Selling has never been an easy profession. Sellers have always been faced with rising quotas, pricing pressures, new competitors or competitive technologies, and other roadblocks. But now, there are added degrees of complexity, with buyers just a web search away from answers they used to get from sales professionals.
The selling environment, the tools of the trade, and the sales cycle itself have been forever transformed by technology, globalization, and always-on connectivity. Yet, the foundational sales skills remain as relevant as they ever have been: preparation, needs dialogue, consultative selling, and so on.
Research: Aligning Learning and Development Initiatives with Sales Goals
Sales training and sales effectiveness have been a cornerstone of many company initiatives to grow profitable business, increase revenues, and drive efficiencies. What is needed now is for Learning and Development (L&D) to align the competencies of its sellers with the skills to succeed in dynamic environments. This involves the mastery of customer engagement strategies that are able to adapt to where each customer is along the path to closing a sale so sellers can participate in shaping opportunities and positioning their offerings accordingly.
Are companies currently setting up their sales personnel for success? Are they targeting sales competencies that reflect the 21st-century business landscape? To find answers, Training Industry Inc. and Richardson conducted a study in the fourth quarter of 2016: “Aligning Sales Competencies in Learning and Development.”
The confidential » Continue Reading.
Who are those people on the other side of the conference table? Why are they there? Why do more of my key sales meetings seem like they involve a cast of many? And why does “my guy” seem more and more powerless? Team selling today is no longer just required for blockbuster B2B sales pitches. Whether you are a B2C home remodeler, financial advisor or surgeon; or a B2B consultant, money manager or technology provider, pivotal meetings with clients and prospects more often now involve more people – on both sides of the table.
The purpose of this post is to spotlight what’s driving this dynamic, and what you can do to adapt to this reality.
Defining Team Selling
I define team selling as when two or more people from an organization (and its affiliates or co-selling partners) join forces at a customer touchpoint, in-person or virtual, to advance an opportunity or retain an account.
Why Team Selling is Becoming More Common
You’re a good salesperson, so why the need to involve others?
Here are some examples of recent developments that have impacted how your customers make buying decisions:
Mobile communication and Wi-Fi Crowd-sourced reviews (i.e., Yelp) On-line discussion forums (i.e., LinkedIn interest groups) 2008-09 financial crisis
The first three technology advances enable customers to gain information about their options – faster and without you. The fourth event, The Great Recession, created mistrust and » Continue Reading.
For Learning and Development organizations to deliver the most relevant, effective, and meaningful training programs to Sales organizations, they need to ask their internal customers the right questions.
L&D may have a clear direction for its mission in developing employees and have a good sense of the population it serves, but to be a strategic partner to Sales, it also needs context around skills or behaviors that may be lacking.
Such context for training is best found in the tools of the Sales organization itself:
A formal sales process that provides a repeatable, effective progression for sales professionals to move opportunities through the sales pipeline A CRM in which the sales process has been integrated, allowing rapid analysis of the stages where sales opportunities may become stuck or lost The best way for L&D to be aware of where sales professionals excel and where they need help is through the sales process. So, the first question for L&D to ask Sales is: Do you have a sales process? Next, try to assess how formal and well-adopted it is versus just having some informal procedures that may differ in implementation across the organization.
The kind of sales process we at Richardson work with clients to develop is a formal, dynamic one that includes metrics for measuring progress. We believe a consistent sales process drives better results — and achieves results as quickly as possible. The foundation is » Continue Reading.
Is your company setting up its sales personnel for success? Is it targeting sales competencies that reflect the 21st century business landscape? Our sales training research reveals some answers that might surprise you.
In Q4 of 2016, Richardson and Training Industry, Inc. partnered to perform new sales training research, surveying 288 companies across more than 14 industries that ranged in size from less than 100 to over 50,000 employees to examine organizations’ approaches to identifying and developing sales competencies.
The goal of this sales research project is to provide sales organizations and L&D professionals with insight to help them develop sales training programs that better align with the goal of helping sales professionals master the competencies that are most important for business success.
Sales Training Research Results
The study found that there are significant gaps between the sales competencies reported to be most important for business success and the competencies that are effectively developed through training. Specifically, the research suggests a widespread gap in the effectiveness of training for the following competencies:
Targeting buyers Prospecting opportunities Knowing the market Understanding customer needs Effective presentation skills Expanding current accounts
Potential causes of this gap are a mismatch between training goals and business goals and lack of consistency in training across departments.
Additional Research Findings
This research also offers insight » Continue Reading.
When it comes to sales training, the obvious goals are to improve the performance of sales professionals, win more opportunities, and develop the kinds of skills and behaviors necessary to compete successfully in a changing business environment. The secret to achieving these results as quickly as possible is using the sales process as a framework for training. While this sounds intuitive, it doesn’t always happen this way.
Internal Perspectives on Sales Training
What we find at Richardson is that training requests can originate in either of two functional areas: Sales or the Learning and Development organization. Each speaks a different language and focuses on different things when it comes to training. Sales talks about building rapport, positioning solutions, sharing insights, and negotiations. L&D talks about learning methodologies, skill transfer, and knowledge retention.
Bridging the gap between the two points of view and focusing the conversation on specific training needs requires the framework of the sales process.
Using the Sales Process & CRMs to Develop Effective Training Programs
The sales process is already an invaluable tool for the sales organization. Research shows that companies using a formal sales process generally saw an 18% boost in revenues (Harvard Business Review, January 2015). Yet the sales process is often overlooked as a tool for discussing sales training needs with L&D » Continue Reading.
Consider this scenario:
When Richardson people talk with prospects in a Learning and Development role, the conversation tends to focus on a training solution, skills reinforcement, and maybe, a change management initiative. When Richardson people talk with prospects in a Sales leadership role, the conversation tends to focus on the sales process — and only after the sales process is thoroughly reviewed will the need for skills training or behavior change be addressed.
This makes sense because primary interests are related to the function of the job. L&D leaders are responsible for developing the knowledge, skill level, and potential of their people. Sales leaders are responsible for achieving sales results through their people. However, with different optics come different views of what the goal line looks like. In this post, I’d like to offer a way for each group to easily check that they are aligned.
Achieving Rapid Alignment Between L&D and Sales Leaders Through the Sales Process
To rapidly achieve alignment, I recommend using the sales process as a bridge between L&D and the sales organization, helping them work more effectively together. If you think of the sales process as what to do and the knowledge and skills as how to do it, then aligning the two becomes a quicker and more effective way to get the kind » Continue Reading.
Over the past decade, we have seen a growing gap between the developmental needs of sales organizations and the learning solutions available in the market. The pace of work has never been faster, selling organizations have never been more diverse and distributed, and the expectation for revenue growth has never been higher — and yet, learning solutions have not kept pace. Actionable sales training technology is a solution to bridging that gap.
Sales Training Technology Keeps Sellers Selling
Skill development has always been a critical aspect of sales organizations, but in today’s complex sales environments, revenue pressures are relentless and don’t go away while sellers sit through training. In a recent interview with ATD Research, Charlotte McKenzie, Executive Director of the Urban Agile Learner Institute, underscored the power of technology to address specific concerns for salespeople. For example, because money walks out the door when salespeople are not in the field, mobile learning programs can minimize time-out-of-market by reducing the time they spend in the classroom. Sellers learn key concepts and selling models before class, giving them more time to focus on clients.
“Courses designed using microlearning strategies can produce an effective learning experience during what salespeople call their ‘dead time. For example, while traveling to customer sites, during lunch breaks, commuting to and from work, waiting in the lobby for customer appointments, and so on. These features of mobile learning allow salespeople to access their learning modules when it » Continue Reading.
A recent study conducted by ATD Research, evaluating the state of sales around the world, highlighted scheduling conflicts and time restraints as one of the top barriers to effective sales training. The study quoted similar findings from a 2014 Brainshark survey, which cited distractions in the classroom and a lack of post-training reinforcement as challenges that organizations investing in sales training should address.
By 2020, nearly half of the U.S. workforce will be made up of digital native millennials, who switch their attention across media types an average of 27 times per hour. While millennials in the workplace are often cited as being majorly impacted by tech behaviors, the reality is that we all now interact with devices we didn’t have ten years ago. We all belong to the digital tribe — we are all busier, more distracted, and harder to pin down.
Role of Technology in Sales Training
Traditionally, sales organizations have focused their training budget on high-value learning interactions for core sellers, such as role playing, coaching, and problem solving. But in this new, integrated world, the key is to accommodate all learning styles and deliver a consistent and effective experience that fits seamlessly into a workday.
Technology plays a significant role in making this real by creating highly personalized learning experiences. For instance, mobile, on-the-go content puts users in control of when and where they engage with lessons; gamification maintains engagement and creates » Continue Reading.
One tool often used in making a sales pitch, especially in finals presentations, is a PowerPoint slide deck.
Over the years, PowerPoint has risen to become the standard, but with overuse and misuse, it has the potential to sabotage the presentation.
Here are six tips and cautions when considering the use of PowerPoint in a sales pitch to reinforce your message, and your image, in a positive way.
Visibility is essential. If you use slides, make sure they can be seen by everybody in the meeting. Not only do audience members need clear sight lines to the screen, but the wording needs to be legible. This means care and attention must be paid to type size, font, and color. If your slide is too busy, or the writing too small, break the content into two or more sides.
Be better than the PowerPoint in a Sales Pitch. If the person using PowerPoint is not a good presenter, the slide deck adds nothing. Good slides don’t make up for lackluster performance. PowerPoint is intended to support and enhance, not carry the full weight of the presentation.
Don’t read to the audience. This builds on Tip #2. The presenter should add context and perspective to the few words on the slide. Reading the slides takes energy out of the presentation. Let the audience read on its own, and use your tone, inflection, and enthusiasm to add meaning and » 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