When I was a sales rep, I used to NOT look forward to the “sales training” that was created with the strict structure and irrelevantness (not sure if that’s a word) of it all. Now I am not saying that all sales training I have gone through was bad, but most were. I now have the power to do something about it as a professional sales trainer and I must admit. It is TOUGH to design and deliver a role play, activity based training that sales rep value and add to helping with moving the needle.
Being in the trenches as a sales rep does help, but STILL, the design and delivering a kick ass sales training role play session that adds value, is tough to create. I think the first thing sales trainers have to understand first is that it IS tough and to give that the due respect it deserves. When I talk with my sales colleagues and they ask me how I feel about “leaving” the trenches and being a trainer, I tell them that the only thing that changed is the customer and my new customers are the “students” or participants to my training programs.
Now don’t get me wrong. I can whip out a sales workshop and training event in a VERY short time. BUT, like many other sales training events, it is tough to hit the mark each time. That is where the art of delivering quality sales training comes in, and I continually strive to find that.
So what is a sales enablement and training professional to do? I believe in keeping things simple and not falling for the flashy new techniques or buzzwords but to go back to the foundational sales skills that might seem redundant for even the most tenured of sales professionals, but to design a simple to understand sales training session that builds upon a solid sales foundation and to help the sales team gain mastery of the foundations. Yes, they might complain and outwardly complain about how basic it might be, but deep down inside each true sales professional appreciates the time to devote to master the key foundational skills that deliver the sale.
The best analogy I can provide for this has to do with martial arts. I mean, you can have a guy do the fanciest kicks, acrobatic jumps, and theatrics that just looks so damn cool, but one solid punch from the guy (0r gal, like Ronda Rousey) and that fancy bastard is going DOWN. So, I focus on that solid punch, the foundation… because if you cannot deliver the foundation, then you sure as hell won’t do much with the fancy stuff.
OK, so how in the hell do you create a sales training practice session that the rep (our customers) value? I go to the source and ask, the rep. Sound simple, RIGHT? But how many sales trainers go out and consult with their “customers”. Not only the regular go to people, but a randomized controlled kinda way selection. Ask them what they are struggling with, what is working, what would a great sales training session look like? Now we are not order takers, we are professionals BUT, we need to understand the needs of our customers and in this case the sales team, the folks who are out there in the trenches. Its like that saying I read somewhere about how you cannot teach a kid to ride a bike at a seminar, but I think just like in sports, you can practice well and verbalize and create the practice for the sales team to test out in a safe and learning enhanced environment to help them when they are in front of customer.
How about involving some of the sales team members in the training? How about trying to re-create the situations as best as you can, but at the same time create the learning to be comfortable and not a place for the team to “lose face”, feel inadequate? First, get rid of the leadership team, get them out of the room for them to practice. Bring them back in during the discussion portion, but let them learn amongst themselves. Let the sales team know that it is expected that they make MISTAKES and struggle. I never wanted to screw up in front of my sales executive. I mean, how often are we in front of them? And then you want me to try out a practice session to not reflect my best? c’mon!
I design training that is truly safe and relevant by setting the boundaries that mistakes will be expected. AND, I usually get, Vu, we got this, we won’t make mistakes… the competitive juices come out… but dude/dudette… I’ve been there, you need to make that mistake, you need to verbalize it… numerous times until it is crispy and you can articulate it well. but a truly valuable sales training session will allow all of that to happen, the mistakes, the rebellion that they will not make a mistake, the comfortable safe place, the time to truly take a time to practice. To F*@% UP., to try it again and to get tips from peers, and try it again until it is crispy! That is a sales training session that sales reps would value. I know I sure as hell would have.