So your sales team is not performing as well as you’d like them to. What can you do? If you’re like most sales managers, you will know that training is one of your biggest tools (beyond changing out people – but who says you’ll recruit better this time!) to drive better performance, which is so often the key to how to improve sales. But how do you make sales skills training effective?
What’s the problem?
Well, it turns out that very often sales training doesn’t work. That’s not to say it can’t work, but to be effective it needs to turn into a habit, be repeated, be practiced and be constantly improved.
After recruiting, training (or coaching if you prefer that term) is probably the most important thing you can be doing for and with your team.
One of the first things to do is to figure out what type of training people need. Generally, there is lots of “product training” but, frankly, I wouldn’t call this “sales training” – it’s not teaching people how to sell. It’s describing features and product attributes, and then often leaving it to the salesperson to best figure out how what they MEAN to the customer – what are the benefits.
There are a number of forms of required training. Let's summarise the key ones right now.
Sales skills training
This covers the basics of sales (that’s not to say it isn’t fundamental to success at all levels) like knowing to ask open ended questions rather than closed ones , how to listen rather than talk (“telling isn’t selling”), how to present based upon customer needs, how to handle objections and then ask for the order, how to plan a call, how to upsell or cross-sell. These are the types of things we cover in our two day sales training courses - the next one starts April 22.
Mastering the sales process
Then there is the “mastering the sales process” part – where reps are trained as to how to best “sell” within your sales process – what questions are the best to qualify , how do they best discuss customer needs, how to they present your products or services, what are the best answers to your specific typical objections. How should they upsell or cross-sell within one of their accounts? That type of thing.
Role plays or practices
These are vital forms of exercise for the whole team to hone their skills in an environment as near to a real one as you can get without sitting in front of an important customer – 'importance’ being defined by the fact they hold the power to buy or not to buy – where the situation is real, where a sale can be made or not made! And, don’t forget to add video – it’s amazing what your own people will see when they watch themselves – just like the All Blacks on Sunday morning after a test.
This is where the sales leader goes out on , or listens into, calls and then coaches – “how do you feel that went?”, “what would you change next time?” “what flowed well, what didn’t?” – where the sales leader adds their “X” factor, or maybe just plain old experience, into the sales dynamic.
But the real key to make sales training effective...
is to ensure its part of an ongoing program. It’s repeated. It’s re-enforced. It’s iteratively improved over time.
This is one of the things we (at Indicator) see often. Training can be sporadic, and when it's sporadic it's less effective by nature. In our recent “Mood of the NZ Sales leader” survey, 44% of respondents said training only happens “rarely”. Now, that is a worry.
When we do a two day training program we provide an outline for the sales leader so they have a program they can follow to build upon the skills learnt in the course. This is vital to make our courses more effective.
And it’s not hard, you don’t need to come to a course to be able to build a program. It just requires a bit of planning – setting out a schedule for the next quarter, or two, or three , every week (or maybe every second week) for the topics that you will cover.
And it’s easy to build, as it should be based around your own sales process and buyer’s cycle – how do you prospect or find opportunities, what questions do you use to qualify? What are great questions to get accounts talking about themselves and what’s happening in their businesses, what are the typical pain points of your prospects or accounts and how do you satisfy these? What’s your value proposition? How can that be turned into a Return on Investment?
There are six sessions right there!
The bottom line
You need to make sure the core skills are in place (Indicator can help with that), then build out a program of internal training that maps to the buying process (you can use our outline to help with that), workshop with the team the best conversations to be had at each stage of the process, build some role plays around them. And repeat, repeat, repeat!
I can assure you, if you implement ongoing sales training your team will develop positively and they will deliver better results. And they will also feel they are being invested in, and become more engaged in the company. Whether they are an A player or an aspiring B player.