Training for Bullish Sales
By Jack R. Snader and Marsha Wells
When sales are up, it's easy to believe your team is top-notch. The budget
expands, the company's on the upswing, and everybody's happy. But it's
easy to forget that missed sales targets will invariably follow at some
point. You hope the next industry-wide shift or economic recession will
be years away...but everybody know that sales slump periodically. Ironically,
when sales take a dive, salespeople often end up sharing the blame.
Clearly, there are many factors contributing to corporate sales figures
besides the skills of the sales force. Selling skills are only one of several factors in the bigger picture.
It's as important in an up-cycle as it is in a down-cycle to attribute
sales figures, in part, to outside contingencies, and it's only fair to
Nevertheless, whenever there's a down-cycle, sales managers feel the pressure
to hunt for the newest sales training approach or the latest gimmick they
hope will bring increased sales fast-in spite of the fact that it takes
time for people to master new skills. And when sales are good, sales managers
may not see the need for training. Although understandable, these are ineffective,
reactive, emergency-centered management strategies.
Maximize Your ROI
To avoid ineffectiveness and maximize your ROI, consider these guidelines
when selecting a training program:
- Focus on the business problem. When profits are high, the training that often takes place is more enter-train-ment
than performance improvement. But when the budget turns bearish, every
allocated dollar is carefully scrutinized. It's too late to begin a process
of generally improving the selling ability of the sales force...training
must be targeted to obtain very specific results.
On the other hand, when times are good and sales are up, a focus on the
business problems requires a different strategy. For the long-term, training
should be focused on the areas of weakness for each individual, and should
involve individual ownership of the process. Instead of enter-train-ment
sessions to reward your sales team, think about ways to teach, challenge,
and strengthen or reinforce basic selling skills-listening, probing, and
analyzing needs-as needed by each individual.
- Keep sales training relevant. To be successful, a training effort should relate to what actually occurs
in the field on a regular basis. Sounds obvious, doesn't it? But it is
not as obvious as you might think. Often salespeople report that they enjoyed
their training, but it was irrelevant in terms of what they really do.
What a waste!
- Maintain open lines of communication. If you have just taught your salespeople how and why to do something that
they haven't been doing before, stay in touch with them. The illusion is
that if the training has been given, the training has been accomplished.
To avoid being fooled by that illusion, actively look for what problems
they are having after the training. How is it working now? Maintain a continuous
Here's an idea that has worked for lots of companies: After salespeople
are trained, they keep a two-week diary of how the training concept they
learned is working for them in the field.
- Use balance. Don't put all of your training budget into the training or just the materials.
Allocate half the total amount for follow-up. Without that kind of balance,
you'll be investing in a whiz-bang event that will have no lasting effect.
Look for a program that makes the follow-up activity easier, not more difficult
So if you are considering a sales training initiative, take the time to
learn about Systema's programs and comprehensive development systems focused
on solving those challenging business problems you are facing.
E-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
for further information.
Energizing Sales Performance World Wide Since 1969