Sales training without customized skill practice and ongoing follow up is like getting your knee replaced and ignoring post-surgery physical therapy. It is never quite the same. We’ve all experienced it before – well not the knee surgery part. You attend a one or two-day sales training seminar and at the end you feel like you can conquer the world. You feel like a selling beast. In the training and development industry, we call this feeling the “post training high”.
Sales training and skill development are good things – and they work. A recent study by a reputable research firm reported that sales training programs that include post-training reinforcement achieve a meaningful improvement in year-over-year sales. This compares to an actual decline in year-over-year sales when no reinforcement is applied. Additionally, participants in sales training programs that included post-training reinforcement experienced a 10%+ gain in sales quota attainment and customer renewal rates.
How do you ensure your time and money investments in sales training pay off? This article provides 3 strategies for getting the most from your sales training investments.
Customized skills training
There are a finite number of core selling principles that are part of most sales training seminars. Getting exposure to these principles will likely create behavior changes at least for a short period of time. However, when these core principles can be customized for a particular firm’s sales environment and processes, the impact on actual sales performance increases dramatically.
Taking these basic selling principles and molding them to be applied in a particular sales environment are the keys to creating customized sales training that takes the salesperson performance to a whole new level. For example, we provide sales training to a local fitness organization. Developing and training people on prospecting behaviors on the gym floor is far more effective than talking about them conceptually in a classroom. That’s customized skills training.
Role plays & skill practice
You know what they say “practice makes perfect”. However, you don’t necessarily want your salespeople just practicing on live subjects – your buyers. Instead, set up an environment in which you frequently conduct skill practice sessions in which salespeople can practice executing the main sales principles.
Role plays are best done with 3 people; the salesperson, someone playing the buyer role, and an observer. The observer is an important role because the salesperson and the person acting as the buyer are too caught up in the transaction and are usually unable to make specific notes about what occurred during the skill practice. On the contrary, the observer is a neutral third party able to take notes about what the salesperson actually said and how he performed.
Videotaping & call recording
The ultimate in sales training skill practice is recording the interaction. In situations in which the salesperson and buyer are face-to-face, videotaped role playing is best. In situations in which the sales transaction is done on the phone, call recording is the way to go.
If you’ve never used this skill practice technique before, I’d encourage you to try it – the results are amazing! Conducting a recorded role play enables you to play back virtually word-for-word what was said, and see how the buyer reacted to the salesperson. The best part is the salesperson usually critiques himself – and what better way to learn than to identify on your own what you could have done differently.
We provide sales development training for a local lawn care company and have used this technique consistently. Even though the first couple of sessions were a little intimidating to the participants, they quickly got used to the idea and embraced it as a great way to learn, help each other out, and develop their ability to execute the main selling principles.
In summary, if you are sending your salespeople to sales training seminars, you are to be congratulated for making that investment. However, if there is no customization and or follow up skill development, you are likely finding your salespeople getting no better in the long run from the sales training investments you’ve made.
Creating a development environment in which the selling skills your people have learned are customized to fit your particular selling environment is the first step to achieving a payback from your training dollars. Doing frequent roles plays to practice the selling skills, and recording those skill practices will cause behaviors to actually change – and that’s when you start to see meaningful improvements in the performance of your salespeople.