The Biggest Drivers of Sales Training Success in 2020
As sales organizations plan their training initiatives for 2020, here are my thoughts on the biggest drivers for success.
#1 Clear Focus on Training Objectives
While this may seem straightforward, companies often begin to select and implement training programs without a clear focus on the training objectives. Given the number of competing priorities within sales organizations, sales training often gets thrown into the mix as a “we should also include sales training.”
In general, investing in training is a good thing. However, the investment (time, money, travel…) is much more purposeful when tied to specific ways that will help the sales team better engage with customers.
In speaking with clients who are embarking on sales training initiatives, I invariably ask, “what would you like training participants to do differently or better” six months from now. In other words, what skills or behaviors need to change to support your training goals.
The ROI of sales training is likely to be metric-driven (new client acquisition, increased margins, greater market share). However, it is the underlying improvement in skills and behaviors that will drive these metrics.
Bottom line: Focus on what you want the training to accomplish and make sure that the training program you implement is in alignment with your objectives.
#2 Onboarding New Hires
Sales organizations have been growing rapidly in a very tight labor market. As a result, sales organizations have to focus on hiring the best available talent, which in many cases means salespeople with great natural ability but less experience.
Also, more advanced selling skills have become the norm as companies are transitioning from product sales (i.e., typically relationship-driven) to solution sales (i.e., consultative and value-driven). Given these challenges, implementing a well-structured onboarding plan that gets new hires trained and productive quickly is essential.
Key elements of the onboarding process include a thorough understanding of solutions and the customer needs they address, competitive landscape and points of differentiation, win themes, and the critical selling skills required to engage with customers successfully.
Bottom Line: Develop a well-structured onboarding plan for new sales hires and stick to it.
#3 Blended Learning
While most organizations have historically included some form of blended learning, the technology-driven options available today are far more robust and compelling. From a pure learning perspective, sales training initiatives should strive to include the following:
- Pre-training assessments and/or exercises (online)
- Highly engaging workshops (live or via virtual classroom)
- Reinforcement sessions that include homework for skills application (live or via virtual classroom)
- Performance support (self-paced micro-learning videos)
- Skill application tools (online and/or embedded in CRM)
While these have typically been approached sequentially, today’s sales enablement technologies allow sales organizations to configure the training experience to the specific needs of the users.
As an example, if you want to onboard a new user and group training isn’t offered right away, you can begin by asking them to go through the micro-learning videos and complete the online skill application exercises.
You can also train smaller groups through a series of interactive live online sessions and include homework between the sessions so that participants can apply the skills and share their experiences.
Bottom Line: Embrace technology to deliver a more robust training experience.
#4 Sales Coaching by Managers
Based on our research, sales coaching is the most crucial driver of success by sales managers. Managers have the benefit of seeing their team in action and can target skills development on specific skills for each member of their team. As an example, a newer member of the team may need help with prospecting and call planning so it makes sense for the manager to coach on these areas to help them build a pipeline.
More experienced sales reps, however, may need help with more complex skills such as navigating accounts and advanced negotiation techniques to help develop and win more significant opportunities.
The key to remember is that sales coaching needs to be personalized and collaborative. To make this occur, sales managers need to understand the salesperson’s perspective and jointly develop plans that secure commitment and buy-in. Unfortunately, many veteran sales managers still resort to “telling”. While “telling” is expedient, it does little to enhance skills and empower.
Great coaching requires patience and practice so that managers can help sales reps discover areas for improvement, observe and provide feedback, and, ultimately, empower their teams to achieve even greater success as they adopt and apply those skills.
Bottom Line: Train your sales managers to be great coaches and instill a coaching culture in your sales organization.
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.