Today’s post is by Lisa Gschwandtner, editorial director of Selling Power.
Hey, who’s interested in spending $954,070 on sales training this year?
That’s the average amount sales teams spend yearly on training, according to research quoted in one of our recent white papers, “How to Plan and Budget for Sales Training Success.”
But is it really necessary to spend that kind of money on sales training? Each year?
When I interviewed a sales training expert recently, he essentially told me: yes.
The thing is, sales training is rarely a burning issue. If your salespeople don’t get trained today, right this second, your organization probably won’t collapse in a giant heap.
In that way, sales training is like exercising. If you skip your workout a few times, you’ll be fine. But skip it for a few months, and you’ll feel some negative effects. Skip it for years, and you may develop health problems that exercise alone can’t solve.
This puts a lot of pressure on sales leaders to invest in training consistently – and to choose a training partner wisely. How can you find the right sales training company? Here are five insider tips.
Tip #1: Clearly identify the type of training you want and need.
Sometimes sales leaders tack on training as an afterthought to another thing they happen to be doing (a user conference or a sales kickoff, for example). That’s just about guaranteed to get poor results.
Don’t jump into a sales training initiative just because you can. Make sure you have concrete reasons for the training. One-off workshops and just-in-time training have their place and are not necessarily less valuable than a long-term training engagement rolled out over several months, but any investment needs to be backed by clear goals and priorities. (That will help you track ROI.)
Ask yourself: “Can we do this thing we’re planning (onboarding, for example) for our salespeople appropriately and effectively if we don’t engage in some kind of training?” The answer will help you define your purpose.
Tip #2: Examine sales training content.
Content is the heart and soul of what a sales trainer will offer. Look at it carefully. Will it make sense for your team, given the kinds of customers they speak to? Also, is the content easy to access and engage with?
If you don’t feel a strong connection with the content or think your salespeople would find it confusing or irrelevant, keep looking.
Also, as someone who writes for the sales industry, I know the pace of change in selling is rapid and hard to keep up with. Look for content that reflects the reality of how your salespeople need to function in front of customers. That could include up-to-date communication tips or simply selling scenarios that accurately represent how your prospects think. If you’re in an emerging or high-growth industry, longstanding sales-training content from legacy providers might not be the most appropriate choice.
Tip #3: Look for accolades, awards, or recommendations from trusted sources.
Ask your personal network of sales leaders (and don’t forget social media) to see what kinds of training companies they’ve partnered with and if they’ve gotten good results. Industry conferences and professional events aimed at sales leaders are also great places to conduct an informal poll of your peers.
You should also ask for references from any provider you’re considering. Ideally the company you’re considering will have worked with teams that have needs similar to yours.
Annual awards and lists can also help you narrow your search. (Every year we publish the Selling Power Top 20 Sales Training Companies list.)
Tip #4: Investigate facilitators.
Any good sales training company will have a roster of strong facilitators to choose from. Ask for reviews and bios of each potential facilitator, and think about what kind of instructor is likely to resonate with your team. At least one learning and development consultant I’ve spoken with says he looks specifically for facilitators who have worked in sales and who have an entrepreneurial background.
Tip #5: Consider your delivery needs.
Most sales training companies today offer a lot of options when it comes to how they deliver content, so expect to see offerings that include some combination of
- Live, in-person events,
- Live online events,
- Online learning experiences offered on demand, and
- Digital content (video recordings, quizzes, or other content assets).
Recently one of our guest bloggers, Jeff Seeley, wrote a great post about the popularity and pitfalls of online sales training. As he pointed out, in-person events are dynamic, highly engaging, and can also be a “lasting bonding experience” for the participants. However, other content delivery systems, including online learning, can be key components of a highly successful initiative. Again, the best solution for you will probably involve a mix of different delivery methods.
For more advice on how to get the most from your investment in sales training, download our complimentary white paper, “How to Plan and Budget for Sales Training Success.” The white paper features expertise provided by experts at DoubleDigit Sales, which is featured on the Selling Power Top 20 Sales Training Companies for 2018.