Sales Training - Wrong resolution to improve performance?

Story added:

Bob Apollo - Inflexion Point
Apollo - Don't Waste Training

Gyms and Sales Training Companies both seem to benefit from New Year's Resolutions. But just as signing up for gym membership won't do you any good unless you keep up an exercise routine, taking your team through sales training won't improve their performance unless you consistently reinforce the principles they have been taught, argues Bob Apollo, Managing Partner of Inflexion Point Strategy Partners.

The evidence is compelling. Research proves that - without a systematic programme of reinforcement - over 90% of the information imparted in sales training will have fallen into disuse within 30 days of the course. All that expensive investment in training - and your salespeople's time - will simply have been wasted.

Why You Need a Fitness Programme for Sales

But it doesn't have to be that way. When sales training is conducted as part of an ongoing programme of sales performance improvement that embraces best practice, winning behaviours, and a scalable and dynamic sales process, the benefits can be profound.

Just like active gym members, organisations that embrace a structured "sales fitness programme" are able to consistently outperform their peers through more effective opportunity qualification, shorter sales cycles, higher win rates, fewer "no decisions" and much improved forecast accuracy.

Identifying Winning Behaviours

Sales training still has an important contribution to make - but only when it forms part of a well-integrated programme of sales performance improvement. I recommend you prepare by clearly identifying the winning behaviours that you are trying to inculcate into your sales force.

Reviewing your recent sales wins and losses is a great place to start. What can they tell you about the common characteristics of your most valuable existing and prospective customers, the stakeholders that influence buying decisions, and the winning behaviours of your successful sales people?

Where's the Evidence?

Look at your conversion rates, stage by stage through the buying process. How long does it take winning deals to pass from stage to stage? Where are the common bottlenecks where apparently opportunities get stuck or fall out of the system? Which sales people appear to need help, and where?

What does this tell you about effective opportunity qualification? How does your sales process relate to your prospects' buying process? How can you reliably tell where they are in their consideration, and when they have passed through a significant milestone? In short, where's the evidence?

Identify Areas for Improvement

Once you understand this, you're in a much better position to identify your real training needs. You'll be able to identify the most appropriate training methodology, to set clear goals for the exercise, and to put it into the context of a well-defined sales process that fits your specific market environment.

Get the processes in place before you undertake the training. You'll be able to target the training where it can have the greatest impact on your sales performance. But perhaps most important, you'll be able to surround your sales training initiative with a well-designed programme of continuous reinforcement.

(Article updated from Jan 2011 after comment / question)

    Questions & Comments

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    Sales Training DOES work!

    The post Sales Training outcome can be increased Revenue and/or Improved Margin.

    I measured a 13% Revenue Improvement for the quarter following a ?Paint-Ball? Sales Team ?Training? day. The cost of the day was recovered a 100 fold in 12 weeks. Of course the ?Training? was a classic example of the ?Hawthorne effect ?( The Sales Training caused an attitude change, which created a higher level of motivation, which delivered (short term) better results.

    Compared to: A Negotiation Skills Workshop which included Sales Managers as Post-event coaches, and has led to a sustained Margin Improvement (long-term). This, as well as being a lot of fun, improved basic Sales Negotiation Skills. Sales Managers did Field follow-up, AND Sales Managers became much better Negotiators too! Previously they had been the ?Discounters of Last Resort!"

    As a Sales Consultant I encourage my Clients to take a long Sales Curriculum view 18 months to 3 years. We use an individual Development Portfolio for each sales person and their Sales manager. AND, we encourage post-event Sales Coaching, not as an option but as the COMPLETION of any Knowledge, Skills, Strategy or Attitude Training.
    Sales Coaching is Business- as-usual, an integral part of Sales Leadership.

    "The 90% of Sales Training is wasted" is an out of date and misunderstood statistic. It?s just not true.

    Taking a Holistic view, as Bob suggests, may well be the ?best? option, but it?s idealistic. Often a ?right? option is a simple Sales Training Event, the realistic Option. The ?Content? of the event will have as much bearing on its outcome as The Follow-up or the Whole Package.

    No matter how well you Train and Coach dysfunctional Selling skills, they still don?t work and they do harm. So, if you want to Sales Train begin with Evidence Based Content, and then work on the entire surround.

    Posted by Brian MacIver on

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    Apologies to Brian

    For all those dodgy "?" appearances - it's something that gets lost in translation between Word and C# or whatever we've got on here just now. Another for my "to-do" wish-list? ;-)
    Posted by Neil Warren on

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    When is a quotation mark a question?

    When you write it in word and post it on here! No problem Neil. The readers can sort it out, I am sure.
    Posted by Brian MacIver on

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