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Training a Big Sales Team

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People who read or listen to my work frequently contact me to share their woeful accounts of the sales training they have endured at their current employers. I apologize for that. Companies that provide training often handle the process poorly.

I tell businesses that if they can’t do it right, they shouldn’t do it at all. It will be a substantial financial loss and might even be counterproductive.

As you might expect, I’ve condensed our team’s methods for conducting large-scale training sessions into just a few key points. I figured it might interest you. (Keep in mind that this is not a PR blurb. I can be highly insensitive to others’ sensibilities at times.

1 LEARN AS MUCH AS YOU CAN ABOUT THE PROBLEMS.

The views and insights of the sales team are included here and those of management (to be trained). Better skill acquisition occurs when adults are asked for input on areas needing improvement. How often have I heard that the training provider never bothered to find out what the sales staff wanted or needed? Tons.

That’s so ridiculous. Isn’t the trainee even allowed to identify their most significant problem area?

Identify the problems you wish to address as well. Unless there is a substantial financial incentive to alter one’s behavior, that behavior is unlikely to shift. Spend a few hours defining what “not calling at the right level” means for your business if it is an issue for your team. Can you close an extra 5% of proposals if you were adequately leveled up? If so, how much money would that make for your business? It won’t be effective if you can’t put a price on training. (By the way, each of your employees should be able to quantify the opportunity cost of their lack of exercise.)

2. Make room for the exchange of tried-and-true methods.

Most training providers are so eager to push their agenda and pack meetings to capacity that they don’t leave any time for participants to discuss what’s working. What could be more valuable than Pete learning from Lisa a field skill that results in revenue, whether or not some fictitious curriculum requires it?

I’m not sure if the training company serves the client’s best interests or their own. For me, that still needs to go to trial.

Three, CONSTANT REINFORCEMENT.

The message requires constant restating. Audio podcasts, phone calls, and administrative backing are all viable options. Learning from a single exposure is ineffective for adults. They absorb information through repeated exposure to it, practice, and feedback. This is especially true of topics (like the ones we cover in class) that require a mental shift in addition to a behavioral one.

More and more companies are using the message-reinforcing multi-media capabilities of private blogs and podcasts. A training blog or podcast series is a must for any company, but it’s essential for those with geographically dispersed staff.

Transform your thoughts in the fourth spot.

Content has the power to alter perspectives and stimulate new ideas. People won’t be inspired to learn if you hand them a checklist to check off. People are fundamentally changed by excellent training. Also, ensure that the emphasis of your activity is not solely on increasing revenue for the business. So, you did hear me. The most effective sales training programs cater specifically to each participant’s needs. Period. When you devote yourself wholly to developing people, you reap economic benefits. (Most organizations overlook this entirely. This is the most critical training secret nobody knows.

AN ATTITUDE FOR 5 PROBLEM-SOLVING.

The content should focus on helping customers, not just making more sales. Therefore, the material should train students to identify and resolve issues more effectively, as this is how businesses provide real value to their clients. Unfortunately, most training is not like this. The central question of the vast majority of sales curricula is, “What do I need to say to the customer to get them to say ‘yes?'”

Managers, if you want to de-motivate your sales staff, teach them sales techniques that make them look like clowns. Make them into monkeys that just read from a script. Instruct them in overcoming skepticism that has been around since antiquity. If you do those things, you’ll end up with a staff full of people who merely pay lip service to the information you’ve presented and may even begin to doubt their place in the sales industry. Not exactly inspiring, is it?

Six APPLICATIONS IN PRACTICE.

Theoretical training is insufficient. While academic instruction is good, excellent sales training must equip each participant with actionable takeaways. To do, or somewhere to go. Access a trainer willing to work on critical deals and actual sales scenarios. You may be wasting time and money on training that doesn’t make the participant responsible for his or her actions in the field.

Seven DIRECTION AND COACHING.

There needs to be a coach present to help people overcome their barriers to change when you ask them to alter their outlook, perspective, or philosophy. The other day I met a guy who, by all accounts, ought to have known how to do a specific (relatively simple). It reminded me that I couldn’t make assumptions about someone’s skill level when coaching them. I must give them step-by-step instructions, sometimes down to the last word.

8. Have a preliminary gathering.

We suggest that large-scale training programs begin with a face-to-face kickoff. While we expect much of the work to be done remotely, we believe the initial meeting should occur in person. Ensure the Senior Sales Executive gives an impassioned speech about the importance of people development to the company at that meeting. And the role that sales training plays as a competitive differentiator.

When asked to conduct training for large groups, these are some of our considerations. I figured you could use these to gauge how well your current activity is going. Alternatively, this could be helpful if you’re considering adding a team member with our skill set.

In addition to this article, you may find the following resources helpful in understanding the concepts presented here:

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