Improving outcomes of sales training
Joining a sales force as the new kid can be a daunting time, whether you’re actually an experienced sales veteran, or literally the new kid out of college. It’s generally a period of intense information provision to get to know people, processes and products.
After the time and expense invested in finding the right people and agreeing terms, Sales Managers and HR departments put a lot of focus on the first phase of orientation to ensure that new recruits get off to a flying start. The difficult balance is conveying everything that’s important to know without overloading the new recruit.
Often, the initial training is on “how to sell in our industry” – what a good customer profile looks like, who the decision makers are and how they make decisions, how to spot an opportunity, what questions to ask, what signals to pick up on etc. This information can be delivered in classroom style training, using case studies and delivered by a sales trainer or experienced sales person and is quite easily scaled and repeated. But is this often-used format really the best thing to do?
This Sales Performance International research shows that much of what’s learned in intense classroom training sessions is forgotten within 90 days and improvements in technique or outcomes taper quickly. This should teach us that we shouldn’t keep on doing things the way we’ve always done them.
We know that the most effective selling is based on effective listening. Understanding the cues from a prospect and picking up on specific nuances of the requirement helps to ensure the best positioning of the product/solution. This type of information is best absorbed through observation of an experienced sales person in action, and reciprocal expert mentoring of the trainee which becomes time consuming and expensive through opportunity cost and isn’t easily scalable or repeatable.
This becomes a bigger issue as time moves on, when sales people have been on board for a period of time and the initial training has been long forgotten. When sales are good, training tends to be forgotten altogether unless a new product or solution needs to be launched. When times get tough, though, we turn to training to help re-energize and focus people to improve efficiency and productivity.
Supporting the process of improvement
The same Sales Performance International research report goes on to recommend aligning sales training to a proven sales process – the essential basis for practicing the skills taught. Without structure and repeatability, old habits creep back in, so perhaps the most important element of lasting change and improvement is tracking behavior and measurement of outcomes. To take it to the extreme is to base pay and bonus structures on behavior. As the management advice goes: That which gets measured gets done. And particularly in sales: That which gets paid against gets done first.
To improve sales effectiveness and efficiency should reap multiple benefits – improved revenues, naturally, but also happier, more motivated staff which turnover less frequently and actually lead to less of a need to invest in the whole recruitment and on-boarding cycle in the first place. So, it pays to define the best practice processes, align and integrate the sales training to the process and put in place the systems and measurements to ensure that your people can use them easily and effectively.