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If I Have to Sit Through One More Sales Training Class… (Part 2)

Train Wreck

Train Wreck (Source: RCSTANLEY)

In Part 1 I wrote about the abuse that many salesreps are subjected to in sales training classes.  I also provided sales reps’ training rights and responsibilities.

Based upon ESR’s research, here are some explanations of why salespeople are subjected to that abuse:

  • Sales management chose a trainer or training company (1) they engaged with before, in another job, or at another time, (2) who was recommended by a colleague, (3) whose webinar they recently attended, (4) whose book they just read, or (5) who advertises regularly in the trade magazines.  In other words, no evaluation took place. 
  • Sales management didn’t take the time to have their training (and vendor) requirements defined.  If, in the classroom, there is a heterogeneous group of participants with experienced and new reps, or perhaps a mixture of reps who sell different types of products into different markets, or reps from different countries, or reps of different generations, there is going to be a big challenge.  If it is not managed properly, the program will be irrelevant to half the audience half the time—or worse.
  • There is no foundation methodology and related processes around which the training is centered, so the training consists of random selection of unrelated skills and tips.  Some of those skills may help your reps win some business, some of the time. But in the long term, there is no lasting benefit. ESR has statistics on that, if you’d like.
  • The sales training vendor did not provide a competent facilitator, because the sales training buyer didn’t understand that not only does the curriculum have to be carefully specified, but so do the skills, experience and temperment of the facilitator.
  • The training program content was not relevant to the sales reps’ jobs because the sales training buyer never really compared needs versus the vendor’s offering.  Their program may have come off the shelf, or have been designed for customers in another industry. Maybe it was just out-of-date.
  • There was inadequate (or no) educational design.  The content may have been relevant, but it was not delivered to your reps in a way that would promote learning that lasts. An example would be facilitators that lecture 100% of the time, with no interactivity, or individual or group exercises or workshops. Or facilitators that believe they are entertainers rather than conduits for learning. Or no post-program reinforcement.  You get the idea.
  • Management felt that training was the right thing to do, but wasn’t really behind it.
  • There wasn’t a strategic plan to get and keep the sales team tooled for the tough job they have.

What should you, as a sales leader, do?

Here is a bit of advice (this is what I do for a living…):

  • Understand that professionals (think pilots, doctors, realtors, teachers, nurses, accountants, etc.) need ongoing education.  If you don’t think your salespeople do, you’re probably wrong.
  • Understand that pragmatic sales processes and the training that supports their use is good for you, and your sales team, not bad.
  • Start focusing on specific areas where your team needs a bit of formal process. For example, are they having trouble qualifying buyers or are tasked with cold calling but don’t have a script? Once you figure out what the process is, get them trained on its use.  Then support them through it becoming a habit.
  • From now on, take the time and effort to find the right vendor to provide sales training for your team.  There are many hundreds of terrific trainers.  Keep in mind that the best fit for you may not be one of the well-known companies.  It could even be someone you’ve never heard of.
  • Invite one or two of your most respected reps to join a one-time steering committee to get this sales training thing done right, once and for all.  It’s time out of the field, but the return on their time should be significant.
  • Get yourself (or someone you delegate) to explore the proven new approaches to sales training.  For example, a blended training approach (classroom, individual, self-directed e-learning) will probably offer more for your team than the traditional three days at the Holiday Inn conference room.

Getting sales training right is very tough.  It’s not like training someone to answer a support call or balance the books.  Many companies try, but get it all wrong.  Too small a percentage have really figured it out.  That’s why I founded ESR.

Take the first step in leaving your competition behind by accepting the responsibility to drive a formal, well-funded and supported sales performance improvement/sales training strategy within your company.


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