I’ve always been a skeptic about sales training and I was a sales trainer for eight years! I stumbled on a great article by Dave Stein that talks about the half life of sales training. It’s probably more aptly named eighth life. Training salespeople can be a thorn in the side of the CFO and CEO if the net results are no change and that is often the outcome.
In my opinion the two key reasons that Dave mentions for training failures are:
- No post-program reinforcement
- No measurable improvement
Any golf pro will tell you that changing your golf swing means retraining your muscles. The chance of that happening with one lesson are zero. Several years ago Tiger Woods changed his golf swing. After about a year and hundreds of hours on the practice tee the swing was changed. And we know what happened after that.
Changing behaviors requires time and a very, very good coach. In sales, the coach is the sales manager who takes the sales training with the salespeople. The manager is the one who reinforces the training when he or she travels with the salesperson in the field. So let’s tie measurable improvement into the equation. The obvious way to measure improvement is observing what happens to sales revenue. If the training is worth anything and the salespeople use the techniques they learn then revenue should improve. (Be cautious on this because it takes at least 3 months to see results.)
There is another way to measure improvement but it is more difficult to do. A sales call needs to be broken down to its basic components and the components may differ slightly from industry to industry. I would break out the call into these components:
- Pre-call preparation
- The opening to the sales call
- Identification of needs/questions
- Handling objections
- Close or setting the expectations for the next sales call
The key is for the sales manager and the salesperson is to agree on specific steps within each of these and to determine where the salesperson needs to improve. Next, take the techniques learned in the sales training and apply them to those areas where the salesperson is weak. And finally, the sales manager assesses the use of the new techniques during sales calls.
Sounds easy doesn’t it? It’s more work than most people can appreciate.
The Final Thought: Habits are the shorthand of behavior” Julie Henderson