I’m going to go ahead and call it. I truly believe sales people get a bad rap.
In no other profession are you expected to hit the ground running as much as you are in sales. I suspect this has a lot to do with the fact that we often see the ability to sell as not a ‘learnt trade’ but an ‘inherited personal attribute’.
We often think of a sales person as somebody with a natural disposition for the job. They talk sense, are quick on their feet and can sex up any concept. We think of them as having the ability to sell ice to Eskimos and sand in the desert.
Now, if this was true, growing and maintaining a strong workforce would be a very difficult challenge. Natural salespeople are sadly few and far between. Well, let me rephrase that, outstanding natural sales people are few and far between.
Fortunately, and contrary to popular belief, sales is a science and not a game of chance. And as with any science, there are very clear steps one must follow to reach the desired outcome, invariably and every time. Ergo, these steps can be taught and can be learnt. Sales training is a necessary step for every new sales recruit.
The Difference Between Sales Training & Sales Coaching
It’s worth taking a moment to shine a light on two terms that are often placed in the same bag but that are actually very different. Sales training and sales coaching.
Typically a week long exercise and closely linked to sales on-boarding, sales training is offered at the beginning of a sales rep’s employment. In sales training, the rep is given the tools and assets necessary to fulfil what’s required of him/her going forward. All information and teaching is jam-packed into a short period of time and given very little space for full absorption so, it’s no surprise that we tend to forget 80% percent of the information we were taught within 90 days.
Is an ongoing practice sales leaders need to master in order to help their team reach their personal targets. No sales rep is too experienced to benefit from sales coaching, as it offers an outside perspective into both their personal methods of working and also the health of the deals they’re working on.
For sales to be truly effective, you need to offer your team support in both these areas.
Design a Sales Training Programme That Really Works
As no two businesses are the same, no sales training programmes can be. However, for any training programme to succeed and remain relevant for your users, it’s good to inject a dose of good practice into the equation.
Here are five things to keep in mind when designing a successful sales training programme:
1. Learn from your sales process:
If you’re going to ask your new recruits to follow your business’ modus operandi, you best be sure that you know what this is and if it actually works. Step one in your programme building exercise is to look deep into your sales journey and identify what good actually looks like for your organisation.
You can do this by paying attention to what your top performing reps do. What steps do they follow that make them so successful? Quantify this way of working, breaking it down into easy-to-follow steps that your new recruits can follow.
2. Make it real-time:
Very little benefit can be achieved by cramming lifelong sales lessons into a week of training. As we saw before, our information retaining power is pretty weak. Instead, offer the first week as an orientation period where new recruits can meet the team, understand what’s expected of them and get comfortable with the technology they need to use every day. After that, expand the training process across several weeks (even months!) and offer targeted guidance as the rep is working through the pipeline. You can automate this practice by using behavioural training apps like SuMo to offer your reps real-time prompts and nudges as they’re taking action.
3. Make it personal:
Offering standard one-size-fits-all training to your entire sales force is a waste of yours and your team’s time. Sales reps have different backgrounds, are in different stages of their careers and learn at different pace so what serves one individual, may do nothing for the next. Set personal learning targets that are closely linked with each rep’s strengths and weaknesses and follow-up on their progress at least once a month.
4. Reward learning:
Keep your guys engaged and motivated with their learning by acknowledging their progress and rewarding their milestones. Gamify the learning journey by setting up challenges, pit new recruits against each other in friendly competitions and look to host weekly ‘award ceremonies’ for the reps doing a great job. Sales folks are hugely competitive so turning otherwise pretty boring training into an enthralling competition will have a huge impact on the way they learn. You don’t have to invest too much time or money into it either – we have a customer who has a box filled with inexpensive goodies in the office. Each week, the rep that’s performed the best is called up and invited to pick an item from the box. The simple act of being publicly singled-out and congratulated is enough of a boost to finish the week on a very good note.
Ready to host a really successful sales contest? Read this first!
5. Review & rethink:
No sales training worth undertaking is ever complete. As your business grows and your sales team innovate around your sales process, new learnings arise. What may have worked well last year, may no longer be so effective this time around. If you want to lead a successful sales force, make sure to keep your eyes and mind open. Learn from your team’s success stories and losses and continually iterate your training programme so that you’re offering the best possible guidance, every time.
A sales leader does no service to its team by letting them run away with their allocated portion of the pipeline. Successful leaders train strong teams and then, they coach them to success.
Continue Reading: Sales Leaders Turn to New Sales Training Methods to Increase Sales
Done with training and ready to coach? Here are 5 tips for highly effective sales coaching.