What Karate Taught Me About Making Sales Training Stick

What Karate Taught Me About Making Sales Training Stick

 

 

 

In my last post I shared how doing customer voice research can help identify needed sales training for your team. Training salespeople is over a $ 3 billion business. However studies show 80%-90% of training does not stick and will be lost within 24 hours. How do we train adults and make it stick? In this post I will share a training process that is proven to make training stick.

 

Somewhere, right now as you are reading this someone is in sales training. Training occurs for many reasons. One of the most common reasons teams conduct sales training is to change behaviors and beliefs. I have been hired to train sales teams for a number of reasons. The most common is: “we want to improve our overall sales efficiency, effectiveness and increase sales profitably. We want our sales team to be more proactive,…. more hunters than farmers” Sales training is about modifying behavior so the new behavior now becomes the norm. Why does some training create a positive impact and some does not? In this post I will share a training method I use that I learned as a Karate student.

 

While in college at Kent State University I took a Karate class as one of my non-business electives. I enjoyed it so much I joined the local karate club and over the years became club president and helped teach Karate classes.

 

I started out as a white belt. A big part of that training was getting our bodies in shape for the training that would come next. We were taught basic movements that we would build on as we progresses through the other belt colors.

 

If you have never taken a Karate class the design methodology of how they teach is brilliant.!

 

Organized

 

Everyone first lines up from the highest-ranking students in the front with the instructor to the lowest ranking new students in the back of the room. How the students participate and interact is designed into the training for the maximum expereince of the student.

 

Make us want to learn

 

Our Instructor first tells us what we will be doing and discusses the important parts of the technique and when we might use it. Next they show us what we will be doing.

 

Team Alignment and consistency

 

As we begin the entire class is moving in unison. If you are new you can always watch people in front of you to follow along.

 

                                                                  

Practice

 

We practiced techniques over and over. While we practiced our instructor would walk around the room and observe our form.

 

 

Coaching/ demonstration

 

If we were not moving correctly they would give us adjustments to make and once again show us how the movement is supposed to look.

 

 

Break into small groups

 

About half way though the practice our instructor would break us up into groups based on skill level. The white and yellow belts would work on basic techniques and would often be led by a green belt.

 

 

Teach based skill level ( fill in gaps)

 

The groups were broken out by our skill level and  belt rank. Our belt rank was something we were tested on to demonstrate our understanding and ability to execute a very well designed series of movements.

 

                                                    

Show me you get it

 

Once a student had practiced the basic movements for a specific period of time, usually months and we felt the basics created the foundation we could build on we introduced application. What is the movement you are doing designed to do? This instruction was instructor led and involved working with a partner. We practiced our blocks, punches, and kicks very slowly with a partner. Some times we were on the offensive and other times we were on the defensive side of each technique.

 

                                    

After foundation established build upon it

 

While the new students were learning the basics and how to apply them, the other ranks were learning more advanced techniques and series of movements called Kata’s . The more advanced your belt rank the more advanced your training. All training however was built on a common foundation of basic movements practiced over and over again.

 

 

Assessment to understood standards of performance

 

When your instructor felt you have consistently demonstrated your understanding of techniques for your belt rank you would be tested. The entire club would watch you perform what you have learned and hear the instructor’s comments and suggestions.

 

 

Importance of skill level badges

 

If you passed the test, and some did not, you would be awarded your new belt and the process would start all over again with new techniques demonstrated, explained, you execute them, practice, and the instructors would continuously coach you until you performed behaviors correctly without thinking to the agreed level of performance.

 

                              

Introduce stress to see use of new behavior

 

Once you have demonstrated your ability with basic techniques and applied them successfully you will begin sparing. Sparing is a controlled fight to use the techniques you have learned in a live situation. What we are looking for at this phase is does the student apply or try to apply what we have taught? Does the student freeze, and this often happen the first time they step into the ring? Does the student continue to demonstrate control or does their emotions take over in this stressful situation?

 

 

Create safe environment for coaching

 

When I taught it was not unusual the first time a student would move into a live sparing they would spar with me.

 

 

Training success is determined by student’s ability to demonstrate

 

This is not about winning but helping the student feel what it is like to apply what they have learned in a safe and coaching environment.

 

 

Ask students to teach other students

 

                                                                  

Coach

 

                                                              

Practice

 

                                                                

Repeat

 

Why all this talk about Karate and making sales training stick?

 

I believe all sales trainers would value taking Karate and learning how to make training stick.

 

The model traditional martial arts have used for centuries is brilliant.

 

This is the same model I have used for years when training, coaching and leading salespeople. The only thing I would add today is record your employees being trained and record your coaching in a digital format so they can take with them. As new training skills are introduced and practiced, the student can review the recordings and see their progress over time.

 

Using this training model helps your sales team own what you are teaching and make the behavior modifications you desire.

 

Teach me

 

Show me

 

Ask me to do it

 

Have me practice

 

Coach me

 

Teach me how to apply new behavior

 

Test me in a live situation, assess and coach

 

Follow up training with coaching

 

Add new skill sets once basics are consistently demonstrated

 

Break us up into small groups

 

Have clear training levels, in this case belts and everyone knows what is expected at each level

 

Today our sales teams need short bursts of teaching followed by how to apply and practice.

 

If you would like your salespeople to adapt to how buyers want and need to buy today I recommend you implement or hire a sales training company that follows the above methodology.

 

Does your team need sales training?

 

What new behaviors would you like to see your team demonstrate?

 

Does your sales on boarding training build on a foundation of basic skills?

 

How does your team assess the ongoing future sales training needs of your team members?

 

How do you currently identify gaps in new sales employee training?

 

Our markets and buyers are changing how they buy. Our teams must adapt and to help them adapt we must lead training programs that result in new behaviors that meet what our markets and buyers want and need. Implement your own or hire a sales training company that follows the above methodology and your training will stick and you will realize the ROI you desire.

 

For more information on training adults and trends in training methods please visit some of the following web sites.

 

Latest training methodology 

 

Most effective training

 

Effective training methodology

 

Creative training techniques 

 

Sales training do’s and don’t report 

 

Sales effectiveness training 

The End Of The Greatest Show On Earth And What We Can Learn About Training

The End Of The Greatest Show On Earth and What We Can Learn About Training

 

 

 

Understanding the voice of your customer and voice of your markets is critical to hitting your sales and profit objectives today. With all the changes and shifts occurring at a much faster pace than ever before market leading organizations are capturing the voice of your customer to insure they improve sales productivity and achieve profitable sales growth. In this post I will share how customer voice research helps identify needed shifts in how we train our sales organizations.

 

I can remember, growing up in Cleveland Ohio when the Circus came to town. There was such an excitement. Streets would be closed for parades and as children we would line the streets to see the clowns, tigers, and elephants. Our families would buy our tickets and we filled the big top. If we were really lucky, our parents would buy a ticket so we could sit on an elephant. Even as a child I felt sorry for the elephants, they seemed to have a sad, almost surrendered look in their eyes. They looked more like their spirits have been broken than trained.

 

2017 is the end of the greatest show on earth. Why? I was not alone all these years feeling sorry for these magnificent elephants and other animals. Animal rights groups investigated how elephants were treated and trained. Elephants are first given a large tight chain around one of their ankles and the other end of the chain is staked into the ground a specific distance away. The elephant quickly learns the length of its chain. If the elephant tries to wander beyond its training limits it experiences pain. Over time the elephant surrenders and the chain is removed and a much smaller rope is used. However the elephants, now “ trained “ do not try to explore. They are set in their ways. Even with the chain removed they do not step outside of their understood paradigm. Consumers learned about training conditions and ticket sales decreased . The Circus announced it would no longer have elephants in its show by 2018. However they adjusted too late. The greatest show on earth is over.

 

At a recent Toastmasters meeting I heard this story about elephant training and it reminded me of how some sales teams have been trained over the years. Before the “Internet of things” we often chained our sales teams to features and benefits. Our training was 90%-75% technical and maybe 10%-25% communications and relational. I was trained in this time and it made sense back then. Buyers did not have easy access to your product specifications. If a buyer wanted and needed technical information about a product or service sales was the keeper of the information keys so to speak. There was no Google searches, Smart phones, …heck we did not have laptops or cell phones when I was trained to sell. Back then we were trained in 2-3 day long death by power point presentations and given 3” thick three ring binders with copies of all the slides and more product data sheets than we could ever want or need. We were taught to sell using features and benefits, and “overcome objections”.

 

In a post some time agoI shared the leading reason why sales stall or decline is a shift, a change occurred and the team failed to recognize it and failed to adapt and pivot. I see customer voice research work helping us to adapt how we train our sales teams for markets of today. What buyers want and need has changed. In most industries buyers have instant access to technical data now.

 

I want to emphasize salespeople who are our serving their customers and meeting with potential new customers must still understand the technical information and be able to accesses it quickly to give their buyers amazing service and win more business. I believe buyers are telling us through voice of the customer work their needs have changed and sales training must adapt to those changes. Your type of product and industry requirements will dictate how much your training will need to adapt to your buyers of today.

 

How should sales training evolve today?

 

In an excellent article by Bob Apollo the author shares …

 

 

 

“It’s a sad fact that today’s average B2B sales person is still far more comfortable talking about their products than they are discussing business issues. However the average B2B buyer regards a sales person’s relevant business knowledge as being far more valuable than their ability to regurgitate product features, functions and benefits

Even more telling the author explains ….

87% of the revenues in complex B2B sales environments are being generated by just 13% of the sales population. Needless to say, the gap between the best and the rest is far narrower in best-in-class sales organizations. What sets these top performing organizations apart?

There’s abundant evidence to suggest that one of the most significant differences lies in their ability to systematically create unique value to their customers through the disciplined application of value-based selling techniques

Buyers today no longer want (not that they ever really did) salespeople trained in overcoming objections. Buyer’s today value a salesperson that understands their industry and possible challenges the buyers company may be facing and offers value based solutions to those problems.

Why are many teams adapting Value based selling?

Jim Heffernan shares in his article: Why Value Based Selling Is So Successful ……

Good value-based sales techniques are tailored to the needs of the customer, making them understand why they are buying a quality product for the asking price. Value selling resolves potential customer issues with pricing and prevents the stalling of important deals and the wasting of precious employee man-hours.”

Market leading organizations listen to their buyers and are adapting. I see companies allocating 50% of training to technical product training and 50% to value based selling, understanding buyer personas, commutation skills. presentation skills and other sales methods like the challenger model. Studies show companies who have a complex sales environment experience 4.5 times greater performance when applying the challenger model. Teams are adapting based on their type of product, market and what their buyers are requiring in terms of much needed criteria to help them make buying decisions today. Market leading sales teams are no longer chained to training methods that fail to serve how buyers buy and what buyers need to buy today. They have a balance of technical, relational and strategic sales and communication training. As markets change, and they will, salespeople are encouraged to venture beyond their current skill levels and explore and learn new skills and adpat to better serve their customers.

Just as markets shift how our buyers shift. Therefore how we train our sales teams must also adapt to give our buyers the best overall buying experience and equip our teams with a strategic advantage to help them win more business. For example Richard Branson shares just how important communication is and how story telling is a powerful communication strategy. Warren Buffet recently shared how if we want to double our value we need to improve our communication skills. John Millen shared in an article ….

“Buffett believes so strongly in the importance of leaders being effective communicators that he offered his own return-on-investment estimate for effective communication.”

There are many benefits of listening to your customers and capturing and leveraging customer voice. One big benefit this current understanding provides is how we train and equip our sales teams to serve their customers.

We must also capture the voice of our internal salespeople and leverage that information into new sales training and tools. We need to ask and understand what our salespeople are facing and develop tools and training to serve them.

 

What do your buyers value today?

 

How do your buyers want to be served today?

 

What % of your sales training today is technical verse value based sales techniques?

 

Does your sales training today include communication training?

 

Could how your salespeople are trained to communicate with buyers become your value proposition?

 

Conduct internal and external customer voice research and adapt your sales training to how your buyers want and need to buy today and enjoy profitable sales growth. Sales today are no longer about being the greatest “show” on earth and have evolved into the greatest “value” on earth. Sales today is about serving your customers and helping them buy. Our training must help our salespeople build trust early and often in the sales process.

We must adjust how we train our teams.

 

What if the Circus was listening to their buyers voice sooner and learned new ways to train their elephants?

 

Would they be going out of business today?

 

My guess is no.

 

What new sales training is your team adding today?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are Your Salespeople Calling on “Power” or “Parrots”?

parrot buyer

 

There are many “gate keepers” we must often pass through to close a sale. With technology today we have buyers who hide behind voice mail and email and send out RFP’s and we have little or no discussion with them. If we try to make a cold call we may be greeted by a “no solicitation sign” or guard house that will not let us pass without an appointment. If we make it to the lobby we may have a receptionist gate keeper trained not to let us pass, and not to share decision makers names. However one of the gate keepers sales must identify quickly is the buyer who has no purchasing power and is a Parrot.

 

So your salesperson has made it through the gauntlet of obstacles we now face in sales and finally met with the buyer. The buyer shared what they are looking for, what their research has told them they need and your salesperson has presented. When we ask your salesperson for an update, they say ; “we had a good meeting”. OK, great to know, but why don’t we have the purchase order? What is preventing the buyer from giving you the order? Why is this sale taking so long? I thought you said you thought you won the order two months ago…where is it?

 

If you find yourself asking your salespeople these questions and more, chances are your salesperson actually presented your solution to a parrot and not power. Parrots are tasked with finding the best product, service and price for a particular problem to be solved and they echo their findings to someone else or others with the power to make the decision to purchase. Rarely are buyers the users of your solution but they are the person who actually inputs the purchase order into their system and assigns the PO.

 

What should your salespeople do if a sale they thought they won goes dark?

 

What should salespeople do if they discover they are calling on a parrot?

 

How do we shorten the sales cycle when we never get to meet with power?

 

If you find yourself asking these questions there are ways to insure you win the sale. One of the leading ways is to equip and empower your buyer with tools to help them present your solution.

 

Good salespeople will always ask in their qualifying process: “who is also involved in making the buying decision?” Some buyers have already been assigned a budget and can cut the purchase order. However as the cost of the purchase climbs I have found others…often time many others will be involved in making the final decision. The key to winning these orders is clearly understanding the buying process, the criteria being used to evaluate solutions, and the buyer personas of those making or influencing the buying decision. I hear some of you saying; “Well Mark that is a lot of work to do on a PO that four other companies are also trying to win.” Yes it can be if you have not done the market work ahead of time. However if you know the buyers in your market, how they buy, who they need to get sign off from, and what is important to those influencers you can include it in your presentation.

 

I was asked to help a company some time ago and they had seen steady profitable growth for years and then as the economy changed their phones seemed to stop ringing. Sales dropped monthly to 1/10th of what they once were and their senior leaders were concerned. They heard through a friend what I do and hired me to solve this problem.

 

The first thing I always do is seek current market truths. After a series of win loss calls we discovered that our customers were also feeling the pinch of the economy tightening and their companies have tightened their restrictions on purchasing. Specifically purchases the size of the products our company was selling once were able to be approved of by the buyer now needed many other signatures. We now have CEO’s, CFO’s, various VP’s all needing to agree before a purchase order would be issued.

 

The trouble in this new reality was our buyers are great at buying and terrible at presenting, it’s not that they are bad people it is just not their gift. We asked if we could meet with and present our solutions to the key influencers and we were met with; “no, they are too busy and this is what I am paid to do”. So as we reviewed sales we lost we found one common “spin cycle” as I call them where the purchase seems to spin round and round and go no where was when a key user or decision maker challenged the buyer with a question or series of questions they needed answers to and the buyers were not prepared to answer. Once we understood this was occurring we created a presentation slide deck that specifically spoke to the common influencer buyer persona’s who needed to approve the purchase. In addition we added a new step early on in our sales process that involved a webinar with the buyer and the various power influencers to share our solution and ask questions to better understand what the influencers needed to make the buying decision at a time that worked for their crazy, short staffed schedules. Within three months sales were tracking back to historical levels and within eight months sales were up over 30% to their prior average monthly sales… in the worst economy this company had ever experienced.

 

 

 

How about your business…..

 

Are you calling on Parrots? Do you know?

 

Who do the Parrots repeat your presentation to?

 

What do those buyer personas need, require to approve the proposal?

 

What can you provide proactively based on your understanding of your customers’ process?

 

How can you adjust your repeatable sales process to adapt to how your buyers are buying today?

 

Yes, this market work takes some time, and you will definitely learn some things that will make you feel uneasy or even upset however the value you receive by adapting to these current market truths will far outweigh the time and pain.

 

(As a side note…while we adjusted our process and had record sales, one of our competitors doubled their advertising and eventually went out of business. Another downsized their operation and waited out the economic storm with plans to re-staff when business got back to normal. They are still in business, but have never re-staffed and have not brought their sales back to pre- economic challenge levels.)

 

 

Dispel 5 Myths about Fixing Sales Today and Insure Strong Future Sales

0002-growth-graph

 

Over the last few weeks I have been discussing common myths business owners and leaders believe to be true about the fixing sales problems and how to immunize future sales performance. I recently went for my annual flu shot and the myths people in line were discussing as truths reminded me of the five main myths sales leaders need to lose to fix poor sales performance and how we can immunize future sales results. Before I can help you fix your sales problems we need to dispel the 5 myths that you may be carrying as market truths;

 

You cannot Train your way out of a sales problems alone.

 

You cannot Manage your way to improved sales alone.

 

The Economy is not the only reason for your poor sales performance alone.

 

Hiring outside help to work on your Sales Process will not hurt your current sales.

 

Just because you have Good Sales Now does not immunize you from future poor sales results.

 

What is the best way to immunize your sales performance from poor results?

 

Clean Sales Management

 

Clean Sales Management as I shared in a previous post entails being in your market on four legged sales calls with your sales team. As a reminder, you are not there to close sales but to observe buyers.

 

You need to answer;

 

Why do buyers buy from you and why don’t they?

 

What is their buyer journey today?

 

What sales process is your team using? (… if any)

 

What are common buyer personas your team is presenting?

 

What criteria are important to your buyers today?

 

When your buyers shop for a solution, where do they go, what process do they use?

 

Are there any “Spin Cycles” in your current sales process that no longer mirror how your buyers are buying today? (Spin cycle- those places in the sales process where the sale stalls, spins, or even goes dark)

 

What tools could your salespeople use to overcome or eliminate buyer Spin Cycles?

 

As a sales manager, and more so if you are the VP of Sales you have a number of activities all vying for your time and attention. Having been a VP of Sales and Marketing myself I experienced the following all pulling me like they had a gravitational power of their own;

 

Your CEO and President want answers to specific questions

 

Hitting your new sales goals

 

Hitting your profit objectives

 

Controlling expenses

 

IT wants to book SAP training and your opinion on what a CRM should do

 

A/R wants help collecting from difficult customers

 

Marketing wants your sales guys to ask their buyers …. (you fill in the blanks)

 

Forecasting

 

Cost of Quality meetings

 

Meeting with the CFO forecasting ROI and sales forecast for new products

 

HR wanting to have succession plans in place, quarterly performance reviews, performance improvement plans, and on-boarding discussions

 

Product Development wanting to know why we are not hitting new product sales

 

Meetings with Product Engineering discussing problems with their last new design

 

Product Marketing wanting to meet about why sales is not closing a higher % of leads

 

Social Media group wanting stories from the field

 

More meetings you did not even know were on the list

 

…do I need to keep typing or do you agree I have lived this?

 

If you try to do all of the above you can quickly become an “an office bound VP of sales” and this is the beginning of the death of a sales VP. The reality is you (we) need to do all of the above and more. However what keeps us employed, hitting our bonus objectives and answering the top four activities above; answering President and CEO questions strategically and timely, hitting sales goals, achieving profit objectives and controlling expenses…you need to be in the market practicing clean sales management. In your market you become aware of market changes, viruses, which can infect your sales results early and keep your team’s sales performance on plan.

“Protecting the Fort” and the Failure to Achieve Sales Goals

by Mark Allen Roberts

When asked to help under performing sales teams, I always start by understanding the problem to be solved then working with their sales people in the market. One common role misunderstanding  among salespeople limits their ability to achieve their sales goals; “Protecting the Fort”. Some salespeople, often those who have been with you for a number of years believe part of their job is “Protecting the Fort” and not selling.They envision the sales and buying process more as a battle and they have to ward off buyer advances. What I am referring to can be simply explained as;

Protecting the Fort; a sales behavior exhibited by salespeople that is inward focused, not market serving, that believes part of their job is to teach buyers how to buy according to their companies’ internal rules, needs, and wants or quickly disqualify them and move on to the next sale.

Salespeople who protect the fort miss sales goals.

I was asked to help an under performing sales team some time ago. I spent time with each salesperson and I was surprised how much business two of their salespeople were not closing. They both had strong pipelines, a defined sales process, and a great lead nurturing plan and yet they were not meeting their sales objectives. I decided to spend some time doing four legged sales calls and after a few calls with each salesperson I quickly understood the problem hurting their sales performance. I found both sales people followed a sales process, followed up with their accounts timely, but consistently failed to close because they spent more time trying to get buyers to comply with how their company did things. The buyers were trying to buy this companies’ product but were met with …”we can’t do that..” “that’s not how we do things…” and both were saying “ I could never get that approved” . The salespeople would quickly use their understanding of internal unbreakable rules and policies to disqualify customers and not close the sale.  However when I asked the CEO if the salespeople had shared buyers needs and requests the answer was a quick..No. He even went on to say that some of what the buyers requested he would have gladly approved based on the customer and the size of the order.

Markets change and buyers buying processes and criteria change. Market leading companies are constantly sensing for market shifts and adapt…they must be more agile.

Teams that practice an Agile sales methodology meet and exceed growth goals.

Sales teams forced to sell based on …”the way we do things around here” fail.

So how about your sales team?

When was the last time you went on a four-legged sales call?

What internal rules do your salespeople think are acceptable to be deal breakers?

When was the last time one of your salespeople challenged one of your policies?

When you analyze lost sales , is their a common “internal rule” that is interrupting the sales process?

Are your internal rules for sales engagement market focused to help buyers buy…or designed to protect the fort?

I can hear the voice of past company owners I have served saying “ Ya but..” so let me address their concerns. I am not saying all the parameters you have given your salespeople should be allowed to be challenged. For example a lost sale is not the worst sale. The worst sale is one you work, nurture, close, deliver, and the customer never pays. So I am not advocating changing policies that insure buyers have the ability to pay. I am not advocating salespeople be permitted to sell products or services at a profit loss.

What I am saying is your sales team must understand their fundamental role; helping buyers buy not protecting the fort.

Are Your “Salespeople Hunting Elephants With a BB Gun?” Answer 10 questions…

Are Your “Salespeople Hunting Elephants With a BB Gun?” Answer 10 questions…


As I have shared in prior posts, salespeople are like water; they find and take the path of least resistance. Having carried a sales bag for years I get it; it takes a tremendous amount of work to sell a large number of new accounts when I can sell one big account and make the same amount of money, and possibly more. The problem is most salespeople are ill equipped to land big accounts so they are hunting elephants with a BB gun. When your team hunts elephants with a BB gun they not only fail to hit sales objectives, and fail to increase the number of prospects in their funnel….there’s a high probability they are irritating the elephants.

Some of my fondest sales memories were landing some big elephants in the markets I served like; Wal-Mart, Block Buster, Musicland Stores, Nintendo, Dell, Blackberry, and others….and I have to admit it was a rush. I had a big advantage though and that was training and sales tools to land big accounts (elephants). When you sell big accounts you must understand how they buy, who is involved in the buying decision, and aggressively pursue the economic buyer. ( the one who has the power to write you a check) Just as if you were hunting elephants on the plains in Africa, you would equip yourself with a different set of equipment (tools) to bag your trophy, than if you were hunting rabbits or squirrels in Ohio. The environment is different, your weapons are different, and the net number of targets and shots you can take is very different.

One common problem I am observing in the market today is salespeople are hunting elephants with a BB gun and getting frustrated and surprised when they fail to bag their trophy.

How do you know if your salespeople are hunting elephants with a BB gun?

  1. Have your salespeople focused on and failed to close elephants in the past 6-8 months?
  2. When you ask why they failed to close the sale, all they say is price?
  3. Do you keep hearing “good meeting” but fail to see an order or a clear understanding of what was achieved at the last meeting and what the next step of the buying process is for the prospect?
  4. Do you notice the entire sales territory is underperforming to plan?
  5. When you ask about the territory performance, does your salesperson always add the elephant to the discussion?
  6. Are other team members complaining they are being pulled into this “big” opportunity and they are not seeing the sale moving to a close?
  7. Has your salesperson said something like; the account just went dark?
  8. Have you seen new leads not being followed up on in a timely manner?
  9. If you did bag an elephant in the last 6-8 months, was it significantly under your profit targets?
  10. ..I saved the hardest question for last …What does your gut say, should your salesperson be presenting large key accounts in your market? Are they trained and have they demonstrated the ability to listen and present solutions to problems? Would you want your salesperson calling on you?

So how did your team score? If you answered “yes” to four or more of the above, your salesperson is hunting elephants with a BB gun. How did you answer question #10? If you said “no” stop irritating the elephants in your market today.

There are a number of problems with your salespeople hunting elephants when they are not equipped to win;

they fail to bring home all the rabbits and squirrels in their market

they only irritate and make the elephants angry and that anger is attached to your companies’ brand

they compromise margins and they are  operating in the domain of losses

they pull resources from other areas of the organization that fail to meet their objectives

Market leading sales organizations understand the buying process for large key accounts is different than the smaller accounts they serve, and they provide the tools and training to clear the jungle and bag those market elephants.

How is your team’s sales history bagging elephants?

What is the main reason your salespeople say as to why they failed to win their trophy?

How many other opportunities are not followed up on that they could close with a BB gun?

Do you agree or disagree elephant hunting requires different training, tools and experience?

If your team wants to bag some elephants, are you equipping them with the right tools and training? Or are you counting on them to “just make it happen”?

“Product Training” is not “Sales Training“

 

 

It’s that time of year again…

Salespeople are scrabbling to achieve their year end objectives while their accounts have slipped into a post thanksgiving day comma. Next year territory goals are distributed and some organizations recognize this time of year as ideal for training their sales teams. But most sales training seems to miss it’s mark…why?

Here’s the problem:

“Product Training is not Sales training”

I just received a call from a friend who asked if I had the time to sit in on their sales training and give them some feedback. (What they wanted was actually praise) They were very excited about 2012 and the number of new products and product improvements they were launching. So they asked their field sales team to attend training.

Sales training is a challenge as research shows as high as 90% of sales training adds no value within 120 days, and yet corporations will spend over $5 billion per year in Sales Training. Before I share what I have experienced I thought I would share some links that I thought were very interesting…

7 Reasons Sales Training Fails

5 Reasons why Sales Training Fails

Why Does Sales Training Fail?

Report: Why Sales Training Fails

Top Reasons Why Most Corporate Sales Training Fails

Why Training us Useless

All of the above and many more posts have great content and if your team is looking at making the investment in sales training I recommend you review the above.

Now back to my friend’s company…

So I attended the meeting and in terms of time allocation it went something like this;

Words from senior management – 10%

 

VP of Sales sharing his vision – 20%

 

Engineering sharing technical specifications -30%

 

Marketing sharing tools they developed (sell sheets and new web pages) – 20%

 

Other: goals, questions and answers (and kind of a bitch session)-20%

The shame was this training could have helped prepare the team to sell new products and change behaviors in the field based on a clear understanding of the market, its buyers, their buying process and criteria. Instead, it prepared the sales team to continue to play “feature and benefit bingo” with their accounts just hoping some of them can translate the list of benefits into solutions to problems they may be experiencing.

So I’m going to say it again; “Product Training is not Sales Training.”

 

Product Training is obviously necessary, however the most value you can provide your sales team and ultimately your bottom line is answering the following questions….

What problem does this product solve?

 

Who has this problem?

 

What do buyers who have that problem buy now? Why?

 

How do buyers search for solutions to this problem?

 

How do buyers state the problem in their own words?

 

What process do buyers use to solve their problems today?

 

What criteria do buyers use when evaluating products that solve their problems?

 

What is the sales process for this solution?

 

Based on how buyers are buying, what new tools do we have and when should I use them?

 

What are the various Buyer Personas and how do we approach each?

 

Are their “influencers” in the buying process? If so who and what do they require?

 

What is my market’s opportunity?

 

What is our value proposition and distinctive  advantage?

 

How do these new products fit in our overall mix of solutions?

 

Do some salespeople have unique needs, areas that need improved?

 

My friend’s training, like a number of sales training I have attended over the years did not answer any of the above but did clearly share each salesperson’s goals in the next year. What I shared was how he is relying his sales team to “make it happen” and figure it out in the field. His need to feel sales was more of a science and less of an art will not be met. So he will continue to be frustrated by sales forecasts because they are actually educated guesses. What I observed, that sounded like a bitch session was actually the sales team sharing how they needed to get in shape for the market they faced today.

So how about your company?

 

How much will your organization spend in sales training this year?

 

Can your team afford not to have a return on that investment?

 

Does your sales training answer the above questions?

 

Or are you counting on your sales people to “just make it happen?”

 

Based on what I described, if you were one of this team’s salespeople, would you feel your future goals were based on market opportunity or corporate necessity?

Sales training is more than product training alone. In addition to equipping your team to win, it can also demonstrate you do have an understanding of the market and help your team see the training as something to help them make more money and not something they have to “go through” each year.