I have a friend who proudly announces that he is like a 5 year old. He has a short attention span, likes to play, but doesn’t like too many rules. He stubbornly avoids tasks he finds uncomfortable, even if they benefit him. He is short on patience, is fairly unorganized, but really passionate if he can see the reward. All these traits can be frustrating to work with, but the most surprising thing? He is the best salesperson I’ve ever met.
Either in spite of those traits, or because of them, this guy is great at sales and it’s probably true that many others in the sales profession share his childlike attributes.
Unfortunately, if this is accurate, traditional sales training and coaching strategies have some inherent flaws and work against these natural traits.
The top mistakes when working with people who insist on embracing their inner child (and even those that are a bit more mature).
Mistake #1 – Jam-packed, multi-day sales trainings.
This has long been considered an efficient way to dedicate a specific time for learning and honing new skills. After days of intense training and motivational sessions, the sales team then returns to their territory to sell without further interruptions from training … while they forget everything you taught them.
Try this instead: Think about the salespeople having a childlike curiosity about the world. They will pay attention to things that are relevant to them at that moment, but will lose interest with long-winded explanations of scenarios they haven’t yet experienced. Skip the big conferences and try introducing smaller modules of information when they are the most useful for moving an opportunity forward.
It’s like coaching a sport one skill at a time. Children don’t learn to play baseball in one, intense week. They learn in steps, practice and continually build upon an established base. Sales skills can be learned the same way.
Mistake #2 – Load the sales team with too much content.
It is natural to want to provide stacks of collateral about your company, product and services. The typical approach is to arm the reps with all the information they could possibly need in any scenario.
However, by slowing down and allowing for practice and role play as actual sales scenarios unfold, the sales person will be much more curious and open to advice, information, and coaching on how to handle the conversation.
Continuing with the baseball analogy, it is better to focus and practice exactly what you are about to do. Pitchers warm up with a coach right before they are put into the game. They are even better if they have insights about the batter they are about to face. Limit the information overload and focus only on what is at hand.
Mistake #3 – Assuming the salespeople will continue the methodology after the training is over.
Initially it sounds like a great plan to line up a big name celebrity sales trainer or inspirational speaker with a method promising success. They will layout a plan and methodology that has proven to deliver results for countless other companies.
That is all good, however, here’s the thing – do you have a plan to implement specifics and stay on track during the weeks and months ahead? Again, introducing something in the beginning and not revisiting it is a waste of time, money and effort. Remember, these salespeople can be like kids when the teacher leaves the room. They go back to what they were doing before.
A better option is to tap into technology solutions for consistently offering reinforcing training nuggets and working towards achievable milestones along the way. Remember, you need to keep the attention of someone who may not care about the big picture but is highly motivated to do what will reward him or her in the short term.
Mistake #4 – Be involved throughout the sales process and help to close the deal.
While you want to be available for coaching, you don’t want to be a helicopter parent either. There is a difference between micromanaging and coaching. It isn’t your job to tell salespeople what to do in every scenario, and close the deal yourself.
Rather, you want to set them up to make the right decisions at crunch time. If you’ve worked on the right skills, you need to step out of the way and let them do their job. Directing kids on how to make good decisions when you are not around is a parent’s ultimate goal. It is the same with salespeople.
By recognizing the playful approach and appetite for quick bites of information preferred by your salespeople, there are opportunities to utilize today’s technologies to fit that style. Prompting information and coaching during a time when it is most relevant and when curiosity is likely peaked results in better performance and improved skill adoption.