This article comes with a disclaimer as whatever I write in this piece, you the reader may no doubt think, “Well you would say that, you are a sales trainer” and the answer is yes, you are right. I am going to say it, because I am a sales trainer, and I have been a sales manager and I still sell every day and most importantly, I am not so arrogant as to believe that I can stop learning, and if you were in the same position, so would you. Taps temple with finger.
Let’s talk about sales training and why it works so well on so many levels. Clients want training of any kind to work for their business; they especially want sales training to work. I meet with lots of clients who want to discuss training and they can often have very similar comments and questions.
I have heard clients say that sales training doesn’t work, and when training has been put into place that initially their people were motivated, but in the long term the team went back to their usual habits. My response is the same to every client. The training has to be managed once it has taken place, and as the trainer is not present once the training has been put into place, it is down to the manager. Of course if the manager doesn’t know how to put into place effective measures and objectives from the training, then guess what? The team will go backwards.
Someone once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I see so many companies buying similar training and expecting different results, and it isn’t going to happen unless the training is managed, it is vital that the trainer work with the manager to help them do this.
Clients also have lots of questions, and here are the most common questions that clients ask when it comes to buying sales training.
How will I know that it will make a difference to the team?
How will I see the benefits of the training?
Why do they need the training anyway, don’t they already know how to sell?
Some of the team have been selling for years, why should I train them?
Isn’t sales training expensive and something of a luxury?
Five years ago I set up SerialTrainer7 Ltd, the business focus was to deliver sales training that got teams where they needed to be faster and to leave them there better. This means working with the team and their manager to create training that is relevant and measurable, as well as supporting the manager post event. In those five years that SerialTrainer7 Ltd has been running, clients must have asked me the above questions more times than I can remember, and why wouldn’t they, they should always ask. The thing is, often some of the clients that ask me these questions are sales managers and sales directors themselves and this really baffles me that they would need to ask. Don’t they feel that they have benefitted from sales training at some point, maybe right at the start of their careers? Do they also believe that sales training stands still that it hasn’t evolved and moved with the times?
Lets look at the answers to the questions above and some additional ways that sales training can benefit.
1. Sales training really benefits the team as it can bring them together in an environment where they can share their experiences and learn from each other. This time together rarely happens, (despite what managers say about sales meetings happening, they are different and the agenda is not the same) training opens up people’s thinking so that they can share how they deal with objections and close, and this creates a real cohesiveness to the team and can create a consistency in how the company is presented and the product sold.
2. Sales training is often sold on the benefit that it will create an immediate uplift in sales. This is a misconception and it is important to manage expectation carefully. Sales training doesn’t create an immediate lift in sales; and if it does, then it is about a short term burst. In reality it has more of a cumulative and richer effect that follows a logical order, but only if it is managed.
First the quality of calls and meetings improves; the sales training helps sales people to do better research, fact finding and opportunity spotting, therefore priming them to close. The manager should as a result of the training, be setting specific measures on the quality of the calls, otherwise this will lead to initially better call quality and then the training will fall off of a cliff.
Second the levels of trust built between the sales person and the client; due to everything happening in the earlier point, again the manager should be using specific tools and measures to help the sales person qualify the client and ensure that they have the perfect solution that differentiates and substantiates any claims.
Third the level of conversion will increase due to the better quality conversations and the levels of trust being built; of course clients can buy in their own time and therefore the sales training can have results over a period of time, not necessarily immediately. The manager again has to be on top of the team in terms of when clients will be closed and how effective the proposals and sales message is. This, the manager has to do by dual calling and sales coaching. It is here that the benefits of training are seen.
3. Sales people on the whole do know how to sell, however discipline is key and refreshing and updating skills is absolute. You wouldn’t buy a kitchen knife, keep using it over and over and never sharpen it would you? It would become blunt and potentially more dangerous. No, you keep it sharp, you keep its edge, and you keep it honed.
Sales people need to keep learning, and often some of the more seasoned sales people come into training skeptical and wary, they are concerned that they are either going to be told how to do their job, so then they become immediately defensive or that they are going to get shown up as being out of date. Neither of these things is going to happen on my courses; seasoned sales people have so much to offer and share to those less experienced. I like to encourage this, it makes the sales person feel safe and then they open up like a flower.
4. Sales training can be expensive, it is an investment, and therefore should be considered carefully. Sales people are an asset to a business; they are one of the key revenue streams, so why wouldn’t you want to invest in them. Doesn’t it mean that the team have some sort of competitive advantage over their nearest competitors too. Companies spend so much on product development and marketing and yet often forget the sales people. They then wonder why the sales people end up dropping their prices to get the sales, and this is because if they are not trained, they will always fall back to selling price rather than value.
Sales training is not a luxury, it is an absolute essential.
5. Sales training gets people engaged with the business. In HR, employee engagement is everything, and if you train people they will feel supported. They will have no need to move on to other companies (where they probably train their staff, how many times have I seen exit interviews where a lack of training has been cited as a reason to leave, I digress) and if you can reduce turnover then that can be a great thing. Ultimately they will have more of a connection to their manager, to their team and to the product they sell. On the flip side sales training has another benefit, which is a little dark, and yet essential. It can help weed out the dead wood, it can highlight those sales people who are coasting and there for an easy ride, making the choice and process of managing them out easier.
6. Sales training can help sales managers look terrific as it can really enable them to create specific KPI’s and measurements to develop their teams and make themselves look like the best manager they can be. It can develop the coaching and mentoring aspect of their role too, getting them closer to the team and respected as a manager who gets stuck in instead of sitting behind a spreadsheet. It can finely tune their leadership skills and in time when sales leaders move on, they can find they have quite a following of sales people who will move with them. Sales training can enable so much for the manager, but only if the manager understands what is being taught in the training, showing they can learn themselves and by applying and measuring the skills.
7. Sales training is about the long game, the investment. Clients, who train their teams regularly, see long term gains in terms of revenue generation, savings in recruitment costs and increased levels of loyalty from their clients, who in turn end up spending more. It is that simple. A good sales trainer becomes a friend to the business, one who continually supports the team and wants to make a difference to that business. Select sales trainers who currently sell and have a great referral rate and terrific testimonials.
This article will have cemented for you why you should invest in sales training for your team. It is my hope that you have the best team you can possibly have and that you as the sales manager are the very best you can be. Good luck and thank you for reading.