Today's post is by Jeff Seeley, CEO of Carew International.
Realizing and sustaining the benefits of sales training depend largely upon the perspective at the client organization. Many sales leaders see skills improvement as one big, momentous event – almost akin to a mass baptismal. They think that, if they take the whole sales team down to the local sales training event, they’ll all be reinvented (“saved,” if you will) from bad habits and talent deficiencies, and they’ll instantly emerge as a vastly improved organization prepared to slay the competition and gain the competitive advantage.
If only it was that easy!
In reality, changing selling skills for the better is a process, not an event. It takes a sustained effort – as well as commitment and engagement – from both the organization’s leadership and from every member of the sales team. I say this as a sales training leader who has worked with hundreds of business organizations to help sales teams learn, develop, and implement new selling skills.
I know sales professionals are often frustrated after their organization’s sales training event, and feel as though they have been dipped in the new sales philosophy and left on their own to make something of it. But there are things everyone can do to facilitate success. Here are five tips I recommend:
- Sales leaders and professionals must all create an environment of accountability, with leaders setting clear agreement on implementation and salespeople being made accountable to frontline managers and each other with improvements, coaching examples, and metrics.
- To master new selling skills, salespeople need one thing: practice! Mastery will never occur without practice – regardless of the ease or difficulty of the subject. In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell contends that it takes roughly 10,000 hours to become skilled enough to be considered an expert in any area. Salespeople should take every opportunity to use their new skills right away.
- Everyone must “lead” the transformation. With the ratio of sales professionals to managers skyrocketing, peer development has become increasingly important. Sales professionals should not only use their new selling skills daily, but also model that behavior and coach colleagues at every opportunity. This helps the entire sales team visualize effective sales behaviors and the exceptional customer experience they are capable of providing.
- Use selling skills as part of the sales process. New selling skills are knowledge; sales process is habit. Think of it this way: someone with heart disease learns about healthy eating. That’s knowledge. However, if the person doesn’t follow up with proper habits (eating the right foods, exercising, etc.), he or she won’t see results. Selling skills will have little to no impact if they’re not incorporated into your sales process and then used habitually. (That includes everyone in the sales organization, including field sales, inside sales, sales operations, and managers.)
- Sales leaders should build recognition and rewards into the new sales training initiative. Ask key senior sales professionals to look for opportunities to publicly recognize salespeople for using their new skills – and highlight their successful results. In addition, peer recognition can be a powerful motivator. Sales managers should encourage salespeople to share their successes; this can be easily done in regular sales meetings or conference calls, or in an email to the entire sales team. These acts will spread awareness of how the program is gaining traction and having positive effects throughout the organization.
Breaking old habits may be the most difficult part of a sales-training transformation. It takes patience, practice, reinforcement, and recognition to reprogram our thinking and change our behavior.
Learning new selling skills represents a courageous, personal transformation, and everyone can take pride in that self improvement. Remember, the ultimate payoff will show up in higher commissions, improved customer satisfaction, and a competitive advantage for the company.
To learn more, watch my video interview below with Selling Power magazine publisher, Gerhard Gschwandtner.