Category Archives: Sales Training
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
Today’s workplace is now composed of a majority of Millennials, along with Gen Xers, baby boomers, and traditionalists. Training millennials presents a challenge for sales organizations, and especially the Learning & Development group because there is a mix of generations and learning styles to address.
To be most effective, training programs need to meet employees where they are in terms of learning styles and preferences. This means stepping back and rethinking ways to personalize and address how different employees learn.
Training Millennials Requires a Mix of Training Tools
It’s not that instructor-led training is wrong or going away because it still has great value. The point is to personalize the learning journey on behalf of the individuals who are taking it, adapting to the cognitive style of learning that’s based on the generation. When training millennials, delivery of instructor-led training should be in smaller increments, complemented with more social collaboration. Videos should be added to the mix along with online modules that include an element of gaming to make learning more interesting.
For training across generations, include a menu of options to supplement instructor-led training, so participants can pick and choose what works best for them. The questions for Learning & Development to consider are these:
How does this group of employees learn best? How can we, as an organization, deliver the type of training that enables all of our diverse groups » Continue Reading.
In case you missed it, last year marked a significant turn in the workforce. That was when millennials—those born between the early 1980s and late 1990s—became the largest segment of employees in the nation. This boom in the millennial generation in the workplace has a significant impact on organizations, both from a management perspective and a training perspective. That’s because millennials, as a whole, have quite different ideas about the meaning and purpose of work, work-life balance, and the integration of technology than previous generations.
Training the Millennial Generation in the Workplace
Millennials approach learning and training in different ways, and that has implications not only for continuing development, but on-boarding as well. Many millennials entering the workforce tend to be well educated, but not always in business-relevant ways. When they first came out of school, the job market was slow, and so many went back to school. Now they may have one or more degrees, but they don’t necessarily know how to apply their knowledge in a business environment. Or, what they learned is school is not applicable to the field where they’re now pursuing a career.
How to Engage ‘New Learners’
The question facing sales organizations today is: “How do you train and engage these ‘new learners,’” as we call them. Millennials grew up hardwired to technology, conducting most of their social life online, and multitasking along the way. They prefer collaboration and team-oriented projects.
They learn best » Continue Reading.
Modern sales leaders and managers are often faced with the challenge of providing multigenerational sales coaching. Providing sales coaching to millennials might seem like a particularly challenging endeavor – this is because there are many myths about the preferences of the millennial workforce that are not true. Understanding how to connect with your millennial salespeople can help you learn how to coach top performers.
MYTH #1: Millennials do not want to be coached.
Not true. In fact, recent studies show that millennials want coaching at work nearly 50% more often than other employees. Also, they seek feedback more frequently than older generations in the workforce (SuccessFactors, 2015).
MYTH #2: Taking a quantitative approach with your coaching feedback dehumanizes the coaching relationship.
Using a numerical rating scale, either against a standard or against a millennial’s colleagues, helps contextualize feedback and provides an opportunity to monitor progress. It’s likely that higher performers will embrace an internal ranking against their colleagues, while a moderate or lower performer may be better served with a comparison against an external standard. The ranking or comparison is not for punishment, but for growth. It can help you establish a common language and calibrate change consistently. Be mindful of your choice.
Key considerations for Multigenerational Sales Coaching
Consider that connecting with millennial employees frequently resonates with their cadence for information and their digital world. Millennials are accustomed to instant access to information » Continue Reading.
Move over, baby boomers. You too, Gen Xers. In 2015, millennials became the largest segment of the American workforce, with more than one in three workers being from this generation. Figuring out how to train a multigenerational sales team presents unique challenges for sales leaders, but understanding the difference between generational learning styles will help you be more effective.
There have always been differences in age and experience levels across sales organizations, from recent graduates to those nearing retirement. This presents a business imperative and an opportunity to identify the differences and similarities in learning and communication styles and the implications for coaching and training a multigenerational sales team.
Understanding the Learning Styles of Generations in the Workforce
These days, there can be up to four generations in the workforce. Connecting and communicating successfully across this generational spectrum can strain the ability of sales leaders and those in Learning and Development. The starting point is knowing your audience:
1. Traditionalists (those born before 1945): Generally speaking, most workers in this generation are strongly committed to their organizations. They value teamwork, collaboration, and the development of interpersonal skills. Their learning style is commensurate with these characteristics: they like teamwork and collaboration in the classroom.
2. Baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964): Boomers tend to be very competitive and are success-driven. They look for professional growth, are receptive to change, and consider training to be one » Continue Reading.
The definition of insanity, as attributed to Albert Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
When talking with sales leaders, I’ll often modify this definition and apply it to their circumstances. I’ll ask, “This year, if your sales professionals do exactly what they did last year, will they get the same sales performance as last year?”
If their company grew exponentially last year, they might say yes. More often than not, sales leaders reply, “If they do the same things as last year, we might grow a bit, but not as much as we need to.” If, however, sales were down the previous year, the reply will be, “If our sales professionals do what they did last year, we’ll be in bad shape.”
For most sales leaders, no matter whether they did well or not, the objective each year is to improve sales performance and grow revenues. To me, the sane conclusion is that sales teams need to do something different if they aim to achieve different results.
During these conversations, once we get to the point of agreeing that something has to change, I share four areas where change can make a difference in results:
Sales skills: Does the sales team use the Six Critical Skills—Presence, Relating, Questioning, Listening, Positioning, and Checking—for client dialogues to develop and expand relationships. Sales talent: Are the right people in the right roles. Sometimes it » Continue Reading.
I have been in sales for many years, well before joining Richardson last August. I have heard my share of objections from prospects and clients, and I thought it worthwhile to share some of the most common objections to sales training.
I don’t have the budget. There is an investment component to training, and if prospects don’t have money in the budget, that’s a valid objection. If I’m talking with the right person, they certainly have a budget to run their business, but they may not have set aside money for training in that fiscal year. If they agree in the importance of getting people to do things differently to get better results, then the objection really isn’t about budget, but about timing. Even so, it is worth having a conversation around what the investment might look like, and whether there might be more value in exploring a sales development initiative versus another effort they currently have allocated money for. The framework for this conversation is to develop a mutual understanding of what it takes to get sales professionals to do something different to achieve better results. I don’t have the time. Sales leaders are extremely busy, trying to juggle competing priorities in managing their teams while achieving their financial targets. I understand their time constraints, while knowing they could achieve more if they invested the time to get their middle performers to act like top performers. If they » Continue Reading.
This could be a very short blog post. The answer, in a word, is “Yes.”
But let’s look a little deeper into the reasons why sales training is important for growing your business.
First, consider these assumptions:
Sales professionals drive revenue. Within every sales organization is a range of skills, talent, and capabilities. The B2B selling environment, with ultra-informed buyers, continues to grow more challenging.
Some might argue a new way of selling is needed to succeed in today’s digital, connected, mobile world. The good news is that while enhancements might be necessary, there’s a lot about selling that hasn’t changed.
Buyers may be more savvy and demanding, but they still need guidance to make the best decisions – and trust is still a major factor in making buying decisions.
What this means is your sales professionals must be skilled in connecting with the buyer on both a personal and business level. They must be authentic in establishing credibility and earning the right to ask questions. Then they need to gain pertinent information about the buyer’s situation, tailor insights and ideas, and provide a differentiated solution.
These are a higher-order level of consultative selling skills, requiring a greater degree of preparation, assertiveness, and initiative. The sale is still made in the dialogue; it’s just that the path for getting there is a tougher climb.