Innovative Learning


Sales training is a major category of instruction for most corporations and an area that has received considerable attention because of the significance of sales to profits. There are many philosophies of how to sell and different approaches to sales training (see Craig & Kelly, 1990; Russell, Beach & Buskirk, 1982). However, most sales methods encompass the following steps: (1) gaining customer attention, (2) understanding customer needs/wants, (3) presentation of product features/benefits, (4) handling objections, (5) closing, (6) followup.

Theories of adult learning (e.g., Cross, Knowles, Rogers) that emphasize the importance of experience and self-direction, are especially relevant to sales training. Theories of attitude change and persuasion are directly related to selling. Since selling depends upon human interaction, theories of social learning (i.e., Bandura, Vygotsky) are highly relevant to sales training. Techniques such as role-playing, simulations, and apprenticeship are frequently used in sales training. Coaching is also an important aspect of sales training in order to ensure transfer of learning to the job setting.

Creativity is usually considered a critical element of successful selling. While individual differences in selling methods are acknowledged, most sales approaches assume a person who is assertive, outgoing, and self-disciplined. Theories of motivation are applicable to how to make sales training meaningful to trainees. Many aspects of the selling process involve decision-making and problem-solving. Since selling often involves considerable stress, the role of anxiety in learning is also relevant to sales training.


Craig, R.L. & Kelly, L. (1990). Sales Training Handbook. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Russell, F., Beach, F., & Buskirk, R. (1982). Selling: Principles and Practices (11th Ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.