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 Consider the pushy out-of-date salesperson who tries to get a prospect to buy something they don't need or want: the exchange of value is missing, the desire for change by the prospect is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! <<