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Sales Training: What is it Good For?

Sales training…what is it good for? Well, unless you have all the other basics in place as covered in our earlier blogs, the answer is…

Absolutely nothing!

You can put your teams through any number of sales training courses, and there are thousands of them (just run a Google search and see for yourself) but it’s a bit like learning online how to snow ski whilst living in Equatorial New Guinea…the knowledge may be there but it can’t be put into action or practice as the conditions are wrong!

OK, that’s maybe a bit of a tortured analogy, but hopefully you get the point!

Now we aren’t saying that sales training can’t be useful, of course it can, but you need to examine

  • Why your team need training
  • What you hope to get out of it (ROI)
  • How you will measure the success (outcomes)
  • How any training sits within your overall sales strategy

Let’s have a look in more detail at these bullet points.

WHY Does Your Team Need Training?

Is it because your sales figures have dropped/are dropping?

Do you have a new product?

Are you targeting a new market sector?

Do you have a lot of new starters?

Many businesses will offer training to their staff ‘because it’s the right thing to do’. And indeed in terms of staff development and retention, training IS often the right thing to offer within part of an overall Personal Development Plan (PDP).

The problem is that a 2 day ‘improve your selling technique’ course is not going to be much good if the course content takes no account of the specific needs of your people OR your company. Think back to the skiing analogy above!

Similarly, sending people off on expensive courses without ensuring they will be able to put what they have learned into practice once they get back, is counterproductive. It is also demoralising, for them and for the business as a whole.

If you put training in place for your people, there also needs to be some kind of tracking and follow up process in order to ensure that learning is retained. There are studies which indicate that people will lose 80%-90% of whatever was learned during training within one month!

What a waste of their time and your money! You needn’t necessarily set tests for people, but you should have a framework in place to allow learnings to be validated…it could simply be a case of asking your sales people to reference an aspect of training they found useful/helped them close a sale. 

What do you hope to get out of it?

Before investing £thousands on sending your staff on courses (or on bringing the courses on site) stop and work out just what the business goal is.

What outcomes are you looking to achieve and what sort of ROI (return on investment) do you expect – ROI need not necessarily be financial by the way.

Do you expect sales figures to increase as a result? If so by how much and in what timescale? 

Remember, ‘On average, only 29% of sales reps hit performance milestones in their first year. – Aberdeen, 2013’.  If you are sending your new sales employees on training, will it actually improve on that figure? If it turns it doesn’t, is it the right training?

Conversely, if you are looking for a ‘softer’ approach to ROI, will training add to your company culture, staff retention and staff satisfactions levels?

Offering training for trainings sake…in other words a tick box exercise, won’t benefit the company’s bottom line, or your staff’s wellbeing and success rates.

How are you going to measure the outcomes of training?

Remember the quote, above, that says people will forget 80 to 90% of everything they learn on a course if you don’t follow up with them? How are you going to do that? 

It’s pretty pointless sending people for training if you don’t then ensure they retain and use the knowledge.

So, will you arrange for tests to check on them and what level will you accept as ‘good’ or a ‘pass’?

Will you check sales figures before and after training to see if there is a difference and what will you accept as being a sufficient increase to justify the training?

If taking the softer PDP approach to ROI, when will you check in with your teams? Just after training? One week later? Six months later?

How does training fit within your overall sales strategy?

If you need a refresh on sales strategy why not revisit one of our other blogs Why Every Business Needs a Sales Strategy

Training isn’t cheap and if you are going to invest in upskilling your team you need to ensure that the courses they take are fit for YOUR purpose. As we said earlier there are hundreds, if not thousands, of courses out there and they will vary in content, length and cost.

In a previous article we have told you how you need to ensure that your sales and overall company culture (see Put Sales at the Heart of Your Business Processes) are fit for purpose. It follows therefore that any training must not only be relevant and something your teams need, it must also sit within your business culture.

If you have the capability it may be advisable to spend your training budget on developing in-house training provision in order that the training is’ specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely’ for your unique requirements.

See what we did there? We referenced SMART (goals) as a way of checking that the training you provide your teams is actually what they, and your business need.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t purchase ‘off the shelf packages’, simply that bespoke training content will be far more effective and, with an in-house set up, it should be easier to provide the ‘follow up’ we mentioned earlier.

How can training be implemented in your business?

If you’ve reached this point in the article you may be thinking that we are anti- training here at Steve Knapp sales! Actually, nothing could be further from the truth – we’re on a mission, it says so on the first page of our website…

“Steve Knapp Sales is about elevating the status of the Sales Profession, so that Sales Professionals can say proudly that they are in sales. If you elevate the culture around sales and elevate the standards of sales, you elevate the respect people have for Sales Professionals. Elevate Everywhere, that is my mission.”

We know there is a lot of good and valuable training out there but what we want to ensure is that businesses source training that is right for them, rather than opting for a one size fits all solution.

We want you to stop and think how training can be made a part of your business culture rather than be seen as a nice ‘bolt’ on for new starters.

Continuous professional development (CDP) is as vital for a sales person as for any other professional and it should be treated with the respect it deserves. Sending staff off on training days every now and again with no system for ‘post training reinforcement’ and no idea if the courses themselves are fit for purpose, is a waste of resources.

How are sales training course delivered?

As you would expect, just as there are lots of different courses, there are different ways of delivering them. 

These include:

  • Online sessions via YouTube (other platforms are available!)
  • Online one to one or group delivery via Zoom/Skpe etc
  • Workshops – face to face OR online
  • Home study via email/video/workbooks
  • Traditional class room
  • Facebook groups

Ultimately though, however the training is delivered if you don’t take into account the advice in this article, you could be literally spending money for nothing.

Summary

  • Sales training is worth very little if it doesn’t fit into your overall sales strategy and business culture
  • If training is not specific to business needs and requirements it will be of little use
  • Training needs to be followed up with post training reinforcement 
  • Make training a part of CPD and PDP 
  • Ensure you track the ROI
  • Innovate, look for new ways to train

If you enjoyed this article you might also enjoy read some of my other articles:

Focus on 3 cultures to win the prize hidden in an aligned organisation.

3 Behaviours that win business

Make more sales by aligning Sales & Marketing Activities

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