After Sales Training: Question, Observe, and Reinforce
In the first two posts of this series, I talked about what sales managers should do before training programs to support strategic change and during those programs to ensure that sales reps derive the greatest benefit. Where should sales managers focus once the training is over and sales reps are back to work?
Post-training is all about applying the new skills, knowledge, and behavior back on the job. Most sales managers mistakenly begin to move on to other priorities — after all, training is complete and they feel that they can “check the box.” But this is actually when sales managers need to step up and play a more active and visible role with their sales reps. In order to be effective, sales managers will also need the Learning and Development staff to up their level of support.
To ensure the application of the new skills and knowledge, sales managers should do the following once their sales reps complete training:
1) Post-training debriefing.
Schedule a 30-minute follow-up session soon after the training with each participant to review that individual’s key takeaways — especially strengths to continue leveraging and areas for change that would improve their effectiveness. These discussions should be led by the participant, who should generate these takeaways while the sales manager listens and questions (constructively).
2) Plan ongoing coaching sessions.
During the last ten minutes of the follow-up session, the participant and sales manager should agree to regular (weekly or biweekly) 15-minute coaching sessions. These coaching sessions will provide an opportunity for the sales reps to either demonstrate that they’re progressing toward the changes driven by the training or to receive guidance and advice from sales managers on how they can improve.
3) Manage coaching logistics.
Ensure that the participant sends out meeting invitations so that the 15-minute coaching sessions are added to both parties’ calendars.
4) Commit to coaching sessions.
View these coaching sessions as “untouchable,” because cancelling these meetings would make salespeople think that their efforts to change behavior don’t matter to the sales manager. Remember that the longer it takes to successfully adapt to the new ways of doing business, the longer you and your sales reps have one foot in the present and one in the past. Speed is of the essence.
Neither the sales rep or sales manager should dread these meetings; the tone should be positive and collaborative as opposed to negative and judgmental. If the sales rep is doing what’s necessary, then all should be good. If they’re trying but not quite reaching the goal, then sales managers can help. But if one side isn’t committed, that will soon be obvious and would need to be addressed.
5) Follow up with L&D.
Report back to Learning and Development any workplace barriers that are getting in the way of the behavior change that the sales manager cannot remove him or herself. This feedback could also benefit future training sessions or other sales managers.
Front line sales managers play an oversized role in optimizing a company’s investment in sales training and are central to the application of new behaviors back on the job. Stopping short once the training is done leaves too much to chance and dooms your efforts to failure.
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