Today’s learners don’t compare their training experiences to other training experiences. They compare them to all other formal and informal learning they have had, both in person and online. Expectations of training programs have changed significantly, and we now have to benchmark our offerings against a wider set of information sources, from other training programs, online universities and educational products, to YouTube, Google, and massive open online courses known as MOOCs.
Richardson Accelerate Raises the Bar for Online Sales Training Programs
Accelerate is an online learning platform designed to inspire sellers and accelerate growth. We believe the Richardson Accelerate Platform provides an innovative, sales training solution that is unmatched in the industry.
Within a single platform, learners can access an effective system for rapid and sustained behavior change that provides an enhanced user experience designed to be among the best. Learning opportunities are available anytime, anywhere, on desktops or mobile devices, reflecting the way people are increasingly accessing information in today’s digital world.
Richardson’s newest and most technologically advanced sales training delivery solution provides value to clients in two essential ways:
Accelerate time to skill mastery: Sellers get to learn on demand on their devices on their own time anywhere in the world, then try the skills in the field. Learning is reinforced with tools, reminders, and games so they become engaged and actually enjoy » Continue Reading.
Sales leaders are regularly advised to have an open-door policy. An open door lets their sales professionals know they can walk in at any time to ask for help, advice, or updates. There is a lot of value in showing your team you care enough to be available when they need you.
There also is value in knowing when to shut the door.
The 60-40 Rule for Sales Leaders
In my previous posts on sales leadership, Why is sales leadership so tough? And what to do about it and 5 Tips to Help Sales Leaders Develop Top Performers, I discussed how sales leaders need to devote 60% of their time to developing their people.
What about the other 40%? Whether you are a sales manager or senior vice president, you need to spend time reviewing and reflecting on the pipeline, sales numbers, and strategy. If you’re a senior sales leader and have a target of 15% organic growth over the next two years, you need to figure out how to make that happen.
Here’s the rub. You’re busy all the time. You have a lot of plates spinning in the air and nothing can drop.
So here’s the counter-intuitive solution for being the best sales leader you can be. Make time to be reflective about strategy, about performance, about what’s working and what isn’t. If you think shutting your » Continue Reading.
There’s no denying that sales leaders have a tough job. The span of responsibility encompasses selling, coaching, setting strategy, driving the business, and hitting sales targets through the efforts of others. As a sales leader, you have to be inspirational, energetic, and take an interest in your people.
Job #1 as a Sales Leader: Developing Your People
In my previous post, Why is sales leadership so tough? And what to do about it, I talked about devoting 60% of your time as a sales leader to developing your people. Now I want talk in more detail about what this entails.
Be the boss you wish you had Just about every person I talk to has a story about a bad boss. For me, it was a senior leader at a company I worked for years ago. He was the nicest person to you in public, but when alone with him, he became someone else entirely. He would chew you up and spit you out without hesitation. What I learned from him is that I never want to be that kind of boss. He was the anti-boss, and I decided to be the opposite. Manage up or manage out Your sales professionals need several things to improve their performance. They need training. They need ongoing coaching. They need to be measured. If a seller continues to fall short—if you know and they know they aren’t going to » Continue Reading.
Sales leadership must be one of the toughest jobs in business. Just plug the term into Google, and more than 30 million results come back in about a half-second. You’ll find articles from Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Salesforce.com, and many, many others. They relay advice about the most effective habits of sales leaders, the characteristics of true sales leaders, the difference between sales leadership and sales management, and leadership behaviors that drive sales force improvement.
My advice? Read them. Not all 30 million. And not as a steady diet. But, if you are or aspire to be a sales leader, and you want to continually improve your performance, you should be well read on the topic of sales leadership.
I know firsthand about the trials of being a sales leader because I was one earlier in my career. It is a definite challenge, especially for those leading and managing change initiatives. Time and again, we at Richardson hear feedback like this from our clients:
“The most important lesson learned from this training program is the value of having executive-level support. From the CEO to the COO to the division presidents, [we have] unanimous support and vocal champions for the consultative selling approach.”1
“…the Sales VP championed what was the beginning of [our] Foundational Sales Program, an initiative to gain consistency across all sales teams in language, process, skills, and attainment of the five core competencies the company deemed most important.”2
The prospecting process starts with turning suspects into prospects, then continues with preparation. Let’s say you’ve identified Ms. Johnson as the person you want to contact because she works for X Company, which is in your targeted industry, and there are disruptive technologies having a negative impact on X’s go-to-market strategy. Ms. Johnson is new to her role as senior vice president, and you have a great story to tell about how you can help get X back on track. Before you pick up the phone and call Ms. Johnson (and all those other prospects you’ve been researching), you need a prospecting plan.
3 Elements of a Good Prospecting Plan
1) Make it SMART.
SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. Just as with setting SMART goals, a SMART plan brings structure and accountability to prospecting.
For example, you might develop a monthly prospecting plan in which certain outcomes are identified: “I want to schedule meetings every month with ten qualified prospects.” The exact number could be five meetings or 100 meetings, depending on your organization. The point is to be SMART in defining your plan, and over time, refine the plan so it reflects what works and continues to challenge you. If you establish a target of ten prospect meetings each month and continue to get 15, then your target is too low. If you only average three prospect meetings per month, your target is not » Continue Reading.
Your success in prospecting is closely linked to your level of preparation. It’s not that prospects will always know when you are not prepared, but they will always know — and appreciate — when you are. Preparation can make all the difference between “No, thanks,” and “Let’s talk next Tuesday.” Not only do you differentiate yourself when you prepare for prospecting, but preparation can increase your confidence level, hone your message, and provide a roadmap for the conversation.
At Richardson, we consider preparation so important that we’ve created a Preparation Model that can be applied from prospecting through sales calls and customer meetings. The model is based on three components of preparation: strategic, customer, and technical.
Strategic Prospecting Preparation
Consider the prospect’s sales cycle and where it currently stands. Identify your strategic objective for the call or meeting, and visualize how the call will proceed. Think about how you will open and what questions you will ask. Anticipate responses and objections. Have what I like to call a concrete hypothesis — an idea or solution — to engage the prospect and continue the conversation.
Customer Prospecting Preparation
What is the prospect organization trying to achieve? Has it communicated details of its strategic plan in its annual reports or on its website? What is the decision-making process within the company? The goal in answering these questions is to get a better understanding of the prospect and its plans for the future so you can » Continue Reading.
Years ago, I was talking with someone about useful sales prospecting tips, and he made a point to learn how to differentiate between suspects and prospects.
A suspect is anyone you’re not currently doing business with that you (A) believe has a need for what you offer, or (B) believe you should be doing business with. Hypothetically, every company in the industries you sell to is a suspect. A prospect, on the other hand, is someone who has been qualified to an initial degree. Further, there are small “p” prospects — those that meet your criteria but you haven’t yet talked with — and capital “P” Prospects, which are those that you’ve started the conversation with and are moving closer to an opportunity. Turning Suspects into Sales Prospects
Moving a suspect to the prospect category depends on your qualifying criteria. The approach I use has three “buckets” and questions that need to be answered within each one.
Consider the industries that are most likely to buy from your organization. It could be that there are three or five target industries that are prime candidates, or you could have a broad industry portfolio. The next step is to ask yourself:
“What industry changes are going on that might be disruptive and create problems for organizations within these target industries?”
This disruptive force — whether it is technology, economy, globalization, etc. — might cause your suspects to revamp how they do » Continue Reading.
I often talk about today’s multi-generational sales organizations and the challenges presented by millennial learners. I ask clients:
“What will it take to engage your learners?”
From London to New York to San Francisco, the answers are surprisingly similar, and whether I’m talking with sales leaders or corporate learning leaders, there is broad consensus about what is required:
To engage today’s learners, training has to be flexible, personalized, bite-sized, relevant, provide meaningful data, and be accessible on demand across a wide range of platforms and devices.
As I discussed in the first post in this series, The Future of Sales Training: Innovation for a Salesforce in Transition, there are more millennials in the U.S. workforce than any other generation. They have a very different relationship with information and technology than previous generations, and they want relevant content delivered to them in ways they recognize and can access easily and quickly.
New Learners Expect Higher Levels of Quality
The answer to accelerating learning across generations is to meet learner’s expectations when it comes to the types and quality of content in training programs. Younger learners have higher expectations about the quality of video content, course materials, and the online learning experience – the same stale training materials won’t cut it for the new generation.
Meeting the expectations of these new learners doesn’t mean throwing away all past » Continue Reading.
Back in the day, sales organizations would identify the need for training, schedule a learning event, conduct training, and then wonder why nothing changed. The trouble is many companies still do this. The problem then as now is lack of sustainment of learning. And the answer then as now is engaging the sales leader in the transformation process. Sales organizations continually fall short in this area. And if sales leaders are not engaged in the training and in changing behavior in the field, they can either sabotage the training or watch as the learning is quickly forgotten and old ways return.
Most often sales leaders were exemplary sellers who were promoted for their selling skills. If they’re not actively engaged in change—if they don’t see what their people are learning and understand the desired new behaviors and skills—they tend to default to how they did things way back when: “You know, this is not how I learned to do things. I’ve had a lot of success with the old way, and it got me where I am today, so we’re going back to the way that worked for me.”
When that happens, any attempt at transformation is thwarted. So what was the point of the training exercise?
Turning Sales Leaders into Sales Coaches