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Turning Your Salesforce Into A Learning Force

By Ray Makela

In this episode, we discuss how sales is changing, how sales training needs to respond to the new complexities in the marketplace, and what salespeople need to do to adopt a learning mindset.

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***Enhanced Video Script ***

We've all heard that customers are more sophisticated today than ever. The buyers are further along in the sales process, they’re more educated, and they're more informed and have access to more options than ever before. On top of that, there's information overload.

They're trying to find out what to do, where to start, where to get the information they need to make decisions, and marketers bombard them with a wealth of information that's sometimes very confusing.

Also, there's more collaboration involved in the typical sale. We know that there are more buyers involved, more stakeholders who’re influencing those deals, and we have more sellers than before. Often, we have sales engineers, architects, and product managers involved in collaborating to close a deal. So, it's gotten more complicated from that standpoint.

Finally, we're asking our salespeople to deliver more insights. To cut through that noise and to be more educated, be more consultative, and engage the stakeholders with meaningful insights that they can use.

You take all of that, and then on top of that, you put the technology stack—technology tools, artificial intelligence, and several things that make it even sometimes more difficult for the salesperson to do their job.

So, what does this mean?

It means that to be successful going forward, the salesperson and sales team need to be even more agile, nimbler, and they're going to need to become great learners and great teachers to be able to adapt and change to that fast-changing environment.

How does sales training need to change to respond to this complexity in the marketplace?

Sales training needs to become even more nimble and consume closer to the point of need. Once a year workshops and sales kickoffs are no longer going to satisfy that need, and in fact, these have been failing for years, but nobody has really wanted to admit it.

Productivity and quota attainment have remained flat despite considerable investments in training and technology, so we need to respond to this need. And that means that training needs to become more engaging, more entertaining, and even more relevant. Participants will make a judgment quickly as to whether or not it's going to help them, so we need to make it very pointed, specific, and helpful to the problems they’re facing.

Training needs to be offered as a blended program with multiple options that's instructor-led, and video resources, practical applications, and cohorts, where they can engage with their peers.

Learners have different learning styles, and we need to accommodate those. We've developed a blended program that’s proving to be very successful using these types of techniques. So, specifically, having videos that break the content down into small chunks, making it easy to consume and digest.

Providing fieldwork and challenges that allow them to go on missions and apply those skills to real-life situations. Providing cohort groups and sessions where they can engage socially with their peers, gain insights from each other, and collaborate. And then supplying tools for the managers to be able to coach and reinforce those skills and being able to review and accommodate those skills within their weekly meetings and ongoing one-on-ones.

Then finally, providing a way to gamify or provide certifications where they're working towards a goal. It's both the carrot and the stick. We're giving them a carrot or something to work towards, and some accountability of something to work towards that we can measure and see if completion has happened.

What do the salespeople need to do to adapt and change to this mindset?

We want to encourage them to start thinking like lifelong sales learners. What's in it for them is better productivity, quota attainment, and engagement with their customers. We want them to learn to assess their own skills and take ownership of their development and be able to coach themselves.

So, asking the questions after a sales call, even when their manager isn't there, what two or three things could I do to become even more valuable? What takeaways can I apply based on my learnings from this experience? Salespeople should always be improving their skills, much like a high-performing athlete always knows those two or three things that they're working on that's going to improve their performance in a game.

We can break this down and provide them recognition, provide them with skills and points that they can improve as they go forward. Stephen Covey talks about highly successful people take time to sharpen the saw. We need to encourage our sales professionals to enable themselves to see the skills they need to understand, and we need to help them understand how to sharpen the saw, give them the tools and the time to be able to sharpen the saw, and then apply that to their own skills going forward.

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About Ray Makela

Ray Makela
Ray Makela is CEO and Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.

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