July 28th, 2014

Why Customized Sales Training for “Strategic Relevance” Drives the Best Results


Why Customized Sales Training for “Strategic Relevance” Drives the Best Results

In order to achieve desired training outcomes, adults have to be willing to actively participate in the training and take advantage of those opportunities for learning. People have to decide to be open and receptive to learning, and to engage in the experience. One of the biggest determinants of active disengaged participants is the relevance of the training content. Sounds simple enough, but many sales managers and training leaders fail to connect those very basic dots.

There are a few reasons that sales training opportunities fail to resonate and fall flat with your audience:

  • Too broad – Off-the-shelf e-learning or videos offer generic training based on selling situations that don’t reflect your sales team’s experiences.
  • Too restrictive – Many sales training companies are strictly wedded to their proprietary models and methodologies; they expect you to adapt your organization to their approach.
  • Fits someone else’s agenda – The training has been re-purposed from another group, assuming that it will be “good enough”, but in reality is not.

Conversely, when training addresses a challenge a sale professional recently faced or a skill or behavior their manager wants them to develop, salespeople see the value. They will more actively engage with relevant content and have a better learning outcome as a result.

“Deeply Customize” Sales Training for Maximum Impact

We strongly believe that sales training must be deeply customized for maximum impact. Research conducted by Trainingindustry.com overwhelmingly supports our position. In their study, training ranked “effective”:

  • 72% of the time when deeply customized
  • 21% for light customization
  • 7% for no customization

What does “deeply customized” mean? Customization can range from changing a logo on a workbook to embedding concepts, thinking, and nuances that align closely with strategic objectives. We refer to this as “strategically relevant” customization, which ensures that participants are learning, practicing, and developing skills in the context of the strategic situations they face.

In-depth Interviews and Customizing Summary

Our process involves interviewing senior executives, top performers, and subject matter experts. We summarize the findings from those interviews in a customizing summary and validate it with the buyer. The summary’s findings are often as expected (“What we heard in the interviews matches what you suspected”), but also shed light on deeper issues, false assumptions, or misalignments that need to be addressed (“You told us ABC, but what we heard was XYZ; you have a bigger/different issue going on that needs fixing”). This document incorporates the sales organization’s strategic objectives and key challenges and becomes a focal point for customizing the training.

Skilled and Experienced Training Designers

Why don’t all sales training companies do this? It’s not easy. We are able to customize training for strategic relevance because our training designers are passionate and experienced with a knack for quickly understanding a client’s business and diagnosing needs and underlying issues. They also understand the buying and selling dynamic, identify the challenging issues, and design training materials that address these needs. They’ve all worked across a range of client situations and can readily identify traps that salespeople and sales managers fall into. They also have mastery of our content and know what to select to best meet the client’s needs. Finally, they are extremely committed and deliver for the client.

Custom Practice Scenarios and Case Studies

The depth and efficiency of our approach is unique in the industry and extremely valuable for our clients. In its simplest form, we make sure that we have all of the practice scenarios are tailored to the client’s business. We design role-play activities with the strategic lens of what’s most important to practice skills based on their key challenges. For example, the client might be want to grow their existing accounts by teaching cross-selling into new divisions or up-selling new solutions. We would focus an activity so that the context was strategically relevant to them as opposed to just any opportunity to apply the skill. It’s strategically relevant to both the sales reps and sales manager, which makes the sales training more impactful.

Customizing case studies and exercises are very important, but we go a lot further. We seek to understand the DNA of the organization and get a strategic view of the business. We understand a client’s vision, business goals, strategic objectives, competitors, culture, differentiators, and challenges. Our process emphasizes capturing what we’ve learned about a client’s business in a way that can be baked into program materials. It also helps us transfer this institutional knowledge to our trainers, so they talk the client’s language, emphasize key themes, and bring the learning to life in the classroom.

Strategic Change Through Relevant Training

You cannot get tailored, specific-to-your-business attention and training from an out-of-the-box solution. To make a strategic impact, generic solutions should not be an option. To make the most of your training efforts, you must consider what you’re trying to achieve, the key challenges standing in the way of your objectives, the capability of your sales reps, and what’s most relevant for changing their behaviors and developing new skills.


Download our industry brief,  Selling Financial Services.     


About The Author: Dario Priolo

As Chief Strategy Officer, Dario Priolo is responsible for driving Richardson’s market, product, and corporate strategy and planning — sharing critical insights with clients to help them win in today’s changing market place. Dario gathers intelligence and market and customer knowledge to: drive Richardson’s innovation; ensure that Richardson offers the best and most relevant solutions for clients that exceed client satisfaction; and raise awareness of Richardson’s extensive capabilities with sales and business leaders.

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2 Responses to “Why Customized Sales Training for “Strategic Relevance” Drives the Best Results”

  1. July 28, 2014 at 1:01 pm, Richard J Orlando said:

    Dario, excellent post which hits directly at our customers. “Strategically relevant” is critical. Value proposition training must show examples that are real, using customer data and visualizing typical customer messaging. The “good enough” approach with B2B reps selling complex solutions will guarantee one thing- failure for the trainer! You did a great job with this one and I’ll benefit from your information today! Thank you.


    • Dario Priolo

      July 28, 2014 at 5:03 pm, Dario Priolo said:

      Hi Richard,

      Thanks for your kind feedback, and I’m glad you found the post helpful. Too often we see organizations try to cut corners on the things! Sales training buyers really need to put themselves in the shoes of the learner, and decide if the program content will inspire them to change and improve. Make it real, and don’t give people an out!


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