How a sales training course, with some unique techniques, was developed to give each member of an average team an effective process and selling success.The new sales manager was introduced to the existing team at their monthly meeting. The team of 15 field sales people were a mixed bag of industry veterans that had been around forever, and younger people who had moved into selling from other parts of the company. There were a couple of salesmen and women that had sold in other markets, and some with C.V.s that showed a long a list of selling related roles such as account management and company representatives.After the introductions the new manager wanted to get a feel for the level of sales skills the team had. In a conversational style, the manager asked questions that would highlight the team’s knowledge and experience. The idea was to assess their sales skills and the manager would then provide the sales training courses that would increase each individual’s sales results and make the team successful.After asking questions and discussing the sales process that each of the team used, the manager discovered the following:Very few of the sales team had an effective sales process that took the prospect from first contact to closing the sale. One of the more mature team members said they had received only one sales training course in their 20 years with the company.Each sales person on the team had one way of selling, and their lack of sales skills meant there was no flexibility in their sales pitches. If what they did didn’t work they lost the sale, and then blamed the company, the product, or even the prospect.Sales introductions focused on telling the prospect that they would try to offer them a cheaper deal than the one they currently had. Sales questions were poor and did not highlight real customer needs. They established the details of what the customer currently had, but not what they really wanted.All the sales presentations were based on price. The aim of all the sales presentations to prospects was to beat the current supplier’s and the competitor’s prices. Despite the team’s many years in sales they had not had effective sales training on how to sell to a prospect’s needs. The team talked about features and benefits but didn’t know how to use them to sell.Sales objections were answered with prepared replies that came from their own experience and they had no real process for dealing with objections.You would expect the sales manager to have been surprised, and disappointed, at his new team’s lack of sales ability. Here was a team of people who had been in sales for many years but did not know or understand the sales process. You might think the manager would feel there was a massive uphill struggle ahead to turn this team into consistent target achievers. But the experienced manager had seen it all before. It’s an unfortunate fact that many people in sales have not had the benefit of effective training. There are sales teams around the world in exactly the same situation as this one. Some have had sales training, but it either hasn’t worked or they haven’t taken the techniques on board. Others haven’t received sales training. Many sales people don’t know what they don’t know, they are unconsciously incompetent. It isn’t their fault and it can quickly be fixed.Instead of feeling negative about the new team the manager used a sales training course that covered all the sales skills needed to build a successful selling process. The course used a step by step guide so that all sales people could learn, and fully understand, the professional sales skills presented. What made the course different was a unique set of exercises that helped each person to build their own successful selling process one stage at a time.It started with a sales introduction, that grabbed the prospect’s attention, and then used special motivation techniques to move them through to the next stage, sales questions. The clear instructions, and unique exercise program, showed every person on the team how to structure their sales questioning to get all the prospect’s real needs. Then the sales presentation section used a technique that really explains features and benefits, and how to use them for selling success. The sales presentation gently led into an easy closing technique, which meant there was no need to use trick closes or hard sell techniques. One of the most effective parts of the sales training course was the sales objection section. A four step process that was easy to use in real sales situations.The sales training course worked so well because it had been developed by the sales manager while training and coaching real sales people in the field. These were not complicated classroom sales skills, which had obviously not worked with many of the team in the past. This was sales training that had been developed and proven with working sales people, selling to real buyers, and each individual on the team used the course content to achieve selling success. The result was that each team member had an effective sales process, in their own words, and unique to their products and services.
A short quiz for sales leaders – How much has the buying process changed in your market in the last five years? Question two – Have you taken a serious look at updating your new hire sales training to keep up with the changes? (Here we are talking about sales skills training not product or welcome-to-the-company training.)If you are like the sales leaders in many companies, the answer to the first question varies somewhere between: “It has been breath taking” to “A fair amount.” There is more variability in the responses to the second question. The range sounds something like: “We have taken a pretty serious look at new hire training because it’s a big deal” to “We have been busy with other priorities plus the budgets have been cut so we have postponed….” If your response to the change question is like most, but your answer to the second question is essentially “not much,” then it is worthwhile to pause.Great new hire sales training can make a difference on some of those bottom-line problems that have been the focus of attention. The larger the number of new hires onboarded, the greater the impact. The good news is in the last several years there have been some good things happening in new hire sales training. In the past new hire sales training has often just been a shorter or simplified version of the sales skill training for the existing sales force. Emerging work suggests sales training for new hires should be specifically designed for new hires. Although the same sales process should be introduced, “what is taught” and “how it is taught” needs to be designed for the unique challenges facing new hires.Four design ideas that have proven to be particularly effective for new hire sales training are:Expert Video Messaging. Top performers in the existing sales force possess a wealth of experience and insight of tremendous value to new hires. Therefore, for various topics throughout the program, pre-recorded video snippets of different members of the sales force can be used to deliver suggestions and best practices to the class. These videos can be used to address standard topics like: How to open a call, closing, objection handling, and asking questions. They can also be used to focus on topics uniquely important for new hires: How do you get started in your territory, how do you establish credibility, or if I was starting again, what is one thing I would do differently?Excellence Modeling. When it comes to new hires, it is very important to show excellence, rather than just talk about it. Therefore for new hire training programs, “scripts” can be developed for selected skill sets that demonstrate what excellence looks and sounds like. For example, scripts can be particularly effective for getting across the trap of jumping in too soon and doing a “Product Dump” – vs. employing active listening and questioning skills to uncover and explore the customer problem and then presenting your solution. “Bad” and “Good” scripts can be reviewed and discussed to enable the participants to view the interaction from the customer’s perspective and to clearly see the difference between effective and ineffective behavior.Scenario Analysis. In new hire programs, more pervasive use can be made of real-world scenario exercises. Take the topic Establishing Credibility: real-world scenarios related to challenges for establishing credibility can be presented and the participants asked to develop approaches for addressing the challenges. The idea is to be more prescriptive – so, one series of exercises might be: play a pre-recorded video snippet providing some best practices about establishing credibility, discuss the best practices on the video, and then immediately get the participants to apply those ideas to customized real-world scenarios about establishing credibility.Use of Sales Simulations. Sales simulations are often used as a component in programs for the existing sales team. Frequently the simulation is “the most highly” rated part of the program. A sales simulation can also be a very effective component to incorporate into a new hire program. The caveat is the template used to design the simulation needs to be different. It needs to be simpler: less detailed product knowledge, different customer contacts, and easier sales challenges. Plus, more time needs to be allotted for planning and feedback. One template that works well is a “week-in-the-life” construct. A series of typical situations are presented that a new hire is likely to encounter during a week in their new life; they are then asked to plan and execute sales calls that handle these situations.Providing new hire sales people a great kick start can go a long way in providing initial confidence and even some early wins. All too often new hire sales training is an area that receives less than the appropriate priority. But the results of great new hire sales training can show up in revenue figures, in turnover numbers, and in some cases in ways not imagined. What is your opinion on the need to give new hire sales training a greater priority?2011 Sales Horizons, LLC