You’ve decided to invest in developing the skills of your sales people – but how do you find the right partner to deliver the right sales training program that works for your business, that achieves the right outcomes?
Most Team Leaders are responsible for making dozens of decisions every single day. Research suggests that one of the biggest decisions they make, one that truly influences their ultimate levels of success, is who to recruit for their team. In the same way, those responsible for sales development or sales enablement may stand or fall by their decisions around training providers to select. Different projects may demand different partners and whilst selecting the wrong training provider can result in a whole world of pain, the right partner can massively increase your chances of successful engagement, execution and application.
In the world of sales training providers though, selecting the right one comes with added complexity. If they’re in the business of training others on how to make their customer propositions as compelling as possible, how can you cut through the weeds to enable you to differentiate between their offerings and select the provider that’s going to create the greatest value for you and your organization?
Here are our thoughts on a few key considerations:
1. They treat sales training solutions as change initiatives
Ask yourself a simple question – Why do organisations choose to train their salespeople? Cut the possible responses any way you like and the vast majority will lead to the same ultimate answer – to drive better business results. At the individual level this means taking the behaviors our salespeople currently demonstrate and encouraging them to use those skills more often, less often or to do things differently. By definition then we’re asking them to change.
Sales training therefore should be treated in exactly the same way as any other change initiative. As highlighted in our previous blog, the best sales training providers don’t just deliver great content. They help you engage your salespeople and other key stakeholders around why the training is taking place, and to maximize impact they place as much emphasis on what happens before and after training delivery as they do on what happens during the event itself.
2. They see active Leader sponsorship as integral to success
It’s one thing being told by your line manager that you need to attend training. It’s something quite different if a senior Sales or Business Leader is able to demonstrate their engagement and sponsorship of the program you’re about to attend. That engagement or sponsorship can be displayed in a variety of different ways. Before rollout it could include promoting the program’s purpose and its intended payoff during Town Hall or Team meetings. During rollout it can incorporate attending full or parts of training events. It could also include checking in with teams or individuals to hear about what they’ve learned and how they intend to put things into practice. After the training event, that sponsorship could involve publicly or privately recognising and acknowledging those who have successfully implemented what they’ve learned.
According to research by HR Chally, only 15% of sales training initiatives achieve a positive ROI. To help maximize your chances of success, any sales training provider worth their salt should work with you to drive Leader sponsorship.
3. They recognize the importance of the Sales Manager as Coach
If Leader sponsorship is important then the role of the sales manager should likewise not be underestimated. A salesperson can participate in the most enjoyable, informative sales development program – but if they are not supported in the transfer of their learning during and post-program then again, the overwhelming likelihood is that the program will become just another one of the 85% failed sales training initiatives.
The sales manager plays a crucial role in coaching the skills and behaviors learned. As such, not only should the training provider be recommending that sales managers are familiar with the sales approaches and tools their teams are learning, but also that those managers should feel confident in coaching the sales techniques. A mechanism by which managers can focus on developing and applying their coaching skills will in turn support the salesperson’s application of their learning. A sales training partner should place this high on their list of criteria critical to success.
4. They help participants identify the ‘WIIFM’
As previously discussed, positioning exactly why the training is taking place is a great starting point to secure participant engagement. But it is just a starting point. The next step is to help those same participants understand exactly what the benefits will be once the training has been completed. A big trap that many training providers fall into here is that they keep those benefits at the organizational level. They communicate how the training will support the business in driving more revenue or increasing customer retention. The best training providers though are able to help an audience identify the personal benefits, the ‘What’s In It For Me?’ (WIIFM). That could include developing skills that will enable the salesperson to improve their win rate, increase their confidence when negotiating, save time by using certain tools, or increase the likelihood of them hitting quota and the rewards that brings.
As human beings we are, in many ways, extremely complex. In others we are very straightforward. One of the ways in which we are straightforward is what motivates us to take action. Ultimately we tend to move towards things which we believe will create some kind of benefit for us and we move away from things that we think will cause us pain. To drive maximum engagement, your sales training provider should help your salespeople recognize how the approaches and techniques they’re learning will create personal benefit and/or avoid personal pain.
5. They have a proven track record
If your sales training provider can’t demonstrate their previous sales enablement success then this should raise a big red flag. If they’re unable to provide compelling case studies, references or testimonials, how can you validate their credibility? Remember also that not all case studies, references and testimonials are equal. For example consider who that testimonial has come from. Are they a program sponsor or a program participant? Does their perspective give you the information you need to make a more informed provider selection decision?
With case studies, the training provider should be able to share examples that are as close to the solution they’re proposing as possible. Delivering virtual training via webinar demands different skills to in-person classroom based sessions. Co-ordinating delivery of a training program in one language is a different ball game entirely to a program delivered internationally in a range of languages. That’s not to say that their previous experience will always be a 100% match with your requirements, but at least you’ll be making your selection decision with your eyes open. In addition, any reputable sales training provider should be able to connect you with a client for whom they’ve delivered sales enablement or training solutions in the past – so that you can gather feedback on their experiences. If the training provider can’t do that you may reasonably ask yourself ‘Why?’
6. They offer a variety of sales training delivery approaches
Long gone are the days when the answer to every sales training need was to throw your salespeople in a training room, show them some PowerPoint slides, get them to do a few role-plays and then expect their behaviors to change overnight.
Today a multitude of factors have driven the need for alternative training delivery channels. These include; the advancement of technology, pandemics, pressures on time and the competition for budget. In-person classroom based delivery is now just one of a myriad of different channels through which successful sales training can be delivered. Virtual or remote webinars, Self-guided digital programs and software platforms that support collaborative learning pre, during and post training sessions are now potentially valuable tools within the training provider’s armoury.
The most important thing is that a sales training provider is recommending the approach that best meets your organization’s needs – not just the one that they feel most comfortable with! That recommendation may well include a combination of different delivery channels within the same sales enablement initiative.
7. They know the power of reinforcement
One of the reasons why 85% of training initiatives don’t deliver positive ROI (HR Chally) can be found in the wonderfully titled ‘Ebbinghaus Forgetting Effect’. In the late 19th century Hermann Ebbinghaus conducted research which suggested that unless a new piece of learning was reinforced in some way, almost 90% of what had been learned would be forgotten within seven days. This became known as the Forgetting Effect. A similar piece of research conducted in 2015 generated similar results. From a sales training perspective this could help explain why even the most stimulating and enjoyable training sessions fail to deliver the impact and/or changes in behavior expected. Unless that training is reinforced moving forward, the overwhelming likelihood is that program participants will forget the vast majority of what they’ve learned and therefore be far less likely to put it into practice.
It also helps explain why sales training budget is often wasted – because well intentioned training programs do not include any kind of reinforcement.
A good training provider should be aware of the power of reinforcement. Their proposition should focus not simply on introducing the new skills and behaviors in line with the objectives of the program, but critically a plan for how that learning will be reinforced post-training event. Examples here could include the manager coaching mentioned earlier or ‘re-connect’ sessions that give participants the opportunity to refresh around the key sales approaches covered.
8. They offer a simple but rich sales methodology
The best teachers are able to present complex concepts in a simple way. By the same token the best sales training providers should offer a sales approach that is easy for salespeople to understand. Buy-in to the overarching methodology is essential if you’re to stand any chance of salesperson engagement around the skills, behaviors or tools that sit beneath. That approach or methodology should hit three criteria.
First, it should be easy to understand. A good test here is to ask ‘Could I easily summarize or explain it?’ If the answer to that question is yes, it’s a positive sign. A methodology with thirteen different key concepts on the other hand may cover all the bases, but at a practical level how likely is it to be remembered and regularly used?
Second, it should relate directly to the world of the salesperson and the customers they sell to. Relevance is key. If the salesperson doesn’t see the relevance, it’s going to be an uphill task to gain their buy-in. Some sales training providers pride themselves on their flagship sales methodology, an approach from which they will not veer. That’s OK as long as that approach meets the needs of your organization. A good sales training provider may well look to challenge your thinking, to help you see the relevance of their preferred approach where you hadn’t recognized it before, but ultimately you need to be comfortable that their methodology meets your needs.
Third, whilst on the one hand simple, the approach should also be rich. Rich enough that it can be adapted where necessary for different roles within the sales team, and/or the customers they serve. Rich enough that it enables your sales team to differentiate their sales approach from others. Rich enough that it offers the scope for more advanced understanding and application further down the line.
9. They provide a practical toolkit as part of sales training
To ease the transition from learning to real-world application, a sales training provider should offer a series of tools that both support the methodology they deliver and enable application to real-life customers. As well as being a useful reminder for learners of how to navigate the sale, these tools can equally be used by sales managers to guide coaching conversations.
All the better if those tools can be mapped into your existing sales process and integrated into your organization’s CRM system so that internal stakeholders can access a single shared view of the approach within the selling journey, and the relevant customer information captured.
One point to note – with sales tools it’s most definitely a case of quality over quantity. Too many tools and you run the risk of overwhelming the salesperson, so a good sales training provider should focus on providing only the tools that create greatest value for the selling organization.
10. They practice what they preach
Selecting a sales training provider gives you the opportunity to experience how they sell. Is their own sales approach consistent with how they’re telling you they’ll train your sales team? If it is consistent and they practice what they preach you can then decide – is this the type of approach we want our salespeople to be demonstrating? Leaning on your own experience of how the training provider sells to you is an all too often underestimated criteria in selecting the right partner.
So there we go. 10 tips for selecting a sales training provider. Are there others we haven’t covered that you would recommend? If so, let us know!
If you’d like to discuss any of the points raised here feel free to get in touch…