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Top Criteria for Sales Training Success

Sales Training

On this episode, Rainer Simmoleit, CEO at P4C Consulting asks: What are the top criteria for sales training success. 

 

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Video Transcript

That's a wonderful question. I love that question because when we think about training, we're always looking for success. And it gets to these six key factors that I'm going to share with you that we think about in terms of driving training success.
 
The first one is executive buy-in. So when you talk to senior sales leaders, they're looking for business results. That could be increased sales productivity, faster ramp-up time for new hires, better win rates. It's important to acknowledge what they're looking for and then get into a deeper conversation and say, "Well, if we wanted to have those types of business results, what kind of underlying sales skills or behaviors will be required to drive those results?"
 
It could be that if we're into new customer acquisition, we need to focus on prospecting skills. If it's about navigating accounts; we may need to do a better job of finding calls, identifying who the key influencers are, who are the key decision-makers, and doing some pre-call research.
 
If it's about positioning our value, we may have to have better customer conversations. In most cases, we're going to need a combination of all those skills to the drive results. That kind of conversation helps to create the executive buy-in.
 
A second key factor is looking for a training partner that's willing to invest the time to understand your business. There are many great off-the-shelf training programs in the market today.
 
But when you look for a program that's going to be successful for your company, it's important that you have someone who is willing to take the time to do intake interviews: talk to senior sales leaders, training professionals, sales managers, and salespeople.
 
Also get an understanding of your industry, your products and services, how you interact with clients, what are some of the challenges that you face, who are your primary competitors, what are the most frequent objections? That level of context will create huge relevancy in the delivery of the program.
 
A third key factor is looking for a training program where the content aligns with the skills. It's important to do a deeper dive into the curriculum and say, "Okay, based on the results that we're looking for and underlying behaviors that need to change, is a curriculum aligned with our goals? Will it result in better sales conversations? Will it allow us to manage the frequent objections? If we're in a complex sale, will it help us do a better job of navigating accounts, understanding who are the key influencers, who are the key decision-makers?"
 
We want to make sure that the curriculum is well aligned with the program and it's going to be a combination of factors that make for a great program. But ultimately, having the right curriculum is essential.
 
A fourth key factor is making sure that the training experience is interactive. All of us have been in programs that are somewhat lecture-based or text heavy. And the problem with those types of programs is not that the underlying content doesn't align with your goals. It's that it's not experiential in learning.
 
What we want to focus on is the fact that we're dealing with an adult audience. In many cases, sales professionals who have shorter attention spans. We need to get them engaged in the training. So what we like to use as a benchmark is two-thirds of the training experiential learning.
 
That could be group discussion, exercises, role-plays, simulations, a variety of interactions where there is skills application and adoptions. What we're looking for is skills transfer that will drive behavior change.
 
A fifth area is customization and making sure that the program is customized for your business. That customization gets to relevancy. I mentioned salespeople having shorter attention spans and they'll make a quick decision, "Is this training going to help me become a better sales professional? In other words, will I be able to close more business or do my job more effectively? Or is it not that relevant?"
 
They're going to make that decision somewhat based on the look and feel the materials, but even more importantly, are the examples that are being used relevant to their business? Are the role-plays that are being used customized for their business?
 
In other words, if you're dealing with the services business and you're talking about manufacturing—not relevant. If you're dealing with software as a service, you don't want to be talking about industrial products.
 
This idea of going in and making the program relevant in terms of the discussions, the exercises and the role-play is important. And the sixth area and arguably maybe the most important is making sure that your front-line managers are committed to reinforcing the training. There's been billions of dollars invested in training where there's arguments that can be made that the training didn't stick.
 
But there's a lot of things you can do in terms of reinforcement to help the training stick. The most effective way is that you have your managers involved in the training and in ongoing sales coaching so they're actually on a day-to-day basis coaching the salespeople on the skills that they learned during the training programs.
 
To recap, there are six key drivers of sales training success. Number one, your executives have bought into the sales training in terms of both the results and underlying skills that will drive those results. Your training partner is willing to invest time to learn about your business. The sales training content aligns with your training priorities. Two-thirds of the training program is focused on skills application. The sales training content is customized to your business. And your sales managers are committed to providing ongoing sales coaching.

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.