Train, Evaluate, Coach

Training is a Process Tied to Goals. Training is Not an Event.

Engaging Bill

Clients engage me in multiple ways:

  • speaking engagements
  • mini to whole day workshops
  • 1-3 day classes
  • 8-12 weeks on-site training
  • ongoing training over the course of 6 -12 months

The material is typically customized to your company and industry and addresses your specific sales effectiveness challenges, i.e. gaps in achieving your sales goals.

The investment will vary depending on the event, amount of people, level of customization and follow up.

No matter what the event, the key to success is to first change or reinforce beliefs on being customer centric. Second is to focus on how to have accountability and follow up. If there is a clear goal and a plan for holding people accountable to learn and implement the training, then multiple types of venues can work. If there is no accountability and coaching, then no matter if it is in-house or a workshop, the training will have limited impact. The follow up after training is actually more important than the training.

Effective Training and Receiving a Tangible ROI

In many situations, there is little lasting value in training events. After a training event sales leaders hopefully see a short spike in sales then sales results drop back to where they were 3 months later. Sales leaders continually complain that training does not deliver sufficient returns.

There could be several reasons for poor returns on sales training:

  • The training is all product focused.
  • Training is about closing the sale not about adding value.
  • Sales training is focused on the transactional process – i.e. it is focused on how you want to sell, not on how the customer wants to buy or how to help them achieve their desired outcomes.
  • Training was really just educational with no method of tracking if your team learned the material or applied the material.
  • Sales training curriculum is based upon a 20th century model before the Internet and knowledgeable buyers.
  • Sales training material is anecdotally based, not based upon sales research, buyer research, and the delivery is personality driven.
  • The main driver of the type of training was time and venue, not results.
  • No follow up or coaching.
  • One size fits all in the way material is delivered.
  • Not customized to your company, product and services – sales reps left to “figure it out” in terms of how the training applies to their specific situations.
Training Trends

Training trends have generally been driven by several internal factors: a) the sales process – from the seller’s point of view, b) the venue – time and costs and c) a selection by mid management with no tie to goals or specific results. Most training was focused on how to prospect, qualify, present and close. The goal of the training was to help improve making the numbers, i.e. the quota, in the time frame allocated for the quota. (What’s missing? How the customer wants to buy is what is missing.) The cost of training was more important in deciding how to do training than the results the training was supposed to deliver. Training was driven by a budget process or the venue, not a revenue-driven process. Few may ask “What percentage increase in revenue will we achieve from this training?” The venue or time frame allowed drove what type of training was done from a cost and implementation perspective. “We have a company meeting and so there needs to be ½ day of sales training.” Or, “We can’t afford for the reps to be out of the field more than two days so a seminar will have to work.” In many cases, if training was selected by mid management, cost and venue were the key drivers, not results.

What is missing in selecting and participating in training is senior management involvement! Typically, senior management did not participate and does not hold those down the line accountable for training participation or application.

Establishing a Goal for Training

All training events should have a goal and a way to measure if they are successful. The first goal should be to change or reinforce a belief about the proper way to sell. For without the proper beliefs, the proper behavior won’t show up. Other goals could be addressing a specific issue that is hindering sales to improving revenue in a specific market segment.

As for measurement, this could be questionnaires at the end of training to see if they really learned the material to continual discussion of the material in sales meeting followed up by coaching. Coaching is the most effective way to ensure application of the training. True coaching is not telling the sales rep where they are ineffective, but asking questions and helping the rep see for themselves where they need to improve. Then, give the sales rep a learning assignment to and evaluate again to see if they have mastered it.

Using a sports analogy. Most seminars or classroom training is like football players watching films and studying plays. It is not until they are on the practice field do you learn whether they really can execute. And during the game, execution is what is most important.

For this reason, I prefer to work with a company over a long period so I can actually help in the practice and coach as they “play”.  But in many cases a shorter event is what is desired due to other circumstances. If I conduct a workshop for a company, my goal is not to implement more knowledge; my goal is to change belief. For one must change belief before one can change behavior.

So, if you engage me for a sales meeting, leadership workshop or other one-time event, I will work with you to first establish a goal and then I will customize it to your business issues. If this is a one-time event,  I will work on imparting credible research based customer information with the goal of changing or reinforcing your people’s belief on how they should be selling versus giving another sales process. If their belief is changed, then they can begin their behavior change.

Finally in my critique of most sales training, 70-80% of sales education is on the company’s product or service offerings. The training is focused on what can be sold to the customer, not necessarily what the customer wants nor is information presented from the customer’s perspective. The training is on technical information, not on soft skills of human relationship or business acumen. Product training is almost always presentation focused, i.e. the sales rep is going to make a presentation on their products or services and try to relate the features to a customer benefit. The product training is not designed to be a dialogue with the prospective customer. There is little needs analysis and very little, if any, discussion of what the customer’s key drivers and goals are. The sales process is designed for the sales rep to do most of the talking.

Tracking the Process and the Results

The importance of tracking implementation of the training is given through the example of getting a lesson in golf from a professional. The professional generally changes a person’s swing. The person’s golf game actually gets worse instead of better as he or she tries to implement what the golf pro taught them. Typically, without monitoring the new way of doing things, i.e. tracking the implementation, the person becomes discouraged and goes back to their old way of swinging. The new way would have eventually delivered much better results, but the person did not stick with it because it was uncomfortable and their results got worse in the short run. Generally, there are no consequences for non-compliance in applying the new methodology or sales skills. Sales reps are not held accountable. Senior management needs to regularly inspect what is expected otherwise money is wasted and nothing is improved.

Another example is that most companies track the end result such as touchdowns (i.e. sales closed) but don’t monitor the more exact details of how their reps are performing in the field from prospecting to meeting with the decision maker. Few managers track “blocking and tackling” which gets you improved “yards-per-down” which leads to more first downs and touchdowns.

Other Pitfalls

Management disengages after the training is completed. There is no coaching toward behavior change. Sales managers typically rely on the trainer to deliver the long term results. Effective sales management focuses on regular coaching of the reps to ensure the “new golf swing” is being effectively implemented i.e. are the reps practicing what they learned? If a company is committed to coaching, the number of reps a sales manager can effectively coach is only 10-12 reps. Few can handle more than that number.

Training is not designed for the different ways people learn. Some people learn from lecture, others are auditory learners or visual learners. Some people have to experience the process through role playing to truly learn. Most of the time, training is designed around the venue or the presenter, not how people actually learn. Little to no repetition is involved whereas sequenced repetition delivers the most consistent results.

The company’s Operations department is not involved in the training process in some form. Since most training is focused on closing the sale, there does not seem to be a need to get operations involved. But, if the training is truly focused on the customer, then operations should be involved in some way.

World Class Sales Organizations

World class sales organizations are different in how they apply training. Senior management is involved from the beginning and stays involved. The appropriate management levels participate in the training along with the sales reps. Management involvement gives credibility, motivation and accountability. World Class sales organizations see ongoing training as part of being successful, just as sports organizations see practice as part of the normal routine of a successful team. Successful teams are always looking for ways to improve. The training venue is designed to incorporate multiple learning styles and generally uses repetition to enforce learning. Effective training requires establishing clearly defined goals related to training and tracking the implementation of that training through effective coaching. And lastly, effective training is focused on what the customer wants and how the customer buys, not on how the company wants to sell and achieve the quota. If an organization implements these methodologies in their training, they will meet their quotas, for the customer will be well served.

“Bill offers a very unique element to his clients that most consultants are not willing to provide….He is willing to invest his time in the field with each sales rep on an individual basis while observing them in action.  This allows him to provide a non-threatening, one-on-one coaching experience that is guaranteed to provide results for those that are serious about improving performance.  It worked for us, and it will work for you!”

 Tom J. Morse   Director – Commercial Business Development     Alagasco