Sales training programs are like world religions. I don’t care which one you are. Just be really good at it.
I wrote an article about how consistency and accountability are the two most important words in sales leadership. I read an article by Don Riggs that tells sales leaders to be really consistent and stop interrupting your team.
From my experience observing hundreds of sales teams over the years do you know what the greatest point of inconsistency is? The foundational sales training programs. I always hear sales reps and managers joke, “Here we go again. They’re rolling out another new sales methodology. It’s the flavor of the week.”
People – if there’s one thing that you do not want to tinker with it’s the foundational sales training programs. See the word foundation. This change is like jacking up your house to replace or fix the foundation. Hopefully you only have to do that once or twice in the life of a house. It’s not the sort of painful and disruptive change that you want to live through regularly.
Why is this happening?
- Sales leaders are turning over constantly. With new leadership typically comes a new religion. In football, a new head coach typically brings in their ‘system’ which takes a while for the team to learn. The team is almost always pretty lousy the next year while they learn the system. Same goes for sales.
- Sales leaders get caught up in fads. With the explosion of content marketing by sales training companies and research based organizations, it’s hard not to get caught up in the hottest new sales training programs. Three times a day sales leaders tell me that they are “a Challenger shop using a blended CEB Challenger Sales approach.” I then get sales calls from reps at these same companies and they sure sound like old fashioned product pitches to me.
- There is pressure to be progressive. CEOs and Boards want to see their sales forces selling with the latest and greatest sales training programs. CEOs will talk to other CEOs in their Vistage, YPO, or EO groups and hear that, “Someone is killing it with the XYZ sales training program.” Then that CEO comes back to their company and pushes the change onto the sales organization. Get out the house jacks and start cranking because you’re about to get a new foundation.
Sales training programs are like world religions. It doesn’t matter which one you are. Just be really good at it. Here are a few things that SVP, EVP and C-level sales leaders can do:
- Pick one sales training methodology and master the vocabulary. If you want to get really good at anything you need to master the language of that thing. This goes for any skill like playing the piano, capping oil wells, golf, ballroom dancing, whatever. Every nuanced skill that can be mastered has a vocabulary all its own. Excellent trainers, coaches, and managers will repeatedly use the language with students. In order for sales training programs to take root, everyone in the sales organization needs to speak the language and use it in their day-to-day professional lives. As in I should be able to walk around your office and hear the language of that sales training program being spoken. I should see the reinforcement materials pinned up in people’s cubes and sitting on people’s desks.
- Want to get really good at Sandler? Your team better be using words like Striplining, Reversing, Pain Funnel, and the Submarine in their day-to-day professional lives.
- How about Miller Heiman blue sheets? Then listen for people talking about User Buyers, Economic Buyers, Technical Buyers, Coaches, Wins/Results, Even Keel, Overconfident, Trouble, and Growth.
- Are you into VorsightBP’s Persuasive Prospecting? If yes I better see a separate field to record your 3×3 Research on your Hot List in your CRM.
- What about ValueSelling? Your reps should be able to tell me about the questions they asked to Uncover Issues and how they developed a Mutual Plan with their prospects.
- Make a recent investment in Growth Play? I’d love to see your Value Messaging Framework.
- And for crying out loud if you are going to say to everyone, “We use CEB’s Challenger Sale” PLEASE first go ask 10 of your sales reps at random to articulate how they Teach, Tailor, and Take Control. See what they say. Just because you bought 100 copies of the Challenger Sale and had my friend Matt Dixon come and speak at your Sales Kickoff Meeting does not make you a “Challenger Shop.”
- Listen to what sales reps actually say on their real sales calls (not role plays). Every one of the sales training programs I previously listed has the same thing in common. They reinforce through practice. Practice is great. But knowing what happens in the game is better.
People don’t practice how they play. What are your sales reps saying on real sales calls with customers and prospects? Are they actually using the stuff they learned in those sales training programs? Think it’s too time consuming to answer those questions? There are better ways to have visibility into actual sales calls.
- When you hire sales leaders from the outside, be sure they fully buy in and use YOUR sales training programs. This one is fascinating. Throughout the course of their careers, Sales Managers, Directors, and VPs pick up different religions from different companies. When they get a new job, they bring a preferred sales training program with them. But what happens if their religion is inconsistent with what everyone else in your sales force is doing? Do you re-program your newly hired mid-level sales leader forcing them to conform? Or do you allow them to go rogue using their own sales training program with their team?
- Stop bringing in a new third party sales training company to your sales kickoff every year. This would be like going to a golf lesson with one swing coach for a year, then next year switching your coach. And then next year switching your coach. And then next year switching your coach. This is insanity. How will you ever develop any type of rhythm and habit if your sales team is constantly learning something new that they never master? Go with one or to sales training programs and stick with them year after year in your sales kickoff meetings.
As my friend Carmen Facciobene says, “I need everyone in the boat rowing in the same direction.”
What is your favorite sales training religion? How do you ensure that it’s being used consistently?
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