“Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won. Whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.”

-Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The importance of training and strategy to success is not a new discovery. Sun Tzu, the famous Chinese general, military strategist, and philosopher, was writing about it in the 5th century BC. But despite his penchant for preparation, I’m sure he had little idea how relevant his words would be to today’s business world as he penned his seminal work The Art of War all those years ago.

Interestingly enough, a simple Google search shows that many of his most memorable quotes and passages have an undeniable focus on what happens before a battle, not during it. He believed that wars were won and lost by how generals prepare and train their troops, not by what happens in the battles themselves. This is a lesson that many of the most successful businesses have taken to heart as well.

According to ATD, continuous training gives 50% higher net sales per employee.

But what if your sales training hasn’t been a major focus? How can you put together a productive basic training program for your sales organization to ensure they’re ready for battle? Here are 4 tips for basic training success.

Teach the Sales Playbook

In the military, there is a standard operating procedure (SOP) for everything. No matter how chaotic or nuanced the situation, there is a correct action, or series of actions, that soldiers are trained to take. These procedures have been tested, refined, and optimized over centuries and consist of only the most optimal and most effective behaviors for the given situation.

Having and teaching a sales playbook is a very similar endeavor. Your sales playbook should have the actions, or series of actions, a sales rep should take at any given stage of the sales cycle. Starting a sales rep’s training with this sales playbook helps them understand the sales process better, understand the nuances of your sales process, and begin to make the right actions second nature.

Sales enablement platforms like SalesLoft make this even easier by utilizing sales cadences that automatically telegraph the appropriate next steps.

Train for Common Situations

“Constant drill is of the greatest value to the soldier.”

Professional soldiers very rarely have a day off. But why is that? Actual battle accounts for such a minuscule fraction of a soldiers time, why then are they constantly drilling and practicing? It is so they are familiar with the situations they are likely to face on the battlefield.

You don’t want your soldiers firing their rifles for the first time in the heat of battle. In today’s military, a soldier may fire his rifle a thousand times before he even sets foot on the battlefield. But you can be sure that when he has to fire it in the heat of battle, he’ll know what he is doing. The same mentality should be applied to your sales team.

Don’t allow your sales team to learn talk tracks or how to counter objections live with a customer. That’s a recipe for a disaster and a lost opportunity. Your reps should learn how to counter objections before they even pickup the phone. Have them drill with other sales reps. Have them review and practice with different talk tracks. The more you can practice before a call, the more effective you’ll be on a call.

Give Them a Taste of the Real Thing

While preparation goes a long way, even Sun Tsu admitted:

“It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on.”

You need to actually experience battle to become truly comfortable and proficient at it. There’s a reason terms like “battled-hardened” are used to describe the most efficient and effective military units. Fortunately, technology has provided a much easier way for new sales reps to get real world experience without getting their hands too dirty. They can sit in on sales calls and demos with more experienced reps.

Sitting in on these meetings allows new reps to see real-world situations play out, outside the confines of a sales script or practice exercise. It also affords them the opportunity to watch and learn from your more experienced and seasoned veterans. Sales enablement platforms like SalesLoft make this even easier with features like Live Call Studio, that allow reps to listen in to live calls from across the office or across the country.


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