Last month we encountered a couple of Sales Managers running their own 'ad hoc' sales training in-house. (This 'ad hoc' sales training is not to be confused with the sophisticated sales training programmes run by some of the larger corporations who employ their own in-house sales training programme directors.)
The questions I ask these Sales Managers are:
- Do you have sales people in your team that substantially out perform the others?
- Do you get frustrated that some of your sales people don't implement the advice you give them?
The usual answer we hear to these two question is yes and yes. Which tells us there are shortfalls in their training methodology that means that potential sales revenue is being lost.
No Sales Manager likes to admit that their in-house training is falling short. (Sadly I have to admit being no exception to this comment in a previous sales management role). After all most experienced Sales Managers are seasoned and competent professionals with excellent personal sales success records.
We think we have some ideas on why in-house sales training almost without exception fails to deliver the key result, increased sales revenue:
- Is often viewed by the recipient as more of the same old rhetoric. Giving your sales people advice over and over the same way usually has a diminishing effect each time you tell them.
- While Sales Managers usually have a wealth of knowledge to share they are not necessarily professional trainers. Giving people the knowledge and processes and getting them to use and adopt them as habit are two different things. If your sales people have the knowledge, skills and processes but fail to deploy them, you can't expect sales to increase. It's like the old adage 'Telling ain't selling' and 'Telling certainly ain't training'. Professional sales trainers are experts at getting sales people to adopt and deploy.
- Often in-house training is provided as a point solution – it addresses a single issue in the sales process (it might address a single aspect like negotiation or closing) rather than being delivered as part of a a complete coherently structured programme. However there is a strong case for in-house training that focuses on a specific aspect of the sales programme. It can be used to to address a specific shortfall that arises in the sales process. It can be used to adjust the sales process to accommodate a change in focus i.e. a shift in focus from product orientated sales to service orientated sales and it can be used to reinforce an external sales programme. For these reasons it is also extremely important that any external sales programme is designed to integrate with your existing environment and specific market conditions. Whoever delivers your sales programme will need to be cognisant of this when tailoring the sales programme for your team. This will mean that they will need to spend some time before the commencement of the delivery of the training programme surveying your market territory and getting a good understanding of your specific challenges.
- In-house sales training is often provided without structured follow up mechanisms or metrics to ensure that the 'student' stays on track. Taking a wait and see approach, isn’t as effective as milestone-monitoring and mentoring the sales process for a period after a training workshop. This is essential in order to fine tune and adjust strategies to suit your sales staff's unique requirements and to address the inevitable adoption hurdles staff encounter.
- Sometimes it's hard to see the wood for the trees, or determine if you need to return to your basics, or reach out for new strategies. And of course it's also important to always keep critically examining what we are doing from fresh angles. Often an outside perspective can clearly spot what is missing. Professional sales trainers should also be keeping abreast of new sales and lead generation technologies that can fundamentally change sales strategies.
Obviously I have a vested interest in this topic. I suspect that this posting is going to create some interesting and valuable discussions. But it is a discussion that should also take place within your organisation. I started this article by saying “Last month we encountered a couple of Sales Managers running their own ad hoc sales training in-house”. The interesting thing is that we approached one of these sales managers as a result of a request from his sales staff that felt the internal sales training was very haphazard, and not tailored to their current requirements and opportunities.
Comparing results from sales staff that have been through your current training programme with those who haven't should provide revealing metrics. (see graph above).
If you're not measuring sustained gains in sales revenues from those staff who have been through your current training ... then it's obviously not working. If it's not delivering bottom line gains in profit then stop wasting your money and change something!
Liam Venter: Author of the popular sales training manual
'The Consultative Sales Professional'
You can obtain a copy here