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Training your reps for an uncertain future

How do you equip your reps for the new normal when no one knows what the new normal is going to be? It’s a challenge sales leaders are facing right now.

Around seven weeks ago, at the start of the Coronavirus lockdown, I wrote an article on why training your reps is now more critical than ever before. You can read it here

It was just after I had spoken on a webinar and posed the question: ‘How has your training changed since the pandemic began?’ 50% of the salespeople in the room responded that their training had increased, while the other 50% said it had stayed the same.

A different world

Since that webinar (which was only seven weeks ago, but feels like it took place on a different planet!), everything has changed significantly. I’m sure that if I asked that question again, I would get different results. I suspect around 70% would say their training has increased, while only 30% would say it has stayed the same.

But why is that? Last week, I was fortunate enough to talk on a webinar with Ollie Sharpe, the VP of Revenue for EMEA at SalesLoft. The webinar was presented by the Association of Professional Sales (APS). Ollie and I talked about how three components of sales leadership have evolved as we strive to succeed in this uncertain new world. These elements we covered were:

  • Your people
  • Your organisation
  • Your buyers

We also talked about what we have had to do to keep up.

Training requirements

During the webinar, I spoke at length about training. Often, when we think of training, we think of how we upskill our reps, showing them new techniques or refining existing ones. However, leaders and companies need to think about so much more than upskilling if they are going to cope in the post-Coronavirus world. Here are some of the areas we covered.

Working remotely

Many reps, especially new SDRs that have recently come through my training workshops, have never worked from home before. Now, I think most of us can agree that working from home is an entirely different experience from working in an office. Reps need to cope without the support of their managers and colleagues. They must work to different processes in order to remain accountable and absorb feedback. They need to maintain discipline when the temptations of home are all around. 

The questions are - are we training our teams to be productive and efficient while working from home? Have we invested in the right tech to enable them to WFH effectively?

Building relationships

Since the lockdown, the way we as salespeople build relationships has turned on its head. 

We co-create value with our buyers differently. For example, offering a demo isn’t enough anymore; you need to take the perspective you gain from talking to numerous other clients and offer that as value. The way we negotiate has changed too.

Leaders must make sure they train their reps in how to close deals in this new environment.

Buyer behaviour 

According to figures from GlobalWebIndex, 80% of buyers have changed their behaviour as a result of the Coronavirus crisis. As a result, salespeople need to change the way they behave too. 

Some will pivot in terms of structure and strategy, such as:

  • Blending roles from inbound to outbound
  • Asking AEs to do more prospecting
  • Getting SDRs to perform more demos
  • Identifying a different role for Customer Success


98% of salespeople have changed their messaging since the crisis started. With salespeople closing business over the phone or via Zoom, we’re all inside sales reps now!

Many companies are also finding that their email response rates have dropped dramatically. Levels are the lowest they have been for the year. So, reps need to adapt to the situation. However, we don’t know if this is just something that’s happening now, or whether it’s the ‘new normal’.

What is the new normal?

The uncertainty is what is holding reps and their companies back right now. We don’t know when, or how, the lockdown will ease. Will be working from home for the rest of the year, or will be back in the office by the end of June? We don’t know how the events of the last two months have affected the way buyers want to buy. 

The best course of action for leaders at the moment is to keep training their reps, but for more eventualities.