Implementing skills training has many challenges: selecting the relevant skills to improve; introducing the need for the training so it has a chance to succeed; determining how to conduct the training, and ensuring the training works and lasts. Implementing sales skills training, specifically, has those same challenges, plus the risk of failure that impacts so many parts of an organization in so many ways.
There are a lot of thoughts on why sales training programs succeed or fail, but typically when all is said and done, more is said (and less gets done) to establish a sustainable process for implementing sales skills training. Carew International has an inside view of the situation – we see and hear about the constant churn of sales training initiatives in a lot of companies. I would place the typical lifespan of an ineffectively implemented sales skills training program at about 3-4 years. Then, the need to find the “next new thing” overwhelms the desire to remain with the incumbent approach. However, a well-thought-out and executed training implementation can endure for decades, as we have experienced with several long-term clients.
When implementing a sales skills training process, here are some points to consider. These five points move beyond planning exclusively for the training event and offer a more durable change that will increase sales performance and lead to lasting results and a return on the training investment.
Make the point with a successful and sustaining sales skills training effort by ensuring it is seen as:
P – Purposeful: When training is linked to an organization’s business objectives and sales challenges, it stands a better chance of surviving the inevitable question, “Why are we doing this?” To provide people a context in which they can see their role, establish a direct connection between the goal(s) of the organization and how the training initiative and their sales skills align with that goal.
O – Ongoing: Skill training cannot and should not be viewed as a one-time occurrence. What goes on before and after a training effort, and communicating that flow, is important. Communicate the purpose(discussed above) for the training before the event and follow it up with vigorous coaching and reinforcement to convince any skeptics and support the permanence of the training process.
I – Interactive: Adults are far more responsive to active doing instead of passive hearing. Training that maximizes opportunities for practice and structured experiences allows for significant momentum along the learning curve. Allow ample time for generous amounts of feedback in a safe environment.
N – Newsworthy: Noting successful outcomes of the training program that link back to business objectives/goals reinforces the notion that the training has a purpose and is paying off. Publicizing early “wins” also encourages competition and leads to more stories of success, which travel much more quickly throughout an organization than statistical facts. If your company has a goal or business objective that inspires the implementation of a training program, you should celebrate any progress made towards that goal or business objective.
T - Timely: Urgency is associated with importance. So, a slow implementation (with optional/selective participation from teams within an organization) implies a lack of urgency and reduces the perceived importance of doing anything in the first place. If sales, customer service, marketing, and/or product teams within an organization are all being trained, make sure they know the timing of the rollout. Everyone wants to feel involved at the same time, with the same energy, and for the same reasons. In essence, everybody is either “in,” or they are not. There should be no person left behind.
Whether intended or not, sales skills development efforts can take on a life of their own. That “life” can be longer-lasting and higher quality if we make sure to drive home the right points (purposeful, ongoing, interactive, newsworthy, timely) from the very beginning, every time.