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Taking Sales to a Higher Level

Make Sales Learning Stick
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Make Sales Learning Stick

The Challenge

Sales leaders know intuitively that much sales training does not stick and the impact is often short-lived or selective.

This observation is backed up by data. The Sales Executive Council’s research indicates that as much as 87% of sales training may be wasted.

This is not only unacceptable. It is unnecessary. Implementation and ROI can be and is being achieved. A pension provider reviewed the performance of teams that went through training with full implementation support and compared their performance with similar teams who did not receive training or support. They measured year-on-year income growth for each team. The untrained group (the control group) had a great year and saw 25% income growth. But the trained and supported group beat this result with an average of 102% year-on-year growth.

So, how are sustainable year-on-year results like this achieved?

Build implementation into the design

Recent research into insurance costs led by Kirsten Dunlop at Suncorp in Australia indicated that if you tried to build a car from the ground up using replacement parts and a repair workshop the car would cost over 600 times more than the initial factory build. In the same way it is wasteful and ineffective to “retrofit” implementation after training has happened. It needs to be designed in from the start.

This means putting in place a well-planned five step process from the very beginning.

  • Diagnosis: Gain a clear picture of the “as is” and “should be” to prioritize and focus
  • Design: Co-build the right solution to achieve the goals efficiently and effectively
  • Delivery: Use a blended range of established and innovative methods to change understanding and behavior
  • Deployment: Ensure implementation through resources such as playbooks, ongoing coaching and measurement
  • Durability: Embed the changed behavior in Business As Usual by integrating into KPIs

 

During the training

Involve managers wherever possible: The sales leaders of a global trade finance provider all joined in their team’s training as coaches. During a breakout one was overheard saying “OK team - at our next team call on Monday I want you all to bring your positioning statement you just worked on and we’ll compare notes and bring this into play. I’ll then want you to have your finished positioning statement ready for you next one-to-one with me.”

Action planning isn’t just for the rushed last five minutes: At the end of each training section, participants should work on specific actions. Finally, at the end of the training, they bring their action plans together. This takes time, so trainers must allow enough time for action planning.

 

After the training 

Upgrade coaching by managers: For example, the head of private banking  contracted with his sales leaders to coach each of their relationship officers each week on the client meetings they had made last week and would make for the coming week. The manager can show his commitment by making these coaching sessions the first subject of his monthly one-to-ones with his reports. What was the result of this simple discipline in our example? The following three months generated more business than the previous five months.

Tele-mentoring: Let participants receive a series of one-to-one or small group follow up calls to stimulate retention, answer questions and focus on real-world application with clients.

Coach the coach; Apply the tele-mentoring approach but to internal coaches or line managers, agreeing a specific campaign plan and monitoring changed sales activity and business result.

Coaching observation checklists: Give managers checklists to use when observing the team members in the field. 

Skill Sharpeners & Sales Play Books. Make sure your managers receive a weekly article or “skill sharpener” by e-mail. Combine these with tools from the training (e.g. positioning statements, question banks and objection banks) into a sales playbook and make it a standard issue for the sales force. The approach can be replicated for specific markets/campaigns.

Aides-memoires: Provide participants with prompt cards to review immediately before going into sales visits. Example quote of a training participant: “I keep it in my folder and take a quick look before I go into meetings. It keeps me on track.” 

SMS/e-mail prompts: Send a weekly prompt to each participant after the training program. These light, one-line communications are designed to jog the memory and stimulate implementation on the principle of “little and often”. Example quote of a manager a few weeks after the training session:  “We don’t want the learning to get lost in the pressures of daily business. This simple approach keeps the learning front of mind.” 

Full blended learning: Provide post-workshop e-learning modules that take an hour a week to complete and include calls to action and video interviews with leaders.  Leaders like the look and feel of these modules. They’re quick to do but also give some really good back-up materials.

Call the sales expert: For an agreed period following the training, participants should have access to a hot line which they can call if they are having difficulties in applying the learning with their clients. Access by voice, text or e-mail. Example quote of a participant:  “I only used it once but it helped me secure a seriously big deal.”

Coaching cafes: This way of working is more appropriate for office-based sellers. A coach is available on site on specific dates following the training and can be booked for one-to-one or group coaching sessions or used on a drop-in basis. 

Video shorts: A series of two minute videos each covering three quick points on a key subject e.g. “Getting referrals”, “the first five minutes” etc.

Follow up webinars: Consider to run a bi-monthly webinar.   20 minutes are used for sharing experiences and 20 on reinforcing one of the key concepts from the workshop. 

Integrated sales-point:   It is always a benefit to create a “one-stop” resource linked to a CRM system to provide easy access to tools (calculators, presentations, documents, training resources, …) and product sheets.

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

The days of “send them on a course and hope…” are long gone (or should be!). There is a wide range of implementation resources available to ensure implementation leads to ROI. The key is to design implementation in from the start.

(this article is based on post from Richard Higham, MI UK)