3/14/16

Sales training is a billion-dollar industry. However, 2/3 of sales training programs are deemed ineffective and 1 in 4 training materials don’t match sales team’s needs.

Ineffective sales training is wreaking havoc on customer relationships. 88% of sales executives say prospects and customers don’t perceive them as trusted partners.

The needle isn’t moving, and that’s not acceptable. Sales teams want—and need—more effective training so they have a solid foundation for success. By sticking to the following best practices, sales training can begin its transformation.

Start with the End in Mind

Before starting any course, reps and managers want to know:

  • “What do I need to be able to do?”
  • “Why do I need be to able to do that?”
  • “How is this training going to help me do that thing?”

Treating training as a checkbox on the corporate to-do list won’t get you those answers.

Instead, training must be viewed as a strategic business asset. Answering these questions—and getting positive outcomes as a result—starts with understanding and aligning on:

The business goal: Is it to decrease churn? Grow business with existing accounts?

The gap: Is it product or competitor knowledge? Or do reps need to practice how to position the value? Building knowledge looks and feels different from practicing skills and behaviors, and influences how the training is designed, developed, and delivered.

The audience: Is this training for new hires? Experienced reps? Or is this for sales managers? Each audience brings different context to the table, which needs to be taken into account.

How you’ll define and measure success—How will reps and managers be held accountable? How will wins and areas of opportunities be documented and shared? Collecting training results—and correlating that with team and business performance—can’t be an afterthought.

Make Content Contextual

Mobile, engaging, and short are good. But they’re not enough. Context matters.

It’s tempting to want to build training for one team—for example, outbound sales—and reuse the same content for the inbound sales team. The argument is always the same. “They’re both selling the same thing.”

But, it’s a trap! One size fits none. Generic examples and sweeping generalizations are hard to relate to and put into practice.

Instead, sales training needs to:

  • Illustrate your sales process.
  • Present common scenarios.
  • Use the everyday language of reps, managers, and clients.
  • Show realistic locations.

Because then, reps identify. They say, “I’ve met that person. I’ve had that conversation.” They care because the training actually looks like and feels like their day-to-day. And they know exactly how to apply what they’re learning when they face that situation, or a similar one.

Promote Continuous Learning

The one-and-done “sales kickoff” is done. The stats and studies are out there, and show the majority of training is forgotten without ongoing reinforcement or practice. The definition of learning must evolve in sales organizations. Teams must build in and protect time for reps and managers to practice what they’re learning.

“But how will we have enough time?” Time’s a precious commodity. So, start small. Work with what you have and change up norms over time.

Repurpose 5-10 minutes in weekly or daily team huddles for activities and Q&A. Use role-playing activities or other hands-on learning games to make this feel less like training and more like “conditioning” like a pro sports team would do.

Or take your learning platform. Collaboration tools, such as discussion forums, can be used to facilitate ongoing discussion and feedback. Here, reps can share the best ways to communicate value to customers and the phrases they’ve used that resonate best. Or, they can record a video of themselves explaining a product or service, post it online, and ask for constructive feedback from their manager and teammates.

Bust Down Silos

Big or small, the highest performing organizations promote silo-free environments.

This means breaking down barriers between reps, managers, and leadership. Learning will hold on by a tenuous thread if it’s a top-down mandate. I alluded to this in #3, with reps sharing best practices: grassroots energy and ownership are paramount to promote and sustain continuous learning.

This also affects silos between sales, marketing, L&D, and HR. Everything—from L&D and HR to marketing and sales—is connected. A problem in one business area has a ripple effect on the others. A gap in product or service training can result in negative customer experiences. That drags down brand perception, which in turn hurts sales and employee morale. Working together means a shared vision for both short-term and long-term goals. It opens the door to greater transparency and makes sharing data and correlating training to results easier.

The old-school approach to training doesn’t cut it anymore. Training is more than a to-do list item. It can’t be abstract or generalized. Learning is not a one-time event. And we cannot create content in a vacuum.

The sales teams that are going to empower their reps and customers to win big are the ones who:

  • Treat training as a strategic business asset and clearly define the goal, the gap, the audience, and the criteria for success.
  • Continually share best practices and practice.
  • Make training contextual and easy to apply.
  • Embrace cross-team collaboration.
  • Embrace cross-team collaboration.

Stick to these best practices, and you can fight back against ineffective sales training.

ubt-brian-leach-headshot-coat 75x75

 

Today’s guest author is Brian Leach, President & CEO of Unboxed Technology.