5 Steps to a Sales Training Engagement
By: Lee B. Salz – President of Sales Dodo
You woke up this morning and decided that today is the day to get sales training for your team. But what is driving that decision? What makes you think you really need sales training? Before setting out to find a sales trainer, the next best step may be to assess the sales team since there are a lot of options out there. Do they meet your profile for your ideal salesperson? If not, training becomes secondary to finding sales talent that meets your needs.
In this article, I will share with you five important steps in making a sales training decision.
The spectrum of sales trainers is very broad. At one end of the spectrum is the motivational speaker. These are folks that excite the troops, but provide few actionable tools. The team walks away feeling great, but needs to have a process to follow for this to be an effective venture. This type of trainer makes sense for companies with morale issues or if the organization has undergone significant change.
In the middle of the spectrum are those trainers who have some personality flavor and present a comprehensive sales methodology. These engagements are ideal for companies that do not have a selling system and are trying to bring energy and focus to their sales team.
At the other end of the spectrum is the sales skill trainer. Oftentimes, the trainers in the middle of the spectrum can deliver this type of training as well. These trainers focus on specific areas of the buying process and work on skill development with the team. These are not “rah-rah” sessions, but are usually structured as workshops. From these sessions, the salespeople walk away with actionable tools that they can implement into their selling system. This type of trainer is beneficial in support of a new corporate strategy, with newer salespeople, or to tackle problem areas in the buying process.
The key to success in any relationship is defining the realistic expectations upfront with the trainer. The magic word here is realistic. Going into the engagement thinking that one day of sales training will help your team double their sales in the next month is unrealistic. While working with the trainer, objectives should be established that allow for a measurement of success.
Sometimes, the sales training initiative is driven by the C-suite (CEO, etc) which can create a feeling of uncertainty for the sales management team. Engaging the sales management team in the scope of the training is a key to a successful engagement. Leaving them out will make them resist the program. If they resist the program, so will the salespeople.
Expectation setting is also important for participants. Unlike many other professional occupations, sales training is not often greeted by the team with open arms. Tell an IT professional that you are sending them for additional skill training and they jump for joy. Not the case with salespeople. Since many are type “A” personalities, there is a feeling of knowing it all. Thus, it is important to work with the sales training participants to ensure their needs and goals are heard and understood.
Area of Focus
The operative word here is focus. If the training need is specific, the session(s) needs to zoom-in on the specific areas of the buying process that need improvement. An oxymoron is to say that the training is going to focus on the entire process from prospect to award. This isn’t focus, it’s everything! Sometimes a consulting engagement is needed prior to the training to help identify the right area of focus for the training. If there is a need to train the team on the entire process, the training time and approach should be adjusted to accommodate for it.
One of the other important reasons for the concentrated focus is that adult learning is very different from child learning. For one, it is well-documented that adults cannot absorb as much information, nor as fast, as children can. The training needs to be structured in a way that accommodates for that style. In addition, salespeople are not individuals who can sit for a long period of time in a lecture. These are movers and shakers that want to be out selling. How will the trainer engage the team while teaching them new skills?
Thinking back to high school science class, there is an experiment where the fire from a Bunsen burner is applied to water. The purpose of the experiment is to show what happens when heat is applied to atoms. The experiment shows that the atoms get excited and bounce off the walls while the heat is applied. Once the heat is removed, the atoms move back to a static state.
One of the worst things that can happen following sales training is that the team walks away excited but doesn’t know how to implement the tools. Just like in the science experiment, they are like heated atoms, but quickly return to the static state due to a lack of reinforcement of the program. If the company and sales management is not committed to a follow-up program that reinforces the training, the dollars invested become wasted. If the issue is resources, some trainers offer follow-up programs.
One of the biggest disconnects in procuring sales training is price. A President will say to the trainer that the objective of the training program is to help the sales team selling high value/high price products. The company positions itself at the top of the market from a price perspective. When it comes to contracting for sales training, price becomes the main issue. Wait a minute! High value must meet high value. If you don’t want your prospects buying based on price, don’t short change your sales team that is tasked with accomplishing that goal.
Oftentimes, the way this comes out is by expanding the size of the class to reduce the number of sessions needed. Coming back to the point on adult learning, there is a diminishing return in class size. Based on the method the course is delivered and the subject matter, the class size can range from ten to twenty-five.
One of the great questions to ask yourself as you look to buy sales training is how many new sales does the team need to make to cover the cost of the investment.
Sales training is a great investment for a business if done prudently. Consider these five points and you are well on your way to a successful engagement.