Sales training is one of those things we all wish we didn’t have to go through. From the sales manager perspective, it’s a time-consuming, obligatory part of onboarding. For the sales rep, it’s just another hurdle standing in the way of making their first sale.
But alas, only by building an effective training programme, do we stand a chance of successfully creating a team of strong sellers that know our process and our products to a ‘T’.
This is why, anybody undertaking the almighty task of sales training shudders at stats like the below, taken from a White Paper by Imparta:
Up to 80% of new skills are lost within 1 week of training if not used
Up to 85% of sales training fails to deliver a positive ROI
87% of new skills are lost within a month of the training
These figures are high, daunting and very uncomfortable…
Why is it that after all our hard work, our imparted wisdom seems to come in and out of our new hire’s ear at such speed?
Perhaps, it’s got little to do with our content and a lot to do with our delivery. Maybe it’s time to stop seeing sales training as imparting knowledge or teaching new skills but more as modifying behaviours.
Why? Because behaviours are habitual and once properly learnt, they stay with us, almost subconsciously, driving us to perform a certain task a certain way, over and over again.
As a nice analogy, let’s think about our driving exam.
I bet you drove into work today abiding to every law of the road, changing gears and stepping on pedals without a single second thought. However, if you had to sit through that theory test again today, chances are you’d probably fail…
It works similarly with what we learn on our training programme. Memorising a few ground rules is just not going to do it.
After years working closely with customers looking to increase the performance of their sales teams, we’ve witnessed some common errors that have snagged on even the most thoroughly thought-out training programmes.
Below is a list of top culprits to why sales training often has little long-lasting impact:
1. It’s too much, too quickly:
Anybody working in the realms of Sales Management feels the same frustration. The ramp to revenue timeframe is painstakingly long!
It’s perhaps for this reason that some organisations are trying to compress sales training into a few, very full-on, days. The problem with this is that all it really does is overwhelm the new sales rep with a thousand different theoretical segments that are destined to be forgotten after week two.
Sales training should be given the time it deserves. Depending on experience and role difficulty, it should vary between 4 weeks and 6 months. It should be delivered as a continual streaming process that includes clear action plans, role play, skill development and case study experience.
Enough assimilation time should be given in between training sessions to allow for questions and self-study.
Thanks to new technology, like Pacing by SuMo [link to blog] this type of training can be automated, helping sales reps through their sales journey with helpful tips and progress reminders as they’re taking action.
2. It’s too theoretical:
Few (if any) of us will come out of our first training session having mastered a new skill. True, honest learning requires time, application, coaching and practice. And too often, we don’t give new recruits a fair chance to actually learn.
If your sales training is composed of a stuffy meeting room, a PowerPoint presentation with ‘good practices’ and an Excel sheet with targets, we’ve got a problem.
Successful sales training must be designed in a manner that will directly result in sales, not just education, so make sure you’re imparting true lessons that will actually lead to closing deals.
Create actionable content that can be applied straight away – whether in a safe ‘training environment’ or directly out on the field – to ease understanding and absorption. The gap between sales training and application of new learnings is what may be destroying all your efforts.
3. It doesn’t show real value:
You can give your reps the most awe-inspiring masterclass in the world but if they can’t see direct value or relevance for themselves and their customers they probably won’t ever implement your teachings.
If your new recruits can’t see the real value in what you’re saying they will start placing more emphasis on completing the course (and checking that section off their onboarding) than on the new skillset and behavioural change attached to it.
Directly show how following these best practices will help them become more efficient, which in turn will help them sell more, make more money and be more successful. Understanding the clear WIIFM (what’s in it for me) will guarantee your reps try hard to implement the new behaviours that have been so productive for their peers.
Don’t forget to support your training with plenty of case studies and talks from top performing sellers.
4. The available training resources are weak and sparse:
Which brings us to this very important (and often missed) step in any good sales training programme. The training resources.
Whether it’s due to lack of personnel, time or know-how, most organisations flunk when it comes to creating and maintaining appropriate training materials.
Training resources need to be current, clear, informative and readily available at all hours and in all possible formats. Help your trainees further their education by giving them free access to product data sheets, competitive advantage points, customer case studies, etc. in their own time and at their own pace.
Sales reps are on the road most of the time so be sure to offer up these assets through mobile or at least online, so they can polish up on the new skillset whilst they’re waiting for a prospect or riding public transport.
If your organisation is not able to hire a content writer or administrator, fall back on the help of the wider team to help you build these assets. Seasoned sellers will give you great insight on the most successful sales pitch whilst Product Development can help you build informative documents around your product features. When in doubt, tap on the shoulder of the Marketing team to help you make the content engaging and visually pleasing.
5. There’s no ongoing support:
Great, you’ve done your best to impart some wisdom into your new recruits. They’ve developed a few useful habits and now they’re ready to be let out into the wild, left to their own capable devices, correct?
No, not correct. That’s a terrible idea.
Even the most talented sales rep needs a sanity check every once in a while. An opportunity to review and receive feedback from somebody standing on the side lines of the sales journey, capable of seeing gaps in opportunities, remedies to bottlenecks and solutions to common objections.
There are many benefits to modern Sales Coaching and we recommend you always follow up training with regular and personalised coaching sessions. We’ve got a whole blog talking about the marvels of this important practice.
6. Nobody is practicing what you preach:
Most of us learn by imitation. And if the rest of the team is not practising the skills that you so carefully imparted to your new recruits, chances are, they won’t be using them either. The best way to help training stick is to showcase the practical examples across the organisation, trumpeting adopters and creating buzz through frequent communication with the rest of the team. If you do find the wider team is not adhering to your taught sales process, it may be worth considering broadening your training to old timers too…
7. No regular evaluation:
Here’s a common downfall of many sales training programmes. Once the lesson has been conveyed and the rep is given free rein to put it into practice, few organisations take the time to check up on whether or not new skills are being put to use. When there’s no repercussion for using a new skill or not, it makes it even easier for reps to slip back to their comfort zone, soon forgetting any valuable insight they may have collected in their training.
On the other hand, it also helps to keep an eye on the impact the new training has on each individual rep. Did they really understand it? Are some reps being more successful than others? Is somebody doing something different and seeing better results? Reviewing often will help you tweak and enhance the experience for future sessions.
Always measure results, otherwise, you won’t see any.
And if after trialling out all these recommendations, you still can’t seem to engage your new hires, implement an element of fun into your training programme. Sales reps are competitive, they will thrive in an environment of friendly rivalry. Check out our ultimate Sales Contest Guide for complete guidance on hosting successful sales competitions!
Now that you’ve read through the sales training ‘DON’Ts’, it’s time to glance through the training ‘DOs’! Here’s a comprehensive how-to blog around building a successful training programme.