Contact Achieving Sales Results
Achieving Sales Results, LLC
112 Sewickley Ridge Circle
Sewickley, PA 15143-8978
(412) 551-4027

Sales Training: Train your sales reps to create value for your business

Research has shown that, at best, sales team training alone provides a short-term increase in results. Without an effective sales coaching or reinforcement program, participants who attend sales training programs quickly revert to their old ways. The good news? Research also supports our core belief that a sustained increase in sales results can be attained if an effective sales management coaching or reinforcement program is implemented in conjunction with sales team training.

What Actually Happens
What Actually Happens

What Should Happen
What Should Happen

Sales Training: Our Philosophy

That is why we believe that sales training is a waste of time and money unless it is followed-up by a sales management coaching initiative that results in behavioral change that leads to a sustained improvement in sales performance.

So why do any sales training at all? Sales training introduces the common language, the desired sales strategy methodology, and the desired sales skills that must be used if a company wants to improve sales performance and increase results. Even though we say that Achieving Sales Results focuses on increasing results through coaching sales managers and improving their own ability to coach sales teams, we believe that if a client truly wants to achieve sustained results, then they need to invest in not only sales coaching, but the right sales training initiative as well.

So if a client has already made an investment in sales training then we can help to maximize that investment with a sales coaching initiative. However, if a client has not made the necessary investment in a sales training initiative then Achieving Sales Results can provide a highly customized and well-designed sales training program.

The purpose of this paper describes some best practices for the design and implementation of such an effort.

  1. Design Specifications

    To be responsive to a client’s short and long term sales training goals, Achieving Sales Results develops a sales performance program designed specifically to meet the client’s requirements.  Our programs are developed against the design specifications described in the following paragraphs.

    • Comprehensive – From an academic and best-practices perspective, there is a fair amount of agreement that in addition to product knowledge, the two critical cornerstones of any solid sales training curriculum are face-to-face selling skills and sales strategy.  While there is agreement about the need for both competency areas, there is debate as to which should come first.  Some say it’s clear – you should always help your sales reps first get smart about strategy.  If not, they will simply do a good job doing the wrong thing.  However, with an equal amount of passion others argue that face-to-face skills must come first.  If you cannot perform in front of the customer, the best strategy in the world will probably not save you.  Both are correct, so what do we do?

      As the demand for world-class sales teams increasingly becomes a company’s market differentiator, leading-edge companies are searching for innovative solutions to such training dilemmas.  We believe the answer lies in designing a single program that addresses both performance areas and does it in a way that minimizes time out of the field.

      Our customized sales training programs embrace this point of view by providing a comprehensive experience in both sales strategy and face-to-face skills.  This goal of efficiency and effectiveness is achieved by incorporating the latest design techniques and by building the program from the ground up to meet a client’s requirements.

    • Flexible – One of the well-established benchmarks for any successful sales performance enhancement initiative is the idea of a common language.  It’s important for creating a consistent image with the customer, for team selling, and for sales coaching. Although the idea for a common language is well established, there are more examples of failure and mediocrity than stories of success.  For this notion to be executed effectively within a client’s sales organization, the program must be applicable for both new hires and for the existing sales force, for multiple divisions, and for sales reps who reside all over the world.  To achieve a common language under these conditions a program must be able to deliver a consistent message and skill set and yet be able to be customized and fine-tuned to fit different circumstances.  If not, organizational buy-in is unlikely.

      For a program to address this challenge it is important to consider both the content and the instructional design.  For example if a common language is important when it comes to teaching strategy content, then a tool-based approach tends to work best.  A tool-based approach is based on the assumption that in a complex sales environment, the winning strategy is always client specific. Therefore you don’t actually teach people strategies or push a common form to be used by everyone.  Instead you provide people with a common set of tools to formulate strategy.

      This goes directly to our core philosophy – Achieving Sales Results focuses on increased results through coaching sales managers and improving their own ability to coach sales teams through our various service offerings. It is teaching sales reps and sales managers to fish rather than simply giving them fish.

      When such an approach is employed organizational buy-in is easier to achieve for there is little to push back against.  Most importantly you end up with relevant information rather than random data so you have a better chance of creating a winning sales strategy.  Achieving Sales Results will incorporate a set of sales strategy tools that can be used at all levels of the organization and be easily adapted to a computer application.

    • High Impact – It is critical to understand that a client’s training initiative is not a remedial or fix-it sort of program.  Instead it is about taking sales reps and their sales managers to the next level.  Since target audiences are comprised of participants who will start at different origination points and will have different end marks, this poses a real challenge in the design of sales training.

      It is suggested that the single best design for achieving high impact for a variety of audiences is one that incorporates the notion of best practices.  Achieving Sales Results incorporates those best practices that are common across top performing sales forces, as well as, those best practices, which are employed by the client’s top sales performers.  The latter idea is particularly critical when high impact is required for a single program across a widely diverse population.
    • New Hire Sales Training – Less is More

      Most sales training efforts would be twice as good if they addressed half as much material.  This notion is even more important in the implementation of a sales training initiative for new hires.  Ultimately there are three competency areas that must be addressed when designing any new hire sales training program:

      • First, a piece of the sales training must be directed towards product and market place knowledge.  The sales reps have to understand their technology, products and why it matters to their customer base.

      • A second area of competency is face-to-face selling skills.  They must know how to plan and execute a sales call.  You can do a lot of things right when it comes to selling but if you cannot perform when you are in front of the customer all is lost.

      • Lastly, they need to understand how to formulate effective account strategies. 

      The key is how do you address these three very key areas and still meet the “let’s not overload people” criterion. 

      The answer rests in building a curriculum rather than simply rolling out a series of programs: place major emphasis on what you do first and the time lag between efforts.  In sales training for new hires, the following sequence tends to work best:

      • Conduct the sales training for product and marketplace knowledge and face-to-face skills in the initial training period with the product training coming before the face-to-face sales skills training.

      • Then allow a period of approximately 60 days before you initiate the sales strategy training.  You will need some time to reinforce the sales skills training before the sales strategy training.
    • Sales Skills or Sales Strategy

      Why do the face-to-face sales skills training before sales strategy training?

      • If you do both with one right after the other and on top of the product training, you run a great danger of not providing a sufficiently good foundation for either and reinforcement efforts directed towards real sales performance change are likely to be doomed to failure.

      • You do the face-to face sales training first because the reps need those skills on every call.  Plus you can help new sales reps with their sales strategy off line – that is not the case with face-to-face skills, which must be performed in real time and in front of the customer. These sales skills should be reinforced with an account-focused reinforcement and sales coaching process which will allow the sales reps to plan and execute the sales skills in front of the customer and achieve tangible sales results.

      • If sales reps spend significant time planning their sales strategies and their calls do not go so well because their face-to-face skills are not yet in place, it is highly likely they will soon lose interest in strategy planning.  This is one of the reasons companies some times get push back on their sales strategy efforts.  And once that push back occurs it is somewhat difficult to turn around.
    • The Pivotal Job

      Any organization’s change effort involves a pivotal job.  The person holding this job must buy into the desired change and must provide real leadership in making it happen.  In the case of a sales performance change effort, the pivotal job is the front-line sales manager.  With this notion in mind, there are some common best practices in the involvement of sales managers:

      • Front-line sales management should be involved in the actual development of the program.  For example they can supply best practice sales techniques that have a track record of success in their market or be a part of the team that provides the customizing information for the program.

      • The front-line sales managers should attend the program first.

      • The front-line sales managers should be provided a mechanism for applying the program ideas to help generate revenue on real accounts. This mechanism is the account-focused reinforcement and sales coaching process.