Sales rep development never happens in a silo.
Sure, salespeople who are dedicated to their own professional learning and development can successfully polish their skills — and even overcome their weaknesses. But the best results happen when sales executives take charge of coaching and training their team members instead of expecting them to figure it out on their own.
So how can both sides work together to help reps grow professionally and, by extension, increase revenue?
By working together, of course! To get started, sales reps can adopt and develop proven career-boosting tactics that other SDRs have used before. And sales managers can make supporting, training, and empowering their teams a priority. Here’s how.
5 habits sales reps should adopt to boost their professional development
Even if decision makers like sales managers and team leaders are dedicated to improving their teams’ soft skills, their efforts will only bear fruit if reps take their own learning and development seriously.
And while passive learning, like reading through notes or watching slideshows, is better than nothing, sales development reps typically see the most improvement from actively learning and practicing new tactics.
So, as a sales development rep, what can you do to up your active learning game and increase your chances of climbing the corporate ladder? Start by adopting these five habits.
1. Proactively identify gaps in your knowledge
The first step to taking charge of your professional development is introspection, like reflecting on your strengths and weaknesses to recognize:
- Areas where you can improve
- Any professional knowledge gaps you may have
You can also talk to your manager to understand which skills will help you get better at lead generation, cold calling, writing outreach messages, social media selling, closing deals, and other day-to-day tasks.
What’s more, listen to your call recordings with prospects to identify the soft skills (such as communication skills, active listening, empathy, and confidence) you need to refine.
From there, actively consume information to build those skills. Read books, listen to podcasts, and attend webinars on the topic. You can also listen to your peers’ sales call recordings to learn from them.
Pro tip: Instead of working on polishing multiple skills at once, focus on 1-3 at a time. This way, you can strategically budget your attention and learn better.
2. Synthesize the information you consume
The best way to internalize what you learn is to make notes on it, a process UserGems’ Sales Strategist, Krysten Conner calls “synthesis.” It involves “creating something new so we can remember that later.”
Essentially, a lot of people make notes by highlighting and copy/pasting what they find valuable into a document. However, passive learning like this prevents you from thoroughly understanding and remembering the topic at hand.
By writing what you learn in your own words, you can make the information relevant to the way you work within your organization. This makes it easier to remember and practice it in your daily routine.
3. Systemize everything you learn
Yet another element of active learning is systemizing the information you synthesize.
It involves deciding when and where to use the knowledge you acquire within the sales cycle.
The best way to systemize information? Add a succinct reminder on a note or flashcard — something that Krysten does to improve her communication skills in discovery calls.
Overall, here’s what the process looks like:
- Make notes on a new tactic you learn and the way you want to use it (synthesis)
- Identify where you what to use the tactic in your sales process
- Add the tactic to a flash card and keep it around you during sales calls so you can use it as a reminder
For example, in her discovery calls, Krysten noted that potential customers aren’t only interested in using UserGems for pipeline generation but also preventing churn. So to be able to speak to these people’s pain points, Krysten created a card titled ‘churn prevention story,’ to remind herself of sharing a customer story where her team helped their customer save 53 at-risk deals in just ten months.
In doing so, Kyrsten systemized the information she wanted to share in her discovery calls. From there, she practiced making her story as succinct as possible.
Remember: after you systemize what you want to include in your process, keep practicing it until you refine it and the tactic becomes part of your day-to-day. After that, you can replace the now-ingrained learning with a new tactic to master.
4. Take ownership of your mistakes
Kyle Asay, the Regional Vice President at MongoDB, notes ownership is the most common skill that separates top-performing sales professionals from bottom performers. It’s also the trait Kyle shares he looks for when interviewing new hires.
The idea is simple: instead of having an “external locus of control,” Kyle recommends taking ownership of everything — your learning and development and your performance, including both mistakes and wins.
And, instead of thinking you need the best external environment to succeed, work with what is available to you to attract and convert new leads.
5. Stay in a mental neutral
A “mental neutral” is a state of mind that prevents you from being at extreme odds for extended periods of time.
For example, you don’t let the excitement of closing new customers impact you for longer than a day. And, you don’t let the blues that comes with not closing enough deals take a toll on you.
Instead, you focus on one thing each day: how can I do better today?
How can managers help with sales rep development?
While it’s true that reps who actively take charge of their professional development succeed in building their skills, they can achieve even more success when their managers lend a hand.
Sales managers and team leads can help to develop sales reps’ skills by:
- Building their confidence by giving them easy deals to close in the beginning
- Arming them with essential resources on buyer personas and a map to career progress in their organization
Here are three tips sales managers can use to start supporting professional development on a daily basis.
1. Break down the best rep profile by skills
Instead of taking an ad hoc approach to training sales teams, UserGems’ Braxton Carr advises creating a list of specific skills that are important to your organization’s selling approach.
At UserGems, for example, we take a relationship-building focus, which is why we value the following skills, according to Braxton:
- Pre-call research
- Active listening and selling
- Give to get
To create such a list, Braxton recommends you ask yourself the following question: “what are the types of abilities that we want our reps to have?”
Based on the list you come up with, give your salespeople quantitive grades so you can hone in on specific areas for development for each sales representative.
Braxton uses a 0-2 grading system for the UserGems team. “We grade these out on a zero to a two. Two is amazing. One means you could be improved and a zero means this is our area of focus,” Braxton explains.
Using this method to identify and grade reps’ areas of improvement, you can provide tailored coaching sessions to all salespeople — helping them to focus on the specific skills they need to work on.
2. Train your reps on what to do and how to do it
“Rather than simply giving reps the resources to use at each stage, give them easy deals to close early on. From there, review and coach them on what to do and who to involve to move qualified leads through different stages of the sales funnel,” advises Braxton.
Ask reps to reach out to them about using your tool in their new organization as well. Since these customers have already used your company’s product in their previous role (and hopefully loved it) reps will find it easier to close these deals compared to reaching out to new accounts, which boosts their confidence.
3. Give them a career progress map
It’s also important to be clear and upfront about how sales reps can achieve career growth within your organization. You can do this by providing them with a career progress map that reflects the role they’re currently in and potential promotions from there.
“This way, [sales reps] won’t be questioning but taking action to improve,” observes Mongo’s Kyle Asay.
Kyle suggests your aim should be to create “A place where [reps] understand the next steps in their career, and how to actually get better. Their promotion path isn’t too ambiguous […] And they know how they can continue to progress their career. They’re not constantly wondering, what do I [do to] get promoted? What’s the next step? How do I make that happen? If you can put those things together, you’re going to have a fairly positive environment for reps to feel like they can have a successful career.”
Not only will this improve your team’s focus and motivation around which sales development skills to build but it will also assist in creating an engaging work environment.
Because “[if reps feel their manager] doesn’t have their long-term career at heart, [it’s] going to be really hard [for them] to be engaged, it’s going to feel like [they’re] just chasing the quarterly number,” Kyle explains.
In a nutshell, show your commitment to reps’ professional development and career growth. The best part? “You can always coach them and give them support to grow within a funnel of what is good for the team overall,” adds Braxton.
Ready to give sales rep development the focus it deserves?
Remember, sales rep development isn’t an individual account executive’s or SDR’s responsibility. But it isn’t only up to a sales manager, either.
Instead, the most meaningful results (ones that positively impact the sales pipeline) are achieved when managers and their teams work together.
On a sales development representative’s part, it is important they:
- Proactively learn
- Take ownership of their mistakes
- And, stay in a mental neutral
As for managers, it’s essential they:
- Regularly educate reps about the ideal customer and their pain points
- Create coaching programs tailored to individuals’ needs
- Be transparent about what reps need to do to get promoted
- Give them proven templates for attracting potential customers and closing deals
- And, build their teams’ confidence
To take some of the work off your plate, we recommend using UserGems for tracking buyer job changes to assist your reps in growing the sales pipeline and building their confidence.
Intrigued? Book a free UserGems demo today and see how it can help your team and revenue grow.