Training That Really Works

Clients and prospective clients sometimes see us as “naysayers” when it comes to discussions around sales training. Well, we have to admit that we are not really raving fans about how most companies and many of our competitors approach sales training. So let’s just take a quick look at how many organisations we look at have previously approached sales training selection and implementation.

The first question we are often asked is – “What have you got for us to look at?” We usually answer this with a couple of questions like, “So what are you looking to achieve?”; “What is the purpose of the training?” and the answer is “……to help our people sell better.” The conversation develops from there and at some point, when we ask what training they have engaged in previously we get the answer, “Oh, we are really big on training here and we’ve done most things around and we’re now looking for something that will take us to a new level.”This is when we get really concerned for those we are talking to.

Well you might be thinking, we are beyond that, when we do training we always do a training needs analysis. Fantastic. Now tell me how that needs analysis was carried out. A survey of the sales force? A survey of sales management? Interviews with the Sales Manager and selected sales personnel by the Learning and Development Manager?

These are, of course, all useful inputs to a training needs analysis, but how would we go about it? Armed with appropriate background on your sales plan and targets and the solutions you sell, we would get very practical.

  • Let’s start with a look at your sales pipeline. What’s in there? What is the average age of opportunities in there? What percentage of opportunities are fully qualified? That is, what percentage are real opportunities?
  • What steps in the sales process are your team best at?
  • What steps in the sales process let you down most often?
  • Where do your deals most regularly get stalled?
  • How does “opportunity shape” match the ideal?

Armed with these insights, let’s get out in the field and see how you sell.

  • Let’s look at how you sell early in the sales cycle, late in the sales cycle and mid cycle.
  • Let’s look at how you sell in small, medium and large opportunities.
  • Let’s look at how you sell a variety of your products and services.
  • Let’s look at your top performers, your solid performers and your poor performers in action.
  • .. And let’s do this with a set of specific skills and behaviours that we know are important when selling in your environment.

Now let’s say this takes us no more than 7-10 days, after which we would be in a position to provide some very detailed information on priority sales process and related skills.

Next you may ask us, “How should we do the training?”

For starters, please don’t position with us that you want to do two days of training and fit that into one and a half at your annual sales conference. A two day “sheep dip” alone won’t cut it and your annual sales conference is definitely not the time or place. Although it may be a great time and place for a launch and an introduction for what is to come.

Particularly if your needs are for skill development throughout the sales cycle, do you think it is possible to cover everything required in 2 days? Can people possible assimilate the breadth of knowledge and gain even a base level of proficiency in 2 days? We know the answer is no. So we recommend that you develop the skills over time and in a prioritised sequence.

Now think about how the priority skills you start with will be reinforced, coached and developed in the field on a day to day basis before you move on to developing the next priority skills.

Think about when you learned to drive a car. If your mum and dad had let you drive up and down the driveway 500 times before you hit the road like mine did, how may that have helped? You would know how to start the car, release the handbrake and put into gear.

You would know where your mirrors were and how to get them adjusted correctly. And you would know how hard to press the pedals to gently accelerate or stop? By now you know what I’m getting at. Skills are learned incrementally not all at once – and sales skills are no different. By breaking the sales process, methodology and components into pieces, people can learn over time and build capability incrementally.

So what is our message?

  • Know specifically what you want your sales people to do; and what that actually looks like in action
  • Don’t try to teach everything at once
  • Conduct training in shorter sessions focusing on specific process, methodology and skill components a few at a time if at all possible
  • Many methodologies are based on the same principles so moving from one to another is often pointless; and often times we believe simply an admission that the previous methodology was never really implemented
  • Be ready and resourced to coach and reinforce the skills day to day in order to build competence
  • Set measures to track and continually gauge progress

We meet way too many companies who have spent $50,000 – $500,000 on major sales training initiatives who have nothing to show for it.

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