In previous blogs we have touched on the idea that what you do before and after the sales training is as important as the sales training itself. It is hard to over emphasize the point that time spent beforehand planning on how to position the training and afterwards on how to reinforce it, is time well spent. With that notion on the table, let’s turn to three other ideas that are worth considering as you plan for 2013.
Sales training isn’t always the answer. Sales training programs should not be relied upon to fix all performance problems. Sales training programs can address a lack of knowledge or skill. They can effectively jump start new sales reps by providing them with a base of knowledge. They can be a great help in making sure that a new product lives up to expectations. And, that’s just the short list.
However, sometimes a performance problem is not about a skill or knowledge deficiency. For example sometimes it’s a motivation issue … or perhaps the source of the problem has to do with management issues inside the company? Or, perhaps, the performance expectations aren’t clear or the compensation system is dysfunctional. In situations like these if sales training is embraced as the solution the end result is misspent money and a sour taste about sales training.
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The same sales training isn’t always for everyone. Companies often institute company-wide sales training initiatives. Sometimes this makes sense – like when you’re goal is to institute a common sales language for the sales force. And, of course, corporate-wide sales training is a good idea when a new strategic initiative is introduced. For example, if the sales team must move from selling individual products to selling an integrated solution, then everyone needs adjust and adapt their skills to the new sales challenge.
These are specific situations faced by many companies where the same program for everyone is the right answer. On the other hand, sometimes it is a better idea is to target programs for specific segments of your sales team. For example, a “Top Gun” school for your high performers could be a high payoff or maybe if you are experiencing high turnover, a program targeted just for new hires is smart training priority. So, perhaps every program should not be for everyone.
Sales people, like everyone one else, learn best when they’re motivated. Telling sales people they need to attend a one or two-day sales training session next Tuesday may get “butts in the seats” but their minds are elsewhere. Sales training yields much better outcomes when sales people want to be there – when they come to the sales training program with a positive attitude.
So, how do you get sales people “to want” to attend sales training? Buy-in is not about compliance; it’s about persuasion. Senior management support, of course, is a key – clarifying the message as to why the sales training is being done, sharing that they’re serious about the sales training, etc. But that shouldn’t be the end of the effort. One approach is to generate positive buzz. One of our clients rolled out a sales training initiative by inviting the most successful, respected sales people to attend the first three programs – we called the programs – “Inaugurals.” When the very best spread the word that the sales training program was worthwhile, a positive buzz was created. After those first three programs, it was easy to fill the slots in future programs. In fact, we had a waiting list and in the end, everyone in the sales force attended by choice.
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