Training initiatives... one of the most scary words for sales reps and managers. For the rep it's another task they don't have time for and they won't get anything out of. For a sales manager it's potentially a last ditch effort to improve sales for the next couple of quarters before they are put on the chopping block. Sales Training Initiatives cost businesses millions each year. What we have to realize is we don't need any more training initiatives, we need a training lifestyle.
About 18 months ago I decided to get healthy. I started first with some extreme diets like Keto or Paleo. These worked really well for short bits of time, but after a while your body turns on you. It becomes too easy to regress and start eating terribly again. That's why the word 'diet' always has a bad connotation. It no longer means what you eat, it means what you eat for short periods of time. You always end up returning to your bad habits afterwards. I believe 'training initiatives' are exactly the same. They are things you do for short amounts of time, before you return to your old habits.
When attempting to influence a large change, such as getting healthy, stop smoking, etc., we know that you can't just find a magic pill or program that will fix everything for us. (Sorry Harry Potter fans, magic doesn't exist.) Change takes time, effort, and dedication. So for the rest of my life I'm on the DEaD diet. Diet Exercise and Determination. While I used the word diet, it's really a lifestyle. It's how I choose to eat, it's when I choose to go to the gym, and it's never giving up. Let's see if we can apply the same principles to our training...
Skip the Training Event and Adopt Continuous Training
We all know training events. Fly everyone in, get them into a room, and bore them to sleep. Afterwards they forget 87% of what the potentially could have learned within 30 days (CEB). This is the pinnacle of what an intermittent sales training program looks like. We must find a better way.
A healthy training lifestyle would include remotely delivering small bits of training. Doing this on regular basis trains our reps for a habit of constant improvement. They are able to improve their skills and can retain additional information through regular reinforcement. LMS systems are great at delivering these training's and tracking progress.
Accountability and Articulation
Great! You've done the first step of starting the process, but unless you follow up it's just another initiative. We also need to see some results. How do we know if they are actually learning anything? A multiple-choice test? Your customer isn't going to give them a multiple-choice test when they show up to do a demo. These tests only test knowledge of a subject they don't provide a means of assessing how they use this knowledge to sell the product.
We need to hold the sales rep accountable and have them articulate their knowledge in their sales pitches, their objection handling, their sales choreography, etc. By allowing them to role-play or practice these they are preparing for their customers. Using a sales effectiveness video platform like Accelerate you can ask your reps record these pitches and demonstration of skills. Managers can then review asynchronously and provide feedback back to reps on where to improve.
This is how you track your progress over time. Seeing how each rep performs and then how they improve allows you to track your training results. You will be able to find new things that your reps need help with. Get back on that scale, check your progress, and make a new goal of where you want to be next.
Best Practices Make Great Training Content
Motivation is extremely important to this process. To keep your reps motivated with a goal in mind they need to see what great looks like. If you have recorded videos of your best reps pitches, etc., you can share them easily with your entire sales team. They can then watch and adopt the best practices in their day to day with customers. This content can then become a resource for all future training, closing the loop in the training cycle.
A Training Lifestyle Pays For Itself
Through this process you have turned a single training event, that would have cost over hundreds of thousands of dollars, into a training lifestyle, at a fraction of the cost. You will create habits in your reps to constantly improve, and your managers to constantly coach. Supporting all of this is your training content, and best practices that are available at any time to existing or new employees as they onboard. Your ROI isn't just the cost saved, but the reduced time to revenue for new employees, and increased sales from a better equipped sales team.
What was my personal ROI? If you're curious over the last 18 months I'm down over 60 lbs and within 10 lbs of my goal weight. I'm eating healthy and regularly attend the gym. I currently try to hit the gym 6 days a week as I'm training for the Lake Tahoe Spartan Race in October. Set a goal, reach it, celebrate, and then set another goal. Determination is the key. Don't just go on a 'diet.'Image Credit: Markus Spiske