Time to Transform Your Sales Training?

Is your sales training as effective as it could be?

How do you know?

Most sales organizations today organize around territories. Sales reps work from their homes and travel to their territories. Sales leaders conduct weekly sales conference calls with their teams, deliver status reports, and share results. Some sales teams gather several times a year or at the annual sales meeting for ongoing sales training.

If a sales rep is fortunate, he or she receives some sales training during their onboarding process. Unfortunately, in my experience, most sales organizations limit themselves to what CSO Insights calls a random sales process, with the result that only a few star performers function at the preferred supplier level.

We know from a pivotal CSO Insights’ study that only 53 percent of reps make quota with a random process versus 64 percent with a formal or dynamic process.

Another benefit of a formal sales process, a reduction in turnover. Many people thrive in a more structured environment where they know what is expected of them.

So each quarter as sales managers measure their sales teams on performance against quota or other metrics, they often find that 20 percent of reps consistently turn in top results and the other 80 percent are less predictable.

The difference in revenue is major, especially if you manage a small sales team. If your sales team totals only 25 reps, that means 80 percent of revenue comes from roughly five salespeople.

What accounts for the difference in results? The quality and effectiveness of sales training. As we discussed in a recent blog, you need to do an assessment first to determine where your needs lie, whether opening new opportunities or getting to key decision makers.

Look at the difference in outcomes when sales training exceeds expectations:

Source: Miller Heiman Group

However, we’re not talking about some generic sale skills training approach. You need to match your training approach to the various ways people learn.

What’s more, without reinforcement and coaching to augment the training, 85 – 90 percent of training dollars spent will fail to have an impact after 120 days. In part, that’s because we don’t remember everything we’re taught.

Our brains possess near-limitless storage capacity for memory due to duplicating neurons. Scientists claim we hold one million gigabytes (2.5.petabytes) or more of memory space. For comparison, if your brain were a television, Scientific American tells us, you have to leave the television running continuously for 300 years before you would use up of the storage.

A report by the Sales Performance International warns that approximately 50 percent of learning content from a multi-day sales training session is forgotten within five weeks. Why we forget is a subject for a whole other blogpost.

What to do? We cannot afford to waste precious training budgets.

The decision to embark on a formal training program can be costly, especially if you’re required to pull your reps out of the field for two to three days. For that reason, many companies are switching to online training or a hybrid of online and classroom training, called blended learning.

E-learning platforms, tools, and web-based learning management systems offer ease-of-training and substantially reduce the cost.

Unlike a one-time only classroom session, e-learning courses or modules remain available 24/7 for additional learners to access at their convenience. What’s more, sales managers find them helpful as ongoing coaching tools.

In my opinion, blended learning is the ideal solution to limited training budgets and forgetful adult learners. You combine the personal interaction of instructor-led classroom training, online or e-learning modules, and ongoing coaching for follow-up. Look what happens to revenue plan attainment when coaching skills alone exceed expectation:

Source: Miller Heiman Group

With blended learning, sales leaders can take their sales training content and processes, convert them into formal online courses, and develop their own sales training universities. Digital technology has brought the cost down to a manageable level, and dozens of robust new training platforms are readily available.

When you think about training design, consider that your sales team should access lessons via online training, videos, podcasts, blogposts, slides before a classroom session, which should be used for more interactive activities in a workshop setting like discussions, roleplays, case studies, or practice exercises. Workshop or classroom sessions can also cover advanced concepts. People learn independently and at their own pace independently, then apply the learning in the classroom or workshop environment.

PleinAire Steps Toward Blended Learning

At the request of many clients, I have decided to adopt a blended learning approach.  I will continue my MERGE workshops, publish my latest book MERGE 2.0, and release MERGE 2.0 this spring in fourteen online modules for training purposes.

A little ambitious, but everyone learns differently. And because my mission calls for me to plant as many sales ideas and strategies in as many people as possible in my lifetime, I want you to have the choice of how you would like to learn.

I want to emphasize eight reasons why you need to consider upping the quality of your sales training to a blended workshop/e-learning/coaching approach:

1. Improves your training investment.

The production of learning content requires substantial time. E-learning pays for itself over time because you can spread fixed production costs over unlimited numbers of users. You save on labor expense, travel budgets, and print materials.

2. Improves coaching effectiveness.

As your reps go through the training, you can test their understanding, and track their comprehension and retention of content. Sales managers can then instruct their reps to return to the course to review areas for improvement or use this knowledge to guide one-on-one discussions.

3. Enhances the learner engagement.

E-learning embraces different styles of communication, creativity, and collaboration. And that motivates learner engagement. With online video, for example, a popular format for adult learners, you can recreate the complete sales environment.

One medical device company, whose reps perform services in the operating room, can determine the best arrangement for its equipment in a sterile environment, impossible in a live operating room.

4. Reinforces the goal of a common language and repeatable process.

With classroom training, you may have hired an excellent facilitator to kick-off your program; however, each time he presents, there may be slight variations. And learners may not receive the information in the same way.  E-learning allows you to create a standardized process with a common and repeatable language.

Additionally, you can combine e-learning courses with facilitated sessions to condense the time spent in the classroom. You get to the main goal faster: to refine knowledge and apply it to real sales situations.

5. Improves productivity.

E-learning is not bound by geography or time. You protect productivity by training people during down times. Besides, in the current economy, you’re asking people to do more with less─e-learning provides an effective mechanism to enhance performance.

6. Trains in real time.

When we do live learning events, it requires participants to align their schedules to the training calendar. E-learning eliminates this requirement because the course can be accessed anytime, anywhere, on any device. Sales managers can track their reps’ performance and participation in real time, too.

7. Personalizes training.

Many organizations work with sales consultants whose branded methodologies are customized into their process. With your own e-learning program, you can customize your existing sales process into a  curriculum, emphasizing what’s most important to your organization.

8. Increases the odds of knowledge retention.

In the real world, if you attend a class and don’t take comprehensive notes, you may not gain the full benefit of the course. Too many gaps in information. That’s not the case with e-learning or blended training. Because you have continuous access to the online content and resources, you can go back as often as you need to brush up on what you’ve learned, along with your coaching sessions.

As new products, competitors and information emerge, the e-learning modules can be updated and reviewed in real time. Many companies include a wide range of technologies that add tools for collaboration and conversation.

You can also capture organizational knowledge for future learners.

In reality, you’re creating a living, breathing knowledge center of best practices.


See you on the upside,


For more information, go to www.pleinairestrategies.com
Or call William L. MacDonald in San Diego at PleinAire Strategies LLC at 760.340.4277 or 213.598.4700


News Alert

MERGE 2.0, read my latest book, now released by the publisher and available on Amazon to purchase.  Learn everything you need to know to book revenue in the new realities of B2B professional selling.

And, if you’re not a reader and prefer interactive learning, take our MERGE 2.0 online learning course.  Go here for more info.

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