The Secrets Of Making Sales Training Stick
When managers want change they buy training, too often they are disappointed however.
Unfortunately the link between training and results is a tentative one. The reality is that if you want improved sales performance then traditional training on its own, has only a minor role to play. That is because when it comes to changing people’s attitudes and behaviours sales training too often misses the mark.
Think of the last training course that you attended – how much of it did you immediately apply at your work? More important still, how much of it were you still applying one, two, or three months later?
With this in mind we asked managers for their views on sales training and in particular how to get the most from it.
Secret 1: Train In The Gap
Off-the-shelf training programmes don’t work, that is because ‘one size does not fit all’. Managers have long known that to have impact sales training must be tailored to the audience in question.
Training should focus on the gaps – that is the key skills gaps that presently exist among your team. Managers will point to such skills gaps as; pre-qualification, closing, selling higher (higher value to more senior managers). However, asking those who are to be trained what is needed is important.
It is not enough to ask people what training they need, instead ask them what challenges, or problems they are facing? Ask them also what they feel would help them to be more successful? Focusing the training on these areas will deliver the best results and thereby improve sales conversation rates and performance. This means that your training needs analysis has real world meaning.
Secret 2: Ditch ‘Chalk and Talk’ Sales Training
Of course different types of training will produce different results, with the traditional ‘chalk and talk’ training being the least effective of all. On the other hand when the trainer becomes a facilitator the impact of the training generally increases. However, there is a balance to be struck and achieving the right blend of training and facilitated learning is key.
Need a guru? Subject matter experts, or gurus, don’t always make the best trainers. You don’t need somebody who has written several book, but cannot relate to and interact on a very practical level with your audience. This can be a real challenge in respect of some academic experts, for example.
What happens before and after is as important as what happens during the training. In particular, participants should receive an email with some useful information in advance, as well as a sequence of such mails after the event. This will have a reinforcing effect.
Secret 3: Avoid A ‘Flash In The Pan’
Most experienced managers are realistic. They don’t expect once-off training to change long-standing attitudes and behaviours. Indeed, if you are looking for change then once-off training interventions are pretty much a waste of time. We all know that ‘flash in the pan’ training does not work.
Here is a statement of the obvious a training programme has more impact than a training session. That is because programmes tend to be better thought through and involve a greater element of reinforcement.
Secret 4: Sales Training for Skill, Sales Coaching for Change
One of the key problems is that only a small proportion of what is trained in the classroom gets applied on the job.
Training’s ability to trigger change is limited. It’s ability to sustain change is even more limited still. The problem is that getting the information, whether that is by slides, or seminars, is generally not enough to change attitudes, behaviours and processes. We have all seen it happen – behaviours return to normal after the training is forgotten.
How to create change? How to make sales training stick?
Change is like baking a cake, several ingredients are required. Specifically, a mix of the following is required:
- Leadership is required to get things started (it provides direction, inspiration and motivation).
- Coaching is essential to keeping things going (it provides the support and the empowerment).
- Training creates awareness and provides skills that people are likely to need along the way.
Leadership is focused on the ‘why’, while training is focused on the ‘how’. Coaching straddles both, which it why it plays a particularly important role. The secret to making training work is to combine it with other successful ingredients, specifically leadership and coaching.
Secret 5: Change Systems and Structures Too
The behaviours of a sales team do not happen in isolation. They are rooted in the existing systems, structures, as well as the culture of the organization. So, to change selling behaviours the systems and structures must change too. Adopting a new approach to pre-qualification has implications for such factors as:
- The information contained in, or fields used by the sales system, or database.
- The timing and structure of opportunity and pipeline reviews.
- The format of sales reporting templates and tools.
There is an important place for systems and structures in every training initiative.
Secret 6: Reinforce After 30, 60 and 90 Days
Reinforce learning with 30, 60 and 90 day follow-ups so as to sustain change and ensure commitments are translated into action.
As noted above, the learning and skills development areas discussed during a training workshop must be re-enforced, the trainer or sales manager must remind people of the commitments made and the changes each team member needs to make. The sales manager and or trainer will need to meet face to face each month and discuss results and ongoing support needed.
Secret 7: Use Online Support
There is no doubt, the most effective sales training will be tailored to the organization in question, follow-up needs to be personalized. If you are thinking of providing sales training, consider how you will keep the ideas for each person attending fresh in their minds. This can be done effectively through the web. So, use the web and online tools to keep behaviour change top of mind.
Secret 8: Develop Those Skills That Really Accelerate The Sale
Make sure those delivering your training know as much about buying as they do about selling. That is because a greater understanding of how buying decisions are made is key to more effective prequalification, closing and negotiation by your sales team.
Read the next one of this sales training article series:
What Would Your Customers Think Of Your Sales Training?