Recently, I was working with a business owner who told me that his people needed “closing the sale” training. He wanted this training completed as my first priority. When I asked whether or not all the reps needed training, or was it one or two people who were struggling, he noted that the overall closing rate was about 10% lower than he expected and wanted training for the entire team. As we discussed his sales performance problem in more detail, I recognized that this training would not address his real sales issues. He was proposing that we treat the symptom (a low closing rate), not the problems.
The business had fundamental issues that were hurting sales results. The company did not have a clearly defined sales process, so each rep was trying to “reinvent the wheel” on each sale. The sales team was not focused on discovering the needs of their prospects. They were sending boiler plate proposals to every prospect, rather than customizing the proposal to highlight how the company was able to satisfy the client’s individual needs. The company had not established sales performance metrics, so each rep was deciding how he or she allocated his or her time. Sales started to improve as these fundamental issues were addressed.
Insights to Effective Sales Training
Business owners get frustrated when their investment in training does not produce measurable results. They blame the program, the instructor, sales management, or the sales reps. However, they are missing two key points:
- Training cannot compensate for missing fundamentals. If their sales processes and systems are not clearly established and implemented throughout the sales organization, sales skills training will be ineffective.
- Training is much more effective when tailored to the individual needs of each rep. Training an entire team on a specific skill does not typically produce the type of transformational productivity changes anticipated by management.
You need to spend time in the field to gain an understanding of each reps capabilities and weaknesses. One on one meetings with a sales rep provide the sales leader with an opportunity to work on sales skills. For training to be effective, it needs to address a real need as opposed to a perceived one, and it needs to be reinforced on a consistent basis.
Learn How to Focus on the Right Sales Issues
Before investing a lot of resources and time in a training program, make sure that the program is focused on the right issue and you have a plan to reinforce the training in the weeks and months after the training is completed.