October 31st, 2012

How to Prevent Your Front Line Sales Managers from Inadvertently Sabotaging a Sales Training Event

How to Prevent Your Front Line Sales Managers from Inadvertently Sabotaging a Sales Training Event

Sales training programs to support strategic change initiatives should be approached with the weight and attention they deserve. If this sales training is essential to getting your reps on board and in line with the new way of doing things, then do all you can to ensure its success.

The first post in this series discussed what sales managers should do before a sales training program for their sales reps takes place. If there’s one theme for the pre-training activities, that would be communication. Sales managers need to convey to their reps why the training is important and how it will impact their jobs and remind them of what needs to be done in advance of the training in order to make the most of the time spent.

Now that your sales managers have done all they can to prepare your reps for the program, what can you to help your sales managers from inadvertently sabotaging the actual training event?

During Training: Create Dedicated Space and Time

Salespeople know when their sales managers are “walking the walk” based on how well the sales managers create and maintain dedicated learning environments. To encourage full involvement in the training, sales managers should try to keep participants consistently immersed in the training by:

Attending the training with their teams whenever possible.
Send a signal to your team that you mean business. Sitting alongside reps during the training shows the participants that the sales manager believes the skills and knowledge learned from the training are a top priority. When it is not feasible for sales managers to attend training with their teams, sales managers should request and attend an abbreviated form of the training either virtually or in person in order to deepen their own understanding of the new skills and knowledge that the training will instill. This again signals to the salespeople that the sales manager is knowledgeable about the training and the key behaviors reps should demonstrate as a result.

Just as your high school literature teacher could tell if you read the book or skimmed the CliffsNotes, your reps will likely be able to tell how much you know about the training program they’ve attended. If sales managers appear to be ignorant of what’s covered during the training (whether intentional or not), then that undermines the importance of the program as well as the sales manager’s support of their reps.

Minimizing distractions.

Ensure that participants have arranged their own backup and coverage so that they can attend the training without being interrupted. When this is not possible, as in the case of salespeople who have unanticipated customer emergencies, the sales manager should ask the participants to limit calls and meetings to the designated break times in the training agenda and pull him/her in to help handle situations that would require extended engagement to solve.

Realistically speaking though, most breaks during training seminars allow only time for using the restroom, getting a snack and another cup of coffee, and scanning e-mails and voice mails. While you don’t want to finance a boondoggle, you also don’t want to lose an opportunity to allow your reps to network among each other. Use the breaks for what they are — time to decompress from what they’ve been learning, stretch, relax their minds, and prepare to learn some more.

Consider building in specific work breaks to make an important call or respond to time-sensitive e-mails. If attendees know that they’ll have time to address critical work-related tasks in a timely manner, they’ll be less distracted during the program and less likely to sneak out to take care of business.

Not sabotaging the program.

You know that your reps are sequestered in training that you (presumably) support and which will improve their performance and your business. Be mindful not to schedule concurrent important meetings or send out urgent e-mails requiring an immediate response during the training program. Such actions are either thoughtless or explicitly aimed at derailing the program. In either case, this harassment will likely frustrate your reps and undermine the goals of the training.

Instead, take a feng shui approach to the training to make the program, timing, and environment conducive to learning. If attendees see the lengths to which you’ve worked to not only prepare them for the training but also help them to focus their attention during the training, they’ll recognize its importance and appreciate your efforts.

How you can help your sales managers help you

Leaders lead efforts and sales managers sustain them. Help your sales managers get the most by providing the following:

  • Proactive analysis of likely barriers to salespeople using their new skills and knowledge back on the job. Don’t squelch concerns about new tactics and behaviors, but prepare your sales managers to address them so the group can move on.
  • Multiple opportunities for sales managers to attend the training with their salespeople. If this isn’t possible, offer an abbreviated overview of the training for sales managers
  • Reminders to sales managers that clear communication about who is backing up and covering each participant during the training period is extremely helpful
  • Announcements about post-training next steps incorporated into the end of the training

Download Richardson’s new complimentary article Front Line Manager as Change Agent

Line Managers As Change Agents


About The Author: Gregg Kober

Gregg Kober is a Change Management Consultant with a decade of experience designing and delivering global workplace learning and performance improvement programs for Fortune 1,000 firms. He has broad experience managing change initiatives involving: performance analysis, process redesign, training, and organizational development solutions. Gregg innovatively aligns workplace learning and performance consulting services with human capital needs to achieve business objectives. He is known for building productive, long-term partnerships with clients at all levels.

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