Over the past 3 decades of my career, I’ve interacted with sales training in many ways:
- Receiving training from both in-house and external programs
- Being recruited by an external sales trainer as a new Manager/VP employee in order to implement the training they were delivering to one of their clients
- Creating and implementing programs and training for my direct reports as an employee
- Creating and delivering just sales training as an external provider
- Creating and implementing both sales training and sales programs as an external provider
…and there’s probably more, but you get the idea: I’ve seen a lot of variations on how sales training is delivered, and most methods fail to deliver more than just a short-term boost to motivation. Why is that?
The reason for this persistent outcome comes down to 2 absolutes for conducting sales training that most organizations miss in favor of a “just sell more stuff” objective:
- Get all of the sales team on the same page regarding strategy, systems & processes, and execution.
- Keep the sales team on that page as they face persistent variations to the ideal selling scenario.
No organization is like another, no client is like another, and no human being is like another, so it is unreasonable to expect any pre-set training program to be an effective model for any one business.
Also, keep in mind that there is a huge difference between improving sales operations and improving the selling skills of each person that is part of that operation. For example:
- Place a great sales person into a poorly structured sales operation and they will likely become frustrated, then leave.
- Place a mediocre sales person in a phenomenal sales operation and they are more likely to learn how to be more effective and rise closer to expectations than if they were able to hide in a poorly structured operation.
Either of these scenarios will likely play out, regardless of the selling skills training the team has received.
Still, on-going sales training is a critical element of any effective sales program. So, what to do? Design a sales program that fits the uniqueness of your organization. Use the following questions to assess the criteria a sales training program should address as well as deliver the selling skills your team needs to succeed in your operation:
- What are the issues your product or service was created to solve? Answer why was your organization formed and what are your core values.
- What is different about your product? Address the competitive advantages you have in what and how you deliver your solutions(s).
- What markets need the solution(s) you provide? Cover which markets are most likely to buy most often, and why.
- What are the types of clients in that market who need your solution? Address what types of accounts within those markets are the best fit, whether it is a range of revenue, number of employees, or some other factor by which you can rank individual client fit.
- What are the common issues those potential clients share that your solution solves? Identify the common challenges that most of the clients who buy from you are seeking to solve.
- What are the related, common issues that your solution does not solve? In addition to clarity on what you can do, be equally clear on what you do not or cannot do.
- Who are the decision makers (DMs) involved in bringing your solution on board? Identify which roles are the primary DM for each market as well as client ranking level.
- Where do those decisions makers go for information and advice they trust? Locate where and how your sales team will be most effective in delivering the message.
- What are the personal issues your solution solves for those DMs? This one is all about messaging. Understand the common personal motivation DMs have for wanting your solution delivered on their watch, such as more time back in their day, more prestige, more employee satisfaction, etc. Describe the what and the why.
- How will/can product configuration and pricing vary to meet different levels of value? Be very clear on the range of value you have to offer, and the ROI you deliver at both the personal and organization level for your clients, and then set absolute limits on pricing and terms.
- What is the typical timeframe from initial contact to a closed sale? Set the expected, average time from initial contact to close for each product and value variation, by Market.
- What are the common decision-making steps each DM goes through? This will be the second longest answer in this set of questions. Combined with the above answers, it is the backbone of your qualification and needs analysis for each new client. Clarify the common buyer process and timelines that include both the yes and no decision points. Is it one call and handshake, or a lengthy RFP?
- What information does your organization need in order to deliver the solution? This will be the longest answer you have in this set of questions. How this information is able to be gathered will drive how, and how fast, an opportunity actually moves through your sales process.
- How can the variations in Market, client size, need, buy side processes, and internal information be efficiently captured in a CRM? Analyze and implement sales automation on as many steps as possible to make the sales tools a benefit – instead burden – the sales team. The goal is to free them to generate more revenue while providing you the data you need for sales operation metrics.
- Who will capture and monitor CRM details to modify process and behavior as needed monitor? Identify to whom and to what the sales team will be accountable.
- What are the consequences for the organization if sales goals are not met? Clearly identify, in writing, the integral role sales plays in the cultural, structural, and financial health of your organization, as well as their key points of integration and roles with whom they will most commonly collaborate.
- How can the sales compensation plan incentivize the team for behaviors and activities that will deliver the right accounts, with the right solutions, at the right price? Clarify what it is the sales team is being rewarded to do and to not do. Include both exceptional rewards for exceptional performance as well as consequences for missing key process, integration, and revenue milestones.
Whew, that was a keyboard full! Hang in, we’re almost there – just three more questions to keep in mind. For sales training to last, it needs to cover What the team needs to do, How to do it, and Why doing it that way is important.
By addressing the 17 questions above with these three keys in mind, your sales training program will be structured to deliver both the operational and selling skills excellence your team needs to consistently drive new revenue to your top line.
Need a quick read on how effective your sales training program is in delivering sustainable results? Take the quick and free Sales Agility Assessment and see right away what your sales operation might be missing.