for discussion, and try to identify why. Last but not least, teach trainees how to follow up with prospects after discovery is complete.


3. Topic: Handling Objections

Teach your trainees how to meet objections head-on, but not immediately jump on their prospects with a rebuttal (listen more, talk less). Advise them to give a two-second pause before responding. Studies have shown this to be a better approach.

Types of Objections

There are four major types of objections prospects can throw your way:

  • Misunderstandings: Lack of communication or misinformation about the product.
  • Skepticism: A sense of disbelief on the prospect’s part about the product’s value.
  • Drawbacks: Sacrifices or compromises the buyer must make to use the product.
  • Indifference: When the buyer doesn’t believe the product could benefit them. 

We introduced the Star Trek: The Next Generation superbeing Q in another blog post. A serious lack of motivation isn’t the only fatal flaw Q flaunts. 

He’s irresponsible and reckless, too. 

In one episode, he flung the Enterprise thousands of lightyears away, where the human crew encountered a deadly adversary, the Borg, that they weren’t supposed to meet. 

The lesson? Don’t answer a question about an objection with more information that could be considered a drawback, or worse, a more serious objection. Don’t introduce your prospective buyer to the Borg when the goal is to avoid focus on the objection.

Instead, always circle your responses back to benefits that will defeat the Borg: call attention to benefits that 1) outweigh the prospective buyer’s objection, 2) fill a hole in their strategy, or 3) address a major pain point your team has identified through research. Help your sales team defeat objections once and for all.

Once again, role-playing can be leveraged to huge benefit for all types of objections. Pair trainees with each other. One plays as the objecting buyer, one plays steadfast seller. Have them spend 15-20 minutes with back-and-forth, then reverse and repeat. 

Leave a final 20-minute block of time for a large group discussion.

Finally, to drive it home, teach your sales team to always be closing by meeting objections the right way: fast (but not too fast).


4. Topic: Post-training Follow-up & Ongoing Coaching 

Eight-four percent (84%) of training content is forgotten within 30 days, according to the National Association of Sales Professionals. Don’t leave your sales trainees in the lurch after orientation and training have come to an end. Instead, remind and reinforce concepts learned through post-training e-learning, microlearning, and mastery sessions. 

Whatever your sales team’s onboarding process, implement microlearning by following up with your new sales reps via email, text, or even social media. Include bite-sized chunks of information with each correspondence (rather than conducting a multi-day training course that will be forgotten). Here is an example of a text message to send:


Productivity x Proficiency = Sales Performance


This concept is a Griffin Hill touchstone. There’s a lot to it, but it can be summed up with that formula. When your new sales reps receive the text message, their memories will be jogged, and they will start thinking about the lesson as a whole. Don’t send too many messages; maybe one a day for the first four weeks. They will learn continually, and you’ll help fight against that reverse learning curve of 84% skills loss in 30 days.

Encourage your newly trained sales representatives to keep learning in other ways, such as through e-learning. A good sales pipeline includes the tracking and management of every sales opportunity, hit-and-miss, broken down by individual representatives. As a gap analysis was an important step to take in the beginning, so will be a good sales pipeline at the end of the onboarding process when sales training topics turn into lessons learned for post-training mastery session review.

There you have it. Smart sales training topics explored.

Discover how to revolutionize your pipeline with our e-book, The One-Two Sales Punch.

Cameron Baird

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