You've heard me say this before: Sales Transformation in an organization happens when you change the behavior of individuals.
Therefore, when you address sales training and sales tools as part of this effort, they become far more than the traditional transfer of skills and knowledge.
When we're taking on the task of changing selling behaviors, we're talking about changing the DNA, the very culture of the sales organization—a MUCH bigger task and obstacle for transformation.
Sales training is the "launching pad" for the entire endeavor. It plays a more prominent role and has to be designed to promote significantly greater understanding and recall in order to facilitate behavior change.
Sellers must be able to clearly see how new methodologies and processes apply to their day-to-day activities, and understand and accept the impact of doing so.
As a result, it's important to think about the following when you are designing and delivering sales training (behavior changing) programs:
1. Trainer experience and credibility
If a trainer/facilitator has no practical experience from which they can draw and, as a result, can't demonstrate new skills in a compelling and believable fashion, sellers have tremendous difficulty seeing how these new skills apply to their "reality."
If the instructor has a successful sales background, they become far more believable. Through practical experience, they can effectively demonstrate how new knowledge and skills are applied.
2. The facilitation of incremental change
Sales Transformation doesn't mean everything changes at once. Changing everything NOW is not just improbable, it's impossible.
The process has to be broken down into bite-sized pieces, each foundational, each standing on its own logic and truth. Sales transformation happens by changing one behavior at a time, over time. As a result, the program has to be designed and tools developed to support and facilitate mastery of each individual piece of the process.
Tools and programs like SFA, CRM, product training, management training; any and all programs delivered to the sales organization MUST be in support of the formal process. Metrics need to align with the methodology and measure, or at least facilitate, a discussion of behavioral change, not just results.
4. Alignment of sales and marketing
To be effective and supportive, all lead generation programs, support materials, presentation templates, and product releases must be in concert and in alignment with the formal sales process.
5. Preparing managers as coaches
We have witnessed many attempts to transform sales organizations fail because only sales reps attend sales training. No one has as much exposure to sales reps as their managers, which is why it's essential that sales leadership attend exactly the same training as their direct reports.
There is no possible way leadership can reinforce a formal sales process without possessing a deep understanding of what that process is. Leadership also requires additional training to make certain they possess the skills and tools to effectively coach everyone on their team on an on-going basis.
6. Measuring business results
Tracking behavior and correlating improved selling effectiveness means better business results. From the very outset of the program, desired impact on business results must be identified and the ideal behaviors for sales people and leaders must be defined.
As training programs are implemented and tools and reinforcement are provided, the organization must measure changes in behavior and their impact on performance. This helps validate investment, but more importantly, it identifies the characteristics of training and the performance systems and work environment that are impacting success so that challenges may be addressed.
Moving ForwardHere are a few questions that will help you determine where you are relative to overcoming this obstacle:
- Do the people conducting your training have legitimate, practical sales experience?
- Are your formal sales process and associated tools designed to facilitate incremental improvement over time?
- Is your formal sales process completely integrated with your systems such as SFA, CRM, and management programs?
- Do your SFA systems and management tools include measurement of behavioral change and not just results?
- Are your marketing programs and materials completely aligned to your formal/dynamic sales process?
- Do you require your sales managers to attend the same training as their sales teams?
- Do you provide additional training and tools for sales managers to prepare them as coaches?
Keep these things in mind as you launch training initiatives for your sales organization. Remember that Sales Transformation is all about changing behaviors. Superior results occur when sales people responsible for achieving them engage in the behaviors by which they are produced.
Bob Nicols has 34 years of experience in sales, sales management, executive management and sales force development. He founded Burton Training Group, now AXIOM Sales Force Development, in 1990 after being a top and highly recognized performer in sales, sales management and executive positions within the technology sector. He has managed and mentored thousands of sales people, sales managers and senior managers and been responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. For more than 21 years he has developed and delivered sales programs that have become the standard for many Fortune 100 companies including AT&T, BellSouth, Disney Enterprises, Alltel, Verizon and ESPN. AXIOM programs have been implemented in over 30 countries including Japan, the UK, Germany, Dubai, Brazil, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, China, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, Slovakia, Sweden, and The Netherlands. Bob's highly energetic and insightful lectures and workshops have resulted in invitations to be a featured presenter at dozens of national and international sales meetings and conferences. He is a trusted advisor to the presidents and senior managers of multiple organizations, both large and small and has been a board member of a national technology company. Bob is the developer of AXIOM's “Selling Sciences ProgramTM” and co-author of the “Selling Sciences” CD series.