A LOT of sales training is a waste of money. This is largely because of five common mistakes:
Choosing the lowest fee
The real cost of running sales training is not the trainer’s fee. The real cost is:
• The opportunity cost of taking your most productive staff out of the market for whatever time the training takes.
• The potential of making their performance worse with inappropriate techniques or of annoying your best producers. Salespeople can be surprisingly critical of anyone who doesn’t empathise with the unrelenting burden of a sales budget or the pressure of being caught between demanding clients and underperformance in your own organisation.
The two key factors that determine a successful choice of trainer are: fit with the participants and the ability to customise.
Expecting immediate results
It has taken your people months or years to acquire some of their bad habits. They are not going to disappear after one training session. There needs to be a plan of what they will implement first and what will follow that.
If they try too much too soon, it could compromise the already good relationships they have with their clients.
Research has shown that the minimum time it takes to break a habit is three weeks. Most training that fails does so through a lack of persistence in implementation.
Lower your unrealistic expectations of immediate improvement in sales figures; but make it very clear about your expectations for their continued application of the techniques.
Not following up
Salespeople can be remarkably resistant to change. Their interactions with clients are largely unmonitored so it can be very easy for them to continue doing what they have always done.
They will dismiss the suggestions from the training with, “I tried that and it didn’t work with my clients”.
Unless they know that there will be follow-up from their up-line manager and support from their peers while they are familarising themselves with the techniques, then the change won’t happen.
No up-line or down-line support
Salespeople won’t have the inclination to change if they don’t think their manager is supportive of the changes. They will find some change difficult to implement without the necessary logistical or practical support.
Any changes that salespeople make will be wasted if they are immediately contradicted by customer service, support or administration staff.
Their interactions with customers should be consistent with the relationship the salesperson is trying to create.
Some enlightened organisations arrange complimentary training for support and administration staff or ask for them to be included in part of the training.
Mandating the programme content
When I run a two-day training programme, I never make commitments for the evening in between.
This is because I generally spend a good part of my waking hours after Day 1 modifying the programme for Day 2.
This is necessary because of important issues that have arisen during Day 1 that were not mentioned by the general manager or the sales manager in the pre-course interviews or by any of the trainees in the pre-course survey. And these issues, if left unaddressed, will compromise the outcome of the training.
Recently, I was training sales staff at a company that was at the very top of its market.
In the extensive pre-course research, we identified that staff needed help with techniques and strategies to resist demands from clients to lower their prices — and the training was designed around this.
During the first day, I heard that some staff thought the company head-office was only interested in maximising profits and others thought some of its products were commodities (consumables with no discernible difference between brands) and needed to be priced accordingly (that is, cheaply).
The problem wasn’t a lack of technique; it was a lack of belief in their product and brand.
The training in Day 2 needed to change to challenge these incorrect assumptions — that the first person they had to sell their product to was themselves. And with their company’s brilliant track record and superb products, they should be able to do this.
At the start of the training, neither the client nor I know what we did not know. This is why there should always be sufficient flexibility to allow for what an experienced sales trainer will unearth.
So, if you want your sales training to have the best chance of success, choose a trainer with a sales background and with the ability to customise the training.
Ensure your training is part of a programme that also involves your up-line management and down-line support, and make sure there is sufficient flexibility to address any issues that arise during the training. Then you can expect brilliant results.
Article by Kevin Ryan, managing director of Training Edge Australia and an international speaker, workshop leader and author with Training Edge International. He is a business communication expert specialising in the areas of employee and client engagement, sales, humour intelligence and presentation skills. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.trainingedgeasia.com