The Sales Trainer
CAN YOU TRAIN THEM TO BECOME GREAT SALES PEOPLE?
THE ANSWER IS "NO!"
Think hard on this question. Of all of the sales personnel that have ever called on you, what percentage of them:
... think of and for you at all times?
... do everything they promised to do and on time?
... always arrive to share an idea or concept that might help you?
... provide unheard of services that separate them from everyone else?
... keep trying to learn of your current challenges so they can continuously bring more value and joy to you and/or your organization?
Now, the second question. What percentage of all sales people just show up to try to sell something at a price?
I speak about 100 times annually and I constantly ask the above questions of audiences and the answers average out to be that only 1 percent are great business people/sales people and 99 percent fall into the category of hoping to sell something to somebody.
When we talk about Total Quality Management (TQM), we are almost always talking about operational issues. I suggest that TQM should apply to the sales profession as well. Why? Because training, in almost all cases, does not work.
Most sales training is product related and great product training does not make an average performer a great sales person. Most corporations do not suffer from poor products. It's as simple as this: Three competing sales representatives offer Jacuzzi products. I need or want one. Which representative will I buy from? The one that has earned my respect as outlined in the first paragraph. Let's look at why training doesn't work.
Firstly, if you are going to provide training, you must view it as an investment and not as a cost.
Secondly, we must remember that sales managers must be growing at a faster rate than the sales people they lead. The majority of sales managers are "doers" versus leaders. My job is to help them become more effective at what they do with their two primary functions . . . their sales staff and their clients. Almost everything else is small stuff, but managers get all tied up in . . . you guessed it . . . the small stuff. The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) supports my theory of helping to further educate the managers first. ASTD reports that only 12 percent of managers receive formalized training prior to entering a management position and only 17 percent receive formalized training to upgrade their skills once they are in management.
Being a good sales person usually means the person becomes a sales manager. A whole new set of skills are required. That's why I start with the sales manager. When he gets better, the group gets better. If he doesn't, they don't. The next reason that sales training is not that effective is that most organizations bring in a sales trainer to provide an event. Just this week, a sales manager asked that I speak at their annual sales meeting. Wonderful! When I asked what he wanted me to accomplish, he replied, "I want you to fire 'em up." When I pressed further, he said, "I want you to motivate 'em for the best year ever." Okie-dokie. A motivational speech is wonderful, but it lasts until they leave the meeting and get stuck in traffic, get in a long line at the airport or a long line at a public toilet.
Sales trainers typically provide four types of services. They are:
All of the above are good, but some are better than others. Let me address the four areas.
This is a one-time affair such as for an annual meeting. You must work with the speaker to provide the particular message you want and need.
If you choose a motivational speaker, make sure that you select a few ideas that you will hold your group accountable for after the event.
You have earned the right to raise expectations based on the investment of the speaker's fee and his expenses. If you do not monitor the changes, little change will take place.
You bring the sales trainer in once a month, six times annually or every quarter.
This is a workbook exercise broken up into modules with each one being a distinct set of skills. My eight modules, as an example, range from organization to prospecting to closing techniques. It requires eight to ten four-hour sessions or four to five full day sessions.
Always split on-going training into sessions of either half day or one full-day session.
Don't make it more lengthy than that unless you have to, for logistic reasons such as the necessity to fly everyone in for the seminars.
No matter how great the speaker is:
1. You can only absorb so much before you start to go brain dead.
2. It is much more effective to provide training in shorter bursts and then follow up and monitor for the skills to become habits before going on to more and more training.
Here's the key:
Pick six skills out of every session that you will hold your group accountable for implementation. Six seminars annually with six skills per session. That is 36 new skills in one year. What do you think will happen to your sales volume? It will explode! How many sales people do you know that placed just six new skills into practice in the last 12 months? It's hard to think of any friend, relative or associate that just placed one or two new skills in practice, isn't it?
Most organizations believe in training and provide it, but the results are not always what they could be for several reasons.
1. Implementation - You not only need to hold the entire group accountable for certain skills, but you also need to assign one or two additional skills for each person based on their particular weaknesses. This enables you to customize your efforts based on the individual's real needs.
Be prepared to spend an adequate amount of time with those that will need concentrated assistance. They may be young and need to be shown how to act on the new skills, or they may be veterans who will require continuous leadership and coaching to help them through the "un-learning" of certain habits they acquired over time.
2. Education - The overwhelming majority of personal change comes by way of education . . . not by classroom training. Please refer back to the title of this article.
Education is the constant coaching reinforcement and one on one focus with specific growth goals. Personality profiles for sales personnel often help target efforts regarding individual education needs. By analyzing individual personality traits, a sales trainer can develop targeted education for individuals. You can also get the trainer to go into the field with the person to see first-hand "how it really is." In a nice and easy format, a good trainer can help transfer classroom skills into real-life scenarios and provide on-the-spot suggestions.
3. Consulting - Almost everyone needs the truth. Just about everyone needs help with recruiting, selecting, training and motivating. You can't do everything, nor should anyone be expected to. Get a qualified outsider to help you with your specific challenges with helping both you and your group to get better. Progressive people do this. They can help you:
1. Develop a sales/action plan so that plans, execution and results meet.
2. Develop position descriptions, measurement devices and compensation plans.
3. Train your customer's sales force.
4. Conduct meaningful one on one quarterly evaluations with your group.
5. Help you get better with your job functions.
Training and education needs will vary by company, but you do need to decide the investment amount you will make available. Guidelines for Total Training Budgets are:
Investment of 1.5% of Sales - This is the minimum or your competitiveness in the field will be somewhat of a joke.
Investment of 3% of Sales - Serious organizations are at this level, and they get serious results.
Investment of 5% of Sales - Planning for and achieving dominance.
Arthur Andersen & Company conducted a survey for a wholesale/distributor trade association and I have utilized their percentages above. I have always maintained that a corporate-wide training budget be placed at a minimum of 2 percent of gross revenues. You must remember that without major change, things will remain just as they are.
4. Process - Quite simply, a process is an on-going program that never really stops.
Everyone receives classroom training and targeted one on one coaching to help them implement the training they have received. More importantly, top executives are involved with every step I mentioned throughout this article. It is the most comprehensive and the most rewarding. No one can escape from self-improvement unless they decide "I don't want any part of this." That's okay as long as they do not plan on staying in your employ.
Training and education should be fun, rewarding and on-going. CAUTION: Do not start a program unless you are committed. Start one and stop. Start a new one and stop. Don't do it! It's called BOHICA - Bend over, here it comes again.
"Can't afford training" you say? In reality, you can't afford not to train! Most people do want to get better so the ball is in your court. Ask your vendors to chip in for training. That way, some vendors also win as sales go up.
"I've had motivational speakers in before." "I can't afford you." "I do all of the training myself." "No, we don't do any training." I've heard these and other similar comments that do not make sense, but they do make cents.
Think about educating your group to death . . . and make dollars. Training will help them get better, but targeted education will help many of them be great in the selling profession.
There is a tremendous difference between having a group that is better versus a group that is great.