Sales training at most companies, if ever offered, consists of sending sales personnel to a one / two day independent sales course. Sometimes this happens annually, but typically it occurs far less frequently. Many sales training programs conducted in-house are events where new products are introduced, in nauseating detail, with the thought that product training is sales training, which it is not.
PRODUCT TRAINING IS NOT SALES TRAINING
Sales is the only critical business discipline in which you cannot get a traditional degree. Sales personnel are expected to know how to sell – presumably intuitively. The thought that one-day seminars will improve your revenue generation is misguided optimism. I would estimate that less than ten percent of all sales personnel are truly selling professionals. Unless you have real pros that seek out mentors, like Tom Hopkins or Neil Rackham and continually build on their own skills, the ability for your business to maximize revenue lies in your ability to provide effective and ongoing training.
LESS THAN 10% OF SALES PEOPLE ARE TRUE PROS
Businesses that excel in the sales area know how to find, hire, and retain self-motivated sales professionals and then continue to develop those skills on an ongoing basis. For tips on how to interview for top reps, see my Sales Representative Interview Form. True sales pros thrive on proper training techniques as well as the opportunity to compete with peers. From inside phone sales personnel to field sales representatives, ongoing skills building programs are essential for maximum success.
At a minimum, consider the following ideas:
- Provide a time on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis where your sales team comes together for skills building:a. Objections Notebook:Have each of them keep a spiral notebook labeled “Objections.” During the time between meetings ask them to write down at the top of each page an objection they had trouble handling. At the meetings, work thru how this objection could be handled and have them all write the solution(s) in their books.
b. Win / loss Notebook: Have each of them keep a similar notebook labeled “Win / Loss.” During the time between meetings, have them write down wins and losses and their reasons for each. At the meeting, discuss each person’s win / loss stories and have them all write pertinent learning points in their own books.
- Conduct at least one multi-day sales training program annually for your entire sales team to learn both about new products as well as how to improve product sales:a. Combine Technical and Skills Training: If you have new product training to conduct, combine the technical education with sales skills training activities so that your personnel actually apply the knowledge in selling situations. Don’t teach them about a new feature, teach them how to convert that feature to a benefit that will help close a sale. Limit the time your development people spend with your sales team to sporadic windows – too much technology kills the learning process.b. Keep Them Moving: Good sales people are lousy at sitting for more than 45 minutes without some sort of activity. In my experience, taking regular “game breaks,” where your team is up, moving, and competing works very well.c. Engage Them With Practice: Mix education of selling skills, competition, and product knowledge with real-life selling scenarios. Roll playing scenarios or knowledge games, pitting one person against the other for fastest correct response, provide stimulation as well as education. If you have sales people who are too intimidated by these activities, ask yourself are really sales people. I actually had a sales rep freeze in a roll play situation, get up and leave the room, check out of the hotel, go to the airport and fly home. He was not a sales person, he was a customer service person, and we subsequently moved his responsibilities accordingly and he shined in the new role.
d. Create Teamwork and Competition:Divide your group into two or more teams and have them compete for prizes over the entire meeting. Get them team shirts or hats or something and pit them against each other. Sales people love to compete and win – the more you integrate that capability with the learning process, the faster the education will become practice.
For all of the ideas above, it is essential that the person driving your training activities is a sales professional. If this is not your sales leader, contract the right talent. I have provided only a few ideas above, and I have employed all of them and many more in the development of successful global selling teams. Like all disciplines, continual training and stimulation is required to gain maximum performance. Invest in your sales team and reap the rewards.