How to Choose the Best Sales Training Company
Investing in sales training to improve selling skills is one of the wisest decisions any sales manager can make. But what’s the best way to find a sales training company that will get you great results? Here are seven key areas to consider as you evaluate different options.
Area #1: Reputation and thought leadership
Shopping for a sales training provider starts with general research (either online or by word-of-mouth) about companies you might want to work with. First, consider the reputation of each potential partner (every year Selling Power releases a list of Top 20 Sales Training Companies, which would be a good starting point). You should also explore the content (blog posts, webinar recordings, white papers, reports, etc.) on their websites to assess their level of thought leadership.
Area #2: General professionalism and responsiveness
Evaluate your initial interactions with potential providers. Are they responsive to your emails and phone calls? Are they good at building rapport with you? Do they seem well-informed about your business? Do they talk about your business goals and priorities, or do they talk mainly about themselves and their offerings? If they don’t seem invested in learning about your particular goals and needs, it’s probably wise to continue your search.
Area #3: Sales-training curriculum
Before you commit to any sales training program for skills improvement, you need to establish whether or not the program’s curriculum aligns with your needs.
Many sales leaders get burned by sales training programs that fail to deliver on expectations. At the outset, ask, “Will this program result in the behavior change and skills improvement we want?” This will depend on many factors, but, in general, you should look for a comprehensive program that includes pre-training consultation and assessment, as well as post-training reinforcement and coaching.
Typically sales training companies will share enough of their content to give you a sense of whether or not it is a good fit for you (if they don’t, that’s a red flag). When evaluating content, look for alignment of at least 80% between the company’s curriculum and the skills you want to address. For example, if you want to improve your sales team’s negotiation skills, make sure the curriculum addresses that particular skill set in enough depth. If negotiation skills make up only a fraction of the company’s core curriculum, this particular training program will not address your needs.
Area #4: Customization capabilities
Almost all sales training programs will require some level of customization to fit the individual needs of a given sales organization.
The issue of customization is particularly important for sales organizations that feature a variety of sales roles. Let’s say your sales organization is made up of new business development reps, account executives, and strategic account managers. Obviously, each of these roles requires different skills. Therefore, it’s important to make sure the curriculum can be custom tailored to address the specific sales roles and the associated skills.
Be aware that the level of required customization must match the level of consultative expertise by the training partner. As an example, if the customization requirement is fairly light because the curriculum generally aligns with the training priorities, you can usually get by with the facilitator conducting a few intake interviews to understand your business, speak your language during the training sessions, and include a few customized role plays. However, if you’ll need to modify terminology or sales process, or make changes to the underlying content, you’ll need to work with experienced sales consultants, instructional designers, and facilitators.
If your sales training initiative requires a high level of customization, you definitely want to work with a sales training consultant who can understand your business, industry, products and services, and competitive challenges. You also want great instructional designers and facilitators. Ask the potential vendor to send bios or arrange a call with the proposed account team you will be working with, so you can evaluate the project team’s experience and background.
Area #5: Training delivery
You want to think about three elements when it comes to delivery: 1) who will deliver the training, 2) how many salespeople will participate in the training, and 3) where those salespeople are located.
If the sales training company is conducting the training sessions, you want to make sure the company’s facilitators have experience training in similar situations/settings. For global companies with sales resources concentrated in various regions, I recommend creating a grid so you can see where you’ll need facilitation assistance and which languages you’ll need to support. This will also help you make decisions about whether the training should be delivered in person (are there are enough participants in a region to support onsite delivery?) or whether you should look at virtual instructor-led training for remote regions with fewer participants.
On the other hand, if the training is going to be delivered through in-house resources, it is essential to understand the training partner’s licensing terms, train-the-trainer program, and support resources. If you need to add more participants than your initial estimate, be sure to ask about licensing terms and any associated fees you might incur
Area #6: Program Sustainability
Your investment in training is predicated on improving selling skills and associated sales behaviors. As such, you should look for programs that include reinforcement components as well as pre- and post-training assessments. Make sure the plan is holistic and that you clearly understand what will happen before, during, and after training to ensure training application and adoption by the participants.
Area #7: References
As a final point, you should ask to speak to references. While the above points will help you narrow in on the right training partner, it is reassuring to speak with other clients to understand their experience and outcomes. It’s not enough to have the sales training provider send you case studies or training success metrics. You really need to talk to other clients and ask, “What was it like working with this particular training provider? What were your objectives, and did the program meet those objectives? How has the training impacted sales performance?”
By exploring the seven areas above, you should be well on your way to selecting the right partner for your sales training initiative.
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.