In my opinion, hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide are wasted every year on irrelevant, unnecessary or inappropriate sales-skills development and there are four obvious reasons why.
To begin with, the typical one-day seminar may supply a short-term motivational buzz and provide the delegate with a number of thought-provoking ideas. However, in reality, once these people are back on the front- line, the day-to-day pressures of hitting quota, etc. take over again and the reactive mindset returns.
Secondly, most – not all, but a very high percentage of courses available today – deliver what I term “generalized” skills development. For example, someone operating within the aerospace sector negotiating multimillion-dollar contracts can find himself sitting next to a young salesperson who markets insurance policies and is based in a call center. In the next seat is another person who is developing a successful career in manufacturing selling hydraulic components. You get the point?
To achieve sustained success, in all of these disparate industries, requires specific skill sets. The generalized workshops simply cannot deliver them.
Thirdly, I would estimate that at least 80 % of training organizations today make the assumption that all delegates are at the same level in terms of experience and expertise. This is, of course, totally unrealistic.
While it is not possible to equate age and experience with success, the reality is that although some professional salespeople do have 10 years’ experience, most have one year’s experience 10 times!
The very best salespeople – the ones who consistently exceed expectations – have usually received ongoing skills development from the emerging stage, all the way through advanced, right up to the consultative level if appropriate. The key word here is “ongoing.”
Finally – and this is the most significant and blatant error of judgment most sales directors make – every member of the team receives the same training – i.e. they are all sent to the same course, regardless of whether or not they already have those skills, or if indeed they need to have them in their current role.
The point here is that there is far too little planning, assessing, and objective-setting – it is much easier to abdicate responsibility to the training company. The downside to this approach is, of course, so much money is wasted. So what is the answer?
Changing Your Sales – Training Approach
The first step for any company deciding to make a change in their sales approach is always an assessment of the situation. What processes and methods are currently being employed by the company? What has their sales performance been? What percentage of salespeople is meeting quota? What are the biggest obstacles to success? How dynamic or stable is the company’s environment? What are the practices and expectations of the buyers? These are only a few considerations.
Training must be based on what the salespeople need and should be tailored to address diagnosed performance gaps. Using a diagnostic approach, a formal sales team skills audit saves an organization money and time because there is nothing to be gained from teaching people something they are already doing well – or conversely, that they don’t need to do in the first place. A well-targeted program is far more likely to engage the participants’ full interest, because they’ll see its immediate relevance to their daily results.
Any training program will be more effective when the skills that participants learn are reinforced on a regular and continual basis. For maximum impact, every level of management must reinforce training. Such reinforcement can come in many forms, but the best way is for the sales manager to serve as a “model of excellence” who provides an ongoing demonstration of required skills so salespeople begin to live and breathe them.
Choosing the Right Training Company for Your Needs
Most sales-training companies have a unique philosophy and therefore a specialized approach. Perhaps they are strong in the area of selling business value to board-level members, at the expense of competitive positioning. Perhaps attention on strategies for winning very complex sales situations dilutes their efforts toward working with students on the details and tactics that they need to execute in order to win – down to the actual words they need to be saying and to whom.
A training company that specializes in one or more areas of sales expertise, will not necessarily perceive or look for your requirements in other areas. If the training/consulting provider is left to define your approach, there will more than likely be a gap in the methodology, and of course a resultant gap in the subsequent training.
One way to handle this is to employ two independent providers. One would assist in assessing your situation, defining your requirements, and perhaps in building your methodology. The second would provide the training and would be evaluated and selected based upon their ability to meet your specific (and complete) requirement set. That would ensure that the first provider would not be defining your requirements to meet their expertise.
The best alternative is to employ a firm that is completely independent of any training or sales consulting provider and can offer the proper guidance, throughout these steps, to achieve the best possible result.
Important to any company that makes an investment in sales team development is measurement.
Benchmarking current levels of performance, setting reasonable goals and objectives based upon a careful assessment of the situation and measuring progress against those goals is a necessary, but for the most part overlooked, component of most training initiatives.
When progress is at or above expectations, everyone is encouraged, motivated and continues to perform and excel. If expectations are not being met, the opportunity exists for immediate problem diagnosis and adjustment, assuring that the initiative will get back on track and provide the return on investment expected.