The Best Sales Training Techniques to Change Sales Behaviors
On this episode, Nisaar Nadiadwala CEO of Maroof Marketing Consultancy asks: Should we include sales training as a complete course instead of a few hour workshop? In this Q&A, we discuss the best sales training approach to change sales behaviors and five key factors that affect the quality of sales training.
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That's an interesting question. Sales organization deliver sales training in different ways given technologies and distributed teams. But I wouldn't think about it as either a course or a couple- hour workshop. Think about it as a program.
Programs have three aspects to them: a before, a during, and an after. When you think about it as a program, first think about "What are the training objectives? What's going to change as a result of the training? And why is that change going to be sustainable?"
For example, common training objectives today include improving prospecting skills, acquiring new accounts, or going deeper into existing accounts. It could also be around pre-call planning and research, given how difficult it is to get appointments. Doing a better job of asking questions—active listening skills—to understand at a deeper level what the customer's needs and priorities are. Or being able to manage objections and being able to gain commitments.
Those are some of the essential sales training techniques that you might focus on. What's important to think about here is the before, during, and after.
Before the training includes (1) Consultation: you understand the training audience, who they're selling to, what the sales cycle is, and what's the competitive landscape. (2) Customization to make the program relevant to the learners; and (3) Assessment to get a benchmark of where people are before the training.
Also, five factors affect the quality of training. For reference, we cover these in our whitepaper on Maximizing the Effectiveness of Sales Training.
The first factor is motivation. Is there executive sponsorship from the sales leaders? Is there a communication about what does the program involve? Why are we doing it? Why does it matter? What's going to change as a result of the program? And most important, Is there active involvement from the front-line sales managers?
A quick example. We've been working with a large industrial company and we were scheduled to go out and do a two-day workshop. They had already done the consultation and customization.
The sales leader and the senior sales leader—who was the president of that division—brought in their VPs and the team a half-day early. They did pre-work related to real-world accounts, and they were primed and ready for the training. Their active participation created accountability both from management and the participants.
The second factor that affects the quality of training is customization. Salespeople make fast decisions. They're thinking: "Is this program relevant to me?" Relevancy is why you need to think about exercises and the role plays.
For example, managing objections. As opposed to going through an objection-handling model, apply it to real-world scenarios. Then in the role plays use what they learned so that they're getting very practical skills application.
The third factor that affects the quality of training is Spaced Learning. Spaced Learning goes to the genesis of your question—should it be a course or should it be a shorter workshop?
The best kind of learning is blended learning. What's going to happen before the training? (e.g. an online assessment). What's going to happen during the training? (e.g. a two-day onsite)
Then what's going to happen afterward? Are there online reinforcement sessions? Are we incorporating e-learning? Are we sending out tips and techniques on a weekly basis? Use spaced learning and technology to support your program goals.
The fourth factor that affects the quality of training—and where a lot of training fails—is reinforcement. And that's unfortunate because it's so easy to reinforce training today.
You can have online reinforcement sessions, training snippets, and sales simulations. Most importantly, you want to get your sales managers involved and coaching to the skills that were learned. Sales managers should cover these skills in their sales meetings, observe these skills on sales calls, and put together personalized coaching plans for each person that attended the training.
The Coaching Plans should focus on one or two critical skills their team members need to improve on. Then overtime sales managers should change those plans and look for consistent improvement.
Finally, the fifth factor that affects the quality of training—and another area where a lot of organizations struggle—is measurement.
The reason sales organizations usually struggle with measurement is that training, as opposed to a program, is delivered as a course. By thinking through what's going to change as a result of the training, you can measure behavior change. For example, back to that example of overcoming objections, you could observe on a sales call if the participants apply the objection-handling model.
Then over time you can look at what we call level four assessments or level four feedback regarding business results. Are we getting higher win rates? Do we see improved margins? Do we see accelerated ramp-up time? It's not that difficult to measure programs, particularly when you've set out those goals in advance.
To recap, it was an interesting question, and we encourage everyone to think about their training as a program with a before, during, and after. I hope that answers your question and good luck and much success in all your training endeavors.
SRG Insights is a Q&A video series where we answer your questions on the topics of sales, sales management, sales coaching, and sales training. Featuring sales experts with over 25 years of sales and sales management experience.
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About Norman Behar
Norman Behar is Chairman and Managing Director of the Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He has over 25 years of senior sales management experience, and is recognized as a thought leader in the sales training industry. His blog posts and whitepapers are frequently featured in leading sales enablement publications including ATD, TrainingIndustry.com, and Selling Power.