Dozens of articles have been written on this topic and many excellent versions are now available on the internet. Yet sales training companies continue to offer “packaged” agendas in spite of all the available evidence to the contrary. At the very least, one-on-one coaching should accompany any sales training program.
Generally, the better salespeople get the most from a short burst of sales training. Weaker performers require more time. It’s completely unrealistic to expect the weaker salespeople to catch up to your top salespeople without a training program that lasts over 12 months.
Furthermore, their presence in the seminar may undermine the training of others. If these people are already successful in sales, it is best not to encourage them to change. If they are performing poorly, consider reassigning them. Regardless, they should not participate in the program. Effective sales trainers use advanced diagnostic tools to determine which salespeople should not attend training while developing a customized agenda for those that should.
Product knowledge by itself is useless as a sales technique. Studies have shown that salespeople with superior product knowledge and inferior sales skills will actually have a longer sales cycle than an inexperienced salesperson with inferior product knowledge. Scores of books have been written on the importance of asking questions instead of educating prospective clients. Greater product knowledge leads to a greater temptation to educate.
Good salespeople and sales trainers have skills that allow them to easily transition to new industries with ease. However, choose a sales expert who has solid knowledge of your industry and will apply the concepts to industry specific applications instead of generic role-plays.
One or two day seminars usually result in a poor ROI because attendees are unable to retain all the information provided. Additionally, permanent change in behavior (breaking old habits) requires repetition over a period of several weeks or months. Effective training or coaching of any kind (not just sales training) utilizes long-term reinforcement through multiple sessions with ample opportunity to practice between sessions. A single session of 2 to 4 hours will provide dozens of “lessons learned” and plenty of new material. Multiple sessions should be spread out over several months.
Excellent salespeople take many of their skills for granted. Their split-second reactions in sales situations have become so ingrained that they have difficulty understanding why their proven tactics are so difficult for others to emulate. Asking salespeople to “Sell like I sell” has done more to destroy self-esteem and increase turnover than any other misconception about sales training. Additionally, many of their skills have become “unconscious”. In other words, they have excelled for so long that they are no longer cognizant of their skills.
In fact if revenue is the only metric tracked, expect to see a commensurate drop in profitability and customer retention as salespeople feel compelled to accept lower priced business and less- than-ideal customers. Similar pitfalls also occur if only closing ratio is tracked (salespeople begin to “cherry-pick” sales opportunities). Additional measures for ROI should include the Lead and referral generation by each salesperson (self generated leads vs. company generated leads).
Management sends a powerful message to the team by their presence. Conversely, absence of the sales executive or company leadership in any training session provides multiple opportunities for attendees to discount the importance or applicability of the sales training.
Sophisticated buyers have become immune to all the standard sales scripts and phrases. Powerful training effects change in the salespersons beliefs, behavior and technique. How a salesperson thinks and reacts is more important than their ability to regurgitate sales lines. For example, if a salesperson believes that it is improper to discuss issues relating to money or budgets, they will predictably have difficulty uncovering budgets or identifying appropriately priced solutions. Similarly, when salespeople have a high need for approval, they will avoid the difficult conversations, tend to call repeatedly on “friendly” prospects and never ask the “tough” questions that separate great salespeople from average performers. Sales people with low self-esteem have difficulty conversing with high level decision makers. For more information on undermining beliefs, behaviors and technique, request a copy of “Why Salespeople Fail and What You Can Do About It".