Where Is Sales Training Headed?

Where Is Sales Training Headed (Click to Enlarge)Where IS sales training headed? Articles from trainers in the UK, North America and Australia demonstrate underlying trends that they're all agreed upon.

The idea that sales is about convincing, persuading, pushing and even features and benefits is outmoded. Most of us know this. And the traditional big company concept of putting salespeople into three week long classroom programs isn't as financially feasible as it was. Plus all kinds of new technologies have sprung up. Delivery methods have changed. And if you haven't taken your audience, many of whom are now 20-something Millennials, into account, your training program could fall flat with a dull, costly THUD.

David Brock of Partners In EXCELLENCE, who we have learned from before, reminds us that regardless of the technology we're using--from the phone on up--that sales is always about:

  • interactions betwen people
  • exchanges in value between people
  • change
  • continual learning and improvement.

If one of these is missing or violated, the sales process is probably going to be a disaster. Consider the pushy out-of-date salesperson who tries to get a prospect to buy something they don't need or want: the exchange of value is missing, the desire for change by the prospect is non-existent, and there's no desire for learning and improvement. This situation is even likely to result in angry fighting--the failure of interaction between the two parties.

So regardless of the technology used to deliver sales training, the content must adhere to these principles.

So Where Is Sales Training Headed?

UK trainer Bob Apollo notes that without continuous reinforcement of technique, sales training is useless. An expensive initiative by a company in training is a waste of money unless the firm is committed to ongoing reinforcement of the methodology they paid for their sales staff to learn.

A second major shift is from features and benefits of products or services to understanding why and how your customers buy. Sales staff must know the problems their market is facing, and speak the jargon or technical language of that audience. Otherwise they will not be seen as helpful partners, but rather as product pushers.

Australia's Sue Barrett makes her vision even more clear: online resources and e-learning, regularly scheduled mini-training sessions, in-field coaching and "discovery learning"--interactive classes with roleplaying and Q&A.

The theme here is structure: there must be a plan and it must be strictly adhered to. Barrett also warns that the eyes of company executives will be on the bottom line, meaning their intention will be to have sales staff out of the field and revenue-generating activities for the minimum time possible.

Where Is Sales Training Headed: The Next Five Years

Josiane Feigon from the US shares 18 principles to creating an effective sales training environment for millenials (the Gen Y grads we've been discussing recently, who are pouring into the marketplace and will be taking it over during the next decade). The themes of mini-coaching sessions, continuous feedback, instant access to answers, and FUN! are weaved through Feigon's list.

So the future of sales training is this: the principles of human interaction won't change, but the focus is--to why and how people buy. Training programs will be delivered in mini-sessions designed to minimize the time salespeople are out of the field, and as much as possible will be done online. Finally, the attitude and delivery of these programs will be made to please the Gen Y audience now taking over the workplace. A sales training program that doesn't accomplish these things will be left in the dust.

>> Jason Kanigan is a sales force developer. What's in YOUR ideal sales training program? Comment below to let us know! And if you haven't picked up The Small Business Sales Effectiveness Report yet...what's stopping you? It's FREE and essential to your sales success! <<


Selling to Generation Y: Does Your Sales Training Need a Revamp?

Selling to Generation YSelling to Generation Y is a concept almost completely overlooked today. Yet Gen Y has attitudes, beliefs and challenges not present for the generations before it. Eddy Ricci, Jr., founder of The Growth Game and called "the emerging expert in develping Gen Y sales professionals" recently posted about "7 Signs Your Sales Training Needs a Revamp".

In my experience, few companies even think about sales training. They don't have any program at all. So the title may well be "7 Signs You Need Sales Training"; it would be just as valid.

A New Technological Sales Superweapon Does Not Exist

Ricci's first point is to look out for "Too much old school or too much new school." This is a bit vague, because you can sum it up as "use what works" instead and get to the same outcome. The truth is that sales do behave differently online. But I believe you would get the best results from realizing:

  • no new technological sales superweapon exists
  • a testing mindset will serve you well
  • optimized sales processes and funnels likely will take a few adjustments to get them right.

"There is no situational training" is Ricci's second point, and he's right. Roleplaying frightens many people over 50, who think it is 'weird'. But most of Gen Y, and those selling to Generation Y, would do well to remember that they are quite comfortable with the idea. So sitting down and playing "What If", one salesperson as the prospect and the other as themselves, is a powerful way to uncover the unexpected.

"If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are certain in every battle to be in peril."
– Sun Tzu, The Art of War

We tend to be familiar with this bit of wisdom, though not to remember it at the right times. Knowing yourself--your preferences, how you want to communicate and receive information, what you value--and remaining aware that the large majority of prospects are different from you, will make you a better salesperson. "Did the trainees learn anything...about themselves?" is Ricci's third point. Believing your prospects are the same as you is a mistake.

Skip the "Pollyanna" Approach to Sales Training and Selling to Generation Y

Selling to Generation Y, or members of any generation, will result in positive or negative interactions. Despite the best intentions, training and pep talks, sales conversations will turn upside-down and salespeople will have bad experiences. Ricci notes that sweeping these potential situations under the rug in his fourth point, "The real world...all, or nothing at all", is no help to trainees. The good, the bad and the ugly must be discussed in the training...or beat-up salespeople will quit when prospects do not behave in the compliant way advertised.

"No measurable outcomes" is listed as Ricci's fifth point. Without targets and measures, how will we know if a training program is effective?

Follow up coaching is often missing from sales training. Yet ongoing reinforcement is critical to success. Concepts, techniques and ideas will not be remembered after a few weeks, when the trainee slips back into their old comfort zone. "I'm talking about PRACTICE, not the game", Ricci announces as his sixth point. He lists peer feedback and accountability as essential to retaining and improving these skills. These activities are valuable when selling to Generation Y.

Using Web-Based Tools for Training and Selling to Generation Y Is an Effective Solution

Finally, Ricci says if "The program is on VHS!" you are losing the ability for sales staff to train on their own time. With web-based training tools, this generation's salespeople will be more likely to want to figure it out for themselves.

Overall, Ricci makes good points about reviewing the effectiveness of your sales training program. But if you are in the position of many firms, and don't have a program at all, it's time to implement one. At least you'll be starting with one major advantage: no bad habits.

Selling to Generation Y, and by salespeople who are members of that generation, requires new tools. Inertia, "we do it this way because it's the way we've always done it," is not one of them.

>> Jason Kanigan is a sales force developer. Was this post helpful? Please Like, Share or Comment to let others know! <<