The 3 C’s Needed to Achieve Your Sales Training Goals

Salespeople love to talk. We like sharing our wins and cursing our losses, but we also enjoy discussing big-picture issues, like the challenges we face, where the sales industry is as a whole, and where it’s going.

I take a lot away from conversations with sales colleagues at networking events and hearing their thoughts on the direction of the overall industry. But I think we’d all agree that sometimes these anecdotal examples aren’t enough to get a full understanding of what our industry faces.

That’s why I was honored to take part in a recent chat with Bob Kelly, the founder and chairman of the Sales Management Association, where we discussed SMA’s latest research on Emerging Practices in Sales Training and Development. This year’s SMA research had some findings that I found particularly interesting given my role at Qstream, which is a mobile microlearning solution designed to improve knowledge retention and proficiency in industries like enterprise sales.

SMA’s research, which is based on responses from sales managers, senior sales leaders, and other sales enablement and support professionals, hit on various aspects of sales training and enablement that we need to lift our game as sales enablement leaders.

On average, salespeople spend about 21 days per year on training activities, with new sales reps averaging about 30 days and veterans 16. That number will grow, as 63% of respondents reported they plan to increase training activities — and 77% of them plan to increase online training content. Other findings illustrate that fewer than 23% consider current sales training programs ineffective.

Of course, training for training’s sake can be ineffective. With the majority of firms set to increase sales training investments, there are some practical take-aways from the survey that need action from sales leadership and enablement.

I have distilled down my discussions with Bob and peers and summarized my views into some practical take-aways.  I am calling these the 3 Cs — collaboration, continuous learning, and customization — and how, together, they lead to better sales training and greater sales results.

Collaboration: We’re Better Together

The fact is, selling isn’t really a team sport anymore; it’s individual. While I personally think we win together and we lose together, the silo mentality is pervasive across departments.  But that doesn’t mean it leads to better results, and we have therefore seen the birth and gradual maturing of the sales enablement function to bring some structure to the task at hand – cross-functional collaboration that supports sales success.

The same research states that in the majority of firms (55%), managers are the most influential in developing sales learning objectives. But 35% of firms establish goals though a roughly equal collaboration between management and salespeople, while 10% give salespeople more influence than management.

The firms that develop training objectives as a group outperform the others: Their sales training effectiveness is 9% higher and their sales objective achievement 16% greater.

There’s no question that working collaboratively leads to better sales results. Collaborative learning is critical and you need to engage and objectively measure all sales performers when identifying training needs if you want to achieve buy-in from the field.

Continuous Learning: The Key to Remembering

We’ve all attended annual sales kick-offs  that get us excited and motivated for the year to come. And then … it’s back to the grind. Excitement and motivation wane, as well as the memory of the content shared.

Old habits die hard and the research shows that the majority of firms focus on these one-off events, while only 27% emphasize the continuous delivery of learning content. But this minority enjoys an advantage over peers in terms of sales training effectiveness (35%) and sales objective achievement (21%).  It is always possible to blend both modalities.

Sales goals and even product messaging can change on a consistent basis. It’s a big mistake to expect sales reps to deliver on a message they were told about in the first quarter and then also adopt additional messaging in the second quarter, third quarter, and so on. This is another reason why continuous training is vital.

Continuous training and coaching is the basis of what we do at Qstream. It’s human nature to forget what we learn, which is why constant reinforcement of key points — like product information and product messaging — is critical to achieve success.

Customization: A Personalized Experience

A popular question I’m often asked is, “What part of training should be customized to the individual?” Well, I’d argue all of it.

Unfortunately, 80% of firms provide training that is mostly or entirely the same for all salespeople. Just 8% fully customize training to the salesperson, while 12% use generic and customized training in roughly equal proportions. And yet firms that customize training to individuals’ needs are outperforming others in terms of sales training effectiveness (22%) and sales performance (40%).

Customizing the learning experience encompasses everything — the content, design, and delivery. The content has to be specific to the salesperson’s job, objectives, and always aligned with business goals. Likewise, less tenured salespeople might be more attuned to mobile learning or watching video compared to standard assessments. It’s up to firms to adapt and deliver the training content their sales reps need, want, and expect.

Bringing the 3 Cs Together

The reason I combined collaboration, continuous learning, and customization into the 3 C’s is because I believe they work together to create a successful sales training strategy.

If you’re collaboratively developing goals and allowing a salesperson to create some of their course study, you are, in fact, customizing it for them. Furthermore, if you continuously deliver training, you’re deciding what type of content they’re receiving. (If they’ve mastered a topic, for instance, you no longer have to deliver that type of content. But if they’re struggling on a particular subject, you can give them more information on it.)

In my 35 years of experience, I’ve discovered — as SMA’s research shows —  that integrating the 3 C’s into sales training is the best way to have a successful learning experience and help sales organization as a whole achieve their business goals.

This week’s post is by guest author, Gary Greenberger, VP of Global Sales at Qstream, the only mobile microlearning app scientifically proven to increase knowledge, develop skills, and change behaviors.