Perhaps the financial success of the training industry is indicative of the fact that managers are desperate to fix their underperforming sales teams with transformative seminars and weekend retreats.
With all the training options available, and all the money being spent on training, why are managers still struggling? Is sales training simply ineffective?
It turns out there are a few key differences that make sales training effective or ineffective.
If you have ever been disappointed with sales training your company has paid for, you are not alone but this is a problem that can be avoided.
Read on to find out how to avoid bad sales training and how to get the most out of good sales training.
What Does Bad Sales Training Look Like?
One Size Fits All
Sales managers that are particularly desperate for help tend to look to large training companies for answers, with broad demographics and ubiquitous presence.
There is not anything inherently wrong with using a large company to help you train your sales team, but assuming a big company with a decent reputation has the right product for your specific team in your unique industry is a simplistic assumption, and often a mistake.
Sales training trips or retreats can be effective if they are paired with proper support afterward, but something about stepping away from daily reality to learn a new method makes it easier to leave the lessons learned at the training location.
Sales training loses its power when a salesperson is not given the opportunity to apply new skills in his actual work environment.
Exclusively offsite sales training usually ends up being about as effective at instilling good habits as an expensive work vacation. When salespeople return to reality, their bad habits often return too.
All Flash and No Substance
Sales training events can sometimes over-emphasize motivation and excitement, often to the detriment of the actual lessons being taught.
Motivation is important, but if that is all that your sales team absorbs from a training experience, you will be lucky to notice any lasting positive effects once the team returns to reality.
The best training will use motivational activities primarily to sustain energy for learning.
Serious Lack of Support
Training programs that do not include some element of long-term reinforcement and support are generally not as effective as training programs that do.
Without continued reminders and motivation to apply the skills learned during training, it is simply too easy for salespeople to forget and fall back into old habits.
How to Get Sales Training Right
Start With Diagnosis
Knowing your team’s strengths and weaknesses is the most important element of choosing a training program that will actually work.
Begin collecting data as soon as you can and use the data to figure out at what point during the sales process your salespeople tend to drop the ball.
With this information in hand, you can find training programs that focus on strengthening the skills your team specifically needs.
Remember Your Team is Unique
The data you collect will help you to understand your team’s weaknesses and strengths, but it is also important to remember that your product is unique and your industry is also unique, so the skills that work for some salespeople may not be ideal for your team.
While industry-specific training might not necessarily be the answer, it is important to determine beforehand whether or not a training program will be applicable to your team’s sales process.
Avoid Information Overload
A human’s capacity to retain new information is limited, especially if the new information is introduced quickly and without frequent refreshing.
The simpler the program, the better it tends to stick, so look for programs and sales training exercises that reinforce the basics and introduce new procedures one step at a time for maximum retention.
Why is Great, But How?
Changing is hard work, which is why a lot of training programs tend to focus on motivation.
The more motivated salespeople are to change, the more likely that change is to stick, right? Well, sort of.
While motivation is a critical part of forming new habits, there must also be a very clear and organized process outlined for the changes to be made, especially in sales where following a process and keeping track of data is so important.
Without explicit instructions, no amount of motivation will create the change you want.
Make it Stick
Training principles must be reinforced regularly if they are to become habits. Look for programs that provide some follow-up support while your team is learning to make changes.
It is also a good idea to consider extending the reinforcement period for any training you use with continuous skill building initiatives.
Use your team meetings to refresh skills and review sales training exercises. Solid sales skills make for better salespeople with longer, more successful careers.
The natural competitive spirit of Driven salespeople can be used to your advantage both during and after training. Incorporate skill-refreshing challenges into your regular team building and motivation-boosting competitive activities and watch your team’s habits change for the better.
Fixing or building a great sales team from scratch is not a problem that will be resolved if you simply throw enough money at it. Training and skill building are important aspects of career development that must be attended to regularly and throughout a salesperson’s career.
It is up to a sales manager to figure out what his sales team needs and choose or provide training to support the team’s development and meet the company’s goals.
Sales aptitude testing used during the interview process will give you the best odds of stacking your team with salespeople that have the Drive to succeed in the demanding world of sales.
Driven salespeople have a specific set of personality traits that make them easier to train, easier to motivate and more likely to succeed.