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The Sales Review

Learn about emerging best practices, strategies and insights on B2B sales today dedicated for the modern sales organization.

7 Pieces of Sales Training Advice That Will Change (Or Save) Your Career

Posted by Jamie Shanks on May 1, 2017 11:48:20 AM

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If a training effort is siloed without accountability, measurement and buy-in from senior leaders, it’s bound to crash, burn and often take a hefty sum of money with it. This lack of success can also be damaging to companies, teams and individual career paths.

A recent report by Altimeter found that despite the obvious potential of social selling training, uptake by sales has often been limited. Stan de Boisset, the Commercial and Inside Sales Lead at Juniper Networks, explains:

"It’s not because social selling doesn’t work. It’s because transforming an organization takes time, education, practice, and discipline. It’s like giving someone a Formula 1 car — just because they have a driver’s license doesn’t mean they can win a race.’

We found that organizations that were most successful at rolling out social selling considered it to be just one piece of a successful digital selling organization, which is made up of an aligned Sales, Marketing, and Customer Service/ Success team."

So how can you prevent failure and achieve the kind of success Stan speaks of? Here are 8 pieces of sales training advice that will help give any sales training program the strength it needs to be successful. 

1) Start With A Mindset Rather Than Tools

76% of salespeople with Navigator Licenses send zero InMails every month. The number one reason? They received zero training on how to do so.

Just the other day, I spoke with a company that rolled out a content sharing library for sales professionals. The only problem was that they forgot to inform their reps about the value of social! They had started this great initiative, yet nobody was using it.

The company gave them a tool to solve a problem they didn't realize they had!

You must convince people of the why and what's in it for them.

2) If You're An Executive, Eat Your Own Dogfood

Your sales team looks up to you. They listen closely to everything you say and everything you don’t say.

The reality is most teams treat training like taking a pill or like a widget that you purchase. They just want to check the box and get it over with.

If you’re an executive or even front line manager pushing Navigator, yet you don’t have a profile, how seriously do you think your initiative is going to be taken?

3) Include Other Departments

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. You deploy the skill-based training to sales professionals but did nothing to enable the leadership team to be able to coach, train and work those same activities.

You didn't include the rest of the commercial team, marketing, enablement or sales operations. You trained sales people on a tactic, yet the rest of the organization didn't go through a similar leadership training to be able to support those very skills.

In the 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study, CSO Insights found less than 10% of respondents developed their content and product training services together. This lack of consistency leads to low levels of adoption, meaning little to no impact on sales performance. If you leave out other departments, you can almost ensure your training isn't going to become embedded into the company's DNA. 

4) Equip Sales Enablement Properly

You have a junior sales enablement team that hasn't earned the trust and respect of the sales force, and they've been tasked with a new initiative.

This new initiative could be digital sales or social selling. A lot of the time, the sales force knows damn sure that the existing sales enablement team actually doesn't know what they're talking about. They feel like the enablement team just did a Google Search on digital sales.

Can you imagine if you get a personal trainer at the gym and that personal trainer is 50 pounds overweight? You’d probably be thinking, "Wait, are you really gonna be my coach?" The reality is they're not subject matter experts to begin with.

Clearly, many sales enablement teams are still getting their footing—only 31% met or exceeded all expectations. When this happens, everyone wins: sales win rate increase by 15% and quotas by 7%! Make sure you adequately prepare your enablement team for what is to come. 

5) Set Goals, And Measure What You Can Control

World renowned management Guru Peter Drucker says, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” When it comes to sales training, this couldn’t be more true.  

Goals are not goals unless they have a defined timeline. You must indicate I need 20% pipeline increased by X. Let’s say that X = 6 months, great! Now you have to think of what type of sales activities could yield you that type of result.

Now take another step back. What behaviors do you need to train towards and reinforce every day, week and month to ensure that you hit the activity levels that get us to those sales goals?

Then you continue to reverse engineer: what kind of program would be required to teach the type of activities that would achieve all of these goals? 

Behavioral change, like going to the gym, takes a little bit every day. 

Sidenote: If you’re measuring a program based on likes, comments and surveys, you’re missing key evidence, and you’re not making it easy to scale or reinforce. In short, it didn't become a part of the DNA because there was no return of investment on the program.

6) Don't Forget About Reinforcement

You try to cram training into an already packed sales kickoff. You look at the training initiative and say, “I'm going to throw half a day at this and that's going to be ideal for everything that I need.”

In reality, your sales professionals already have a ton on their plates. Try looking at what change management really means, which is reinforcing the action, not just learning it.

The real value is in reinforcement. Without ongoing reinforcement, reps lose 84% of what they learned in sales training in just 90 days.

7) Teach Skills Your Sales Team Will Actually Use!

Why are you enabling skills of an analog world? Your buyer is online yet you’re giving them skill-based training for skills that are no longer valuable to the buyer or the customer.

The Association for Talent Development estimates that last year, U.S. firms spent over $20 billion annually on sales training. In today’s quick-paced sales environment, ask yourselves how much time and money you really have to waste on half baked sales training programs. Do it right, or don’t do it at all.

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Jamie Shanks

About the Author

Jamie Shanks is a world leading Social Selling expert, responsible for pioneering the space. Jamie Shanks has trained 1,000’s of sales professionals from Fortune 500 companies to solopreneurs.