The Future of Sales Training
With more than four decades of sales training experience with leading corporations, we at Champion Strategies felt compelled to identify why companies aren’t attaining a higher return on their educational investments in sales. Interviews with multiple customers and experts, as well as industry research provided a number of insights. I identified five key barriers to sustained performance improvements as follows:
1) Too Much Too Soon – The Sales Training “Event”
Since “time in territory” is often a sacred precept for sales organizations, exposure to training is often forced into an intensive classroom experience, where the goal is to infuse as much “learning” as possible into a limited time frame. As a result, many sales training initiatives are intensive, multi-day events that cover every possible aspect of a new sales methodology. This is essentially the same as trying to learn all of the skills and nuances of a sport such as tennis or golf in a few days – a student would attempt to apply a few basic ideas related to each of the strokes, but without repeated coaching, practice, and reinforcement the learner would never attain mastery. It is virtually impossible for sales professionals to learn, retain, and apply more than a small percentage of what is typically offered in intensive, multi-day training events – unless there is a systematic reinforcement approach across an extended period of time.
2) Sales Training is Often Not Aligned Around a Proven Sales Process
In many cases, training efforts focus exclusively on skills and techniques. While these elements are essential to good training, if there is no process “backbone” to attach new practices to, the new methods are applied sporadically and soon fall into disuse. In essence, new skills fail to “stick” without a committed change in the overall sales approach and philosophy. The application of new methods is typically reduced to a few good ideas gleaned from the training at an individual level.
3) Fragmented Approaches Fail to Provide a Continual Learning Experience
Many initiatives (and training vendors) apply a partial or fragmented training approach that fails to address specific types of learning. Simply providing “blended” learning that is comprised of instructor-led and eLearning courses may not improve retention and application results. An appropriate blend of controlled learning “events,” on-demand resources, “push” reinforcement, and on-the-job learning is required to meet the needs of next generation sales professionals.
4) Gaps Exist in Training Curriculum for Specific Roles and Competencies
There are as many as 10-12 key competency areas (groups of skills) for high levels of sales effectiveness in large sales organizations. Even when there are attempts to define skills gaps with some level of rigor, some of the most critical competencies are often omitted from a formal training regimen. For example, in territory sales, there is overwhelming evidence that rigorous targeting of prospects can pay huge dividends, but many sales training initiatives never include any formal education and tools for quantitative targeting methods. Strategic and complex sales can involve a very different skills emphasis than more transactional selling situations. Sales organizations need well defined competency models and curricula to ensure sustained value.
5) Sales Management is Overwhelmed
Sales management and coaching is often cited as an imperative when new training is introduced to a sales organization. While there is a degree of truth to this perspective, in the high pressure environment of, “make your numbers this quarter,” most sales managers simply don’t have time to address the overall coaching and mentoring needs of their direct reports. Many of the prescribed sales management and coaching methods don’t scale in the real world. As a result, even when sales management is philosophically committed to a new sales process and methodology, the ability to follow through with adequate coaching and mentoring is often unattainable.
Make it a champion day!
Brandon K. Hardison – Champion Strategies