Powerful Strategies for Impactful Sales Training
Sales training is a valuable investment in your business. To ensure your initiatives produce lasting results, you need to plan the structure, delivery, and follow-up of the training you offer right from the word go. The following five strategies of effective sales training will optimize the return on your investment in terms of cost-efficiency, human resources management, and increased sales.
1. Build Reinforcement into the Training Structure
Studies show that trainees are likely to forget new skills and knowledge if they are not followed up with positive reinforcement. To ensure your training investment results in permanent improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of your sales teams, you need to plan and structure reinforcement into the training programme from the start. This means providing regular opportunities for revision and review of new material.
Your reinforcement plan should cover two aspects of learning: theory and practice. Each trainee needs to review the theory and principles underlying new skills and practices with their sales coach. Trainees can do theory review in person in a one-to-one or group setting, or via phone or video conferencing.
Sales personnel may be resistant to both initial training and reinforcement if they do not have a clear understanding of why the training is essential. Make sure that all training, including reinforcement, is explained at the outset and linked to broader business performance objectives. Ideally, demonstrate to participants how the activity will benefit them in real-world situations.
To give your sales team the chance to put new skills into practice in real business contexts, build in opportunities for sales representatives to get out "in the field" either singly or in small groups to apply the new skills and techniques they are learning. In the first instance, it is useful if the coach can be present, at least part of the time, to observe and provide constructive feedback. As the team members gain confidence, they can go unsupervised, and performance assessment can then be made based on the outcomes.
2. Choose Coaches Who Are Both Qualified and Experienced
It can be a challenge to implement the learning outcomes of sales training courses if you do not have the right coach. Finding a qualified and competent coach is vital to the success of your programme. You may need to interview and vet an external coach if you don't have a suitable staff member already on the payroll.
A coach who possesses both a coaching proficiency and a real-world experience relevant to your industry is a must and is more likely to help your team members implement their learning outcomes.
3. Empower Your Sales Managers to Provide Support and Development
An impactful training programme does not end when the coach packs up and leaves. Post-training follow-up, development, and support are vital aspects to assist sales teams in integrating the skills they learned during training into daily work practice. Integration can be achieved through regular follow-ups and reviews carried out by sales team managers.
When sales training fails to produce bottom-line results, it is usually because sales team managers are not fully aware of their responsibility to support ongoing implementation. Senior management needs to engage sales managers, in advance, in discussions about training contents and expected outcomes, and they should be fully committed to follow-ups and reviews before the training even starts.
To do their job well, your sales managers need to understand the training their teams have received and how putting its learning outcomes in practice would improve the performance of the sales team and ultimately increase the revenue of the business. They should also have access to the resources they need to support the team in implementing the new practices.
4. Formulate and Implement a Three-Month Normalization Plan
Studies in the psychology of learning show that new skill or behaviour must be practised consistently for three months for it to become a normalized habitual behaviour. This can be very challenging for managers and their teams. No matter how good your coach is and how effective the training programmes are in the short term, it is essential to formulate and implement an action plan that gradually embeds new learning in current practice.
Your sales team could quickly revert to their established comfort zones in the post-training environment, but you can mitigate potential reversions by implementing in a three-month normalization strategy. Besides the support and reinforcement work your sales managers carry out, this means establishing weekly check-ins and feedback sessions for the first few months of the initial implementation period and assessing the extent to which the new skills were successfully performed in the daily sales activities.
5. Collect and Analyze Data
How do you know if the training investment you have made is delivering in terms of increased efficiency and sales? You need to have systems in place to collect data on key metrics which you can then analyze to determine the effectiveness of your training strategies. Such analysis can also help identify areas of improvement and inform the development of future training programmes.
One of the difficulties sales managers may face in assessing the effectiveness of a sales training course is understanding how to measure results. To measure results, you need to identify at the outset the metrics you intend to use, and then capture their pre-training values to establish a performance baseline to compare post-training results against later on.
So, record metrics such as average sales, length of the sales cycle, and performance-quota ratios before training begins. After three months of continued post-training data gathering using the same metrics, you can analyze for differences. Besides hard data and statistical analysis, it may be beneficial to conclude the training process at the end of the three months with an open feedback session for your sales representatives to report their personal experience and evaluation of the training given.
Whether you choose to train your sales team in-house or engage a third-party training provider to teach them, these five strategies will help you maximize the effectiveness and ROI of your sales training programmes. And when your business reaches the stage where these strategies are naturally part of its learning culture, you may consider other useful methods such as simulation and learning-by-teaching to advance your training projects further.