This is a post about the importance of taking it back to the basics even when introducing new sales training ideas.
The latest-and-greatest needs to be rooted in the tried-and- true, the proven, the established, what really works. Even with these fundamentals first, you can get creative and bring something engaging and fresh to your team. But just because it's shiny and new doesn't make it superior to what works.
It’s a misrepresentation and a disservice to your sellers to assume that sales training is all about having fun or trying a new program for its entertainment value. It’s just not true that doing things differently will somehow produce a different result. In order to get a great result from sales training, you need to consider these things first:
5 Musts of Sales Training Ideas
1. They Should Be Worth Everyone's Time
Knowledge presented is not the same as knowledge transferred.
The objective for any training ought to be making sure that the recipients of new skills are able to employ them right away. Any new information being shared is information that can be applied in meaningful ways that will make a difference in performance.
This is especially true when it comes to sales people. After all, time out of the field and spent in the classroom is time when revenue is not being generated. So it's all the more important that every single minute of training be a solid transfer of knowledge that will help to drive improved results.
2. They Should Treat Employees Like Adults, Not Children
Another thing to remember is that these are adults. They don’t learn the same way that children do. There are certain learning principles that apply to adults, and the person conducting your training should be a trained instructional designer who can leverage the learning principles that help adults learn best. For example, adults need to have opportunities for critical reflection. They simply can't accept something as gospel truth until they've had a chance to calibrate it with their own experience, to ask questions, to try it on and pull it apart, and make it their own.
Adults need experiential learning opportunities, and they need credit for the experience that they bring to the table. Any facilitated program that overlooks the importance of these adult learning principles is a program that is doomed to fail. Similarly, the person conducting your training should be a gifted facilitator and coach. You won’t get much ROI on pure lecture and one-way delivery. Sales people, by their very nature, prefer to interact. They have a variety of learning styles, but the work they do causes them to be highly interactive, and that will help them to learn.
3. At Least Consider Bringing in an Expert
A facilitator and coach can draw information out of participants. This is wholly different from what managers or untrained trainers often do. If someone is merely presenting information, it's just not going to have the same impact as someone who is skilled and trained as a facilitator, coach, and instructional designer.
Bottom line: Your objective is knowledge transfer. It's got nothing at all to do with a number of “butts in seats” during the training event nor the number of glowing comments at the end of the workshop. What matters is that you get behavior change that produces improved results.
4. Follow Through With Action
That’s why reinforcement matters so much. Sales Managers should plan ahead to provide ongoing and cohesive reinforcement. Any training facilitator who’s bringing a quality program will prepare the sales management team to carry the program forward after the training event. This should include some accountability for the sales managers as well as the sales training participants. Accountability for using what's been taught and getting results by using these new techniques is the key to getting higher ROI
from sales training.
5. Give Participants a Say
There are also some fundamentals to include on the front end. To get buy-in, one proven technique is to survey participants before the training is fully designed. This gives participants a voice in shaping the training. They will then be more likely to buy into it because it’s something they feel an ownership stake in. The facilitator can also use information from the survey to customize the training in a way that makes it highly relevant and less theoretical.
When sales training has been customized in this way, it's more likely that people will be immediately interactive and will be able to apply what they learned coming straight out of training.
And Now for the Outcome
Overarching all these ideas is this one. It all starts by thinking first about what outcome you want to achieve. What is the outcome you're looking for? It's got to be something more specific than “we want better sales results.” A little diagnostic work will help you understand why sales results are lacking. Then you'll know specifically which skills to be training on. If there are many of them, you'll need to break them up into manageable chunks because adults learn best in small bits. Create opportunities for them to learn, try, fail, try again, and eventually do. Once they’ve accomplished one new skill, then you can introduce another.
Knowing your desired outcome also enables you to look at companion solutions. Training seldom stands alone as the end-all, be-all solution. You’ll want to look for a facilitator and instructional designer and coach who also can bring you some expertise as a consultant. Someone with all these skills will be able to help you figure out the reinforcement, the buy-in, the knowledge transfer, AND the appropriate wraparound of other solutions to achieve your desired outcomes.