The most successful sales managers understand that training is not an event, but rather it's an ongoing process. Effective sales training must be treated as a continuous, multi-part project that is targeted, planned, updated, and tracked for effectiveness.
It can be easy for sales managers to fall into that training-as-event mindset. The manager buys some generic sales training and sends the team off for a few days to… learn. She did her homework when picking a facilitator, and the response was great. The team is pumped. The trainer was funny and engaging and got everyone super-excited about selling.
Great! But now what? In many sales organizations, what typically happens next is... nothing. Everyone goes back to work, the team reverts to old habits, and the numbers start getting harder to make. Instead of having a plan to improve the activities and actions of the team, the sales manager throws up her hands and just says, “Go sell something!"
Training is not just about going somewhere and learning some new stuff. Gaining new knowledge is wonderful, of course, but actually using the information to improve performance and execution is better. Integrating a continuous performance improvement plan to actively identify the strengths and opportunities within your team is an absolute necessity for long-term success.
Here are five steps sales managers should take to ensure sales training initiatives have a lasting impact.
To that point, establish a relationship with the training facilitator. The training facilitator and the manager have the same objective—or, at least, they should have the same objective—and that is increasing the productivity of the workers. If the trainer is not focused squarely on achieving performance results, find somebody else.
Meet with the facilitator in advance of the session, if possible, to set expectations and make sure the content is aligned with organizational philosophies. Advise the facilitator if there are certain topics or skills that need particular attention. This is also a good opportunity to identify which team members could serve as role models during the training sessions, as well as which participants might need a little extra attention.
Keep training concepts top of mind by making quick-hit learning refreshers a staple of the work week.
Make it a weekly goal to send out an article, a case study problem, or how-to video to team members. Facilitate a group discussion about the item, or discuss it virtually in a social learning context or as part of on-the-job coaching. Use this content to establish team best practices and to challenge critical thinking skills by asking, "What would you do?"
During regularly scheduled team meetings, allow high-performing team members to demonstrate or discuss a given skill or behavior. Record the lesson for future recall and for the benefit of those not in attendance. Besides acting as a form of public praise, this tactic helps reinforce positive behaviors while also serving as an especially impactful form of user-generated learning content.
Make it mobile, too, by pushing information and training bites to their mobile devices. Create mobile job aids, such as a bulleted “features and benefits” quick guide, a microlearning video for last-minute meeting prep, etc.
Schedule group pre-call planning activities to reiterate themes and strategies. Outline main concepts and selling points, such as "Three Things You Need to Know," and reconvene after sales calls for debriefing.Work to proactively counter sales objections. Whether as part of a group discussion or in individual debriefs, collect a list of objections the sales team is regularly hearing, and work through them on a case-by-case basis to optimize the response. The good news is that oftentimes, the list of objections will be narrower than you might anticipate.
Keep an eye on the calendar and call your salespeople after their next big meeting. Discuss the full event based on the training they received. What was their pre-call planning? How did their expectations for the meeting match reality? Did they attain the meeting goals? How did they use their discovery questions to move the process and identify needs? What are the next steps?
When a team member shows the use of their training knowledge, acknowledge it. Good pre-call planning got them a second meeting? Give them a gift card. Identified a new objection and handled it successfully to move the sale forward? Lunch on the boss.
Small wins should be recognized and celebrated in view of the team to reinforce and drive positive actions. Don’t just wait to reward closed deals—that happens with behavior and activities already past. Drive current activities and good processes, and reward as soon as possible when it is identified.
No matter what tools or procedures you decide to use, the key to successful sales training is to remember it is a process, not a single event. Taking the information from the training event and turning it into repeatable actions is what will make you and your team successful.
Topics: Training and Facilitation