Category Archives: Sales Training
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.
There is one question that comes up in virtually every Richardson sales training session that I have conducted over the past 23 years. It is part of an activity in which teams practice coming up with and asking open-ended questions to buyers. This is the question that participants love to ask buyers — “What keeps you up at night?”
This was new, innovative, and fun back in 1997. Now, it is a cliché. It is a salesy question. If a buyer is interviewing four different companies to find the right partner, he/she can hear that question four times. In my training sessions, I work really hard with participants on asking open-ended questions that avoid this trap. The goal is to come up with classic questions that never go out of style. “What are your biggest worries when it comes to switching advisors?” If I am a buyer and you ask me a worry question, I’ll talk about my worries. You don’t have to make it a cliché about what keeps me up at night.
Another pitfall that I encourage sales professionals to stay away from involves trading questions: “If we are able to do X and Z for you, will you agree to do Y?” Asking open-ended questions with “If”; is a manipulative construction. Buyers see that you are trying to get them to say yes to something before they are ready. They hear the start of a » Continue Reading.
The three strongest words to begin good open-ended questions are what, why, and how. I discussed this in my previous post: Generate Deeper Sales Dialogues with Strong Open-ended Questions.
Now, I want to share another tool to help you develop your questioning strategy — directive statements. These are statements that don’t end in a question mark, yet they draw the buyer into sharing more information with you. Try mixing these directive statements with good open-ended questions to get your buyer talking.
Tell me about “Tell me about your decision-making process.” “Tell me about your top two concerns when it comes to X.” Please describe “Please describe the rationale for putting this out to bid this year.” “Please describe the different criteria that you will measure this decision against.” Share with me “Share with me what you’re looking for in a financial advisor.” “Share with me management’s top initiatives for this year.” Help me understand “Help me understand why you are shopping the business around at this point in time.” “Help me understand the two biggest issues that are preventing you from moving this forward.”
There is one nuance to this approach. Make sure not to sabotage these directive statements.
It is: “Tell me about …” Not: “Could you tell me about …”
It is: “Please describe …” Not: “Will you please describe …”
It is: “Share with me …” Not: “Would you share with me …”
It is: “Help me understand » Continue Reading.
When it comes to planning a questioning strategy, this is my philosophy: It is OK to ask people questions; it is not OK to question them.
What’s the difference? If the police show up at your door, put you in handcuffs, guide you to the backseat of their patrol car, and take you to the station, they’re going to question you. More to the point, they’re going to interrogate you.
When people feel questioned, they feel interrogated. It doesn’t matter if it happens at the police station or in their own office by a sales professional.
If, instead, people are asked questions, a dialogue can begin.
One of the more effective ways to generate dialogue is through the use of open-ended questions. These are the type that allows the customer or prospect to participate, engage, and elaborate in a discussion. Open-ended questions get customers talking and sharing information vs. feeling like the sales professional is drilling and grilling them.
Remember, we are all human beings, and human beings look for two things in an interaction. We want to be listened to, and we want to be understood. If I am a buyer, and I feel listened to and understood, then I will repay the favor and listen to what you have to say about your product, your service, and how you think that you can help me. So, if you want to ask me questions, first, let me talk » Continue Reading.
In my previous posts — How Effective are Your Sales Training Programs? and Order Matters: The Sequence of Sales Training Measurement — I made a business case for measuring the impact of sales training and explained the proper sequence to do so.
At this point, you should be ready to establish your own measurement strategy for sales training . But first, I’ll share five guiding principles to help you through the process.
Principle One: Start Where You Want to End When you start with the end in mind, your measurement plan will be more likely to address those things that matter most to your business. You will be aligned with the outcome that you are trying to achieve. If you identify best practices and then establish current performance as a baseline, you can see where opportunities for improvement exist and track changes along the way. Principle Two: Feedback Is a Gift Giving feedback to the individual going through training should be part of the learning journey. For everything that is measured, make sure the individual has the opportunity to see his/her results and be a part of an ongoing developmental dialogue. Put the individual in charge of his/her learning, and help him/her understand how to use that information to guide his/her continuous learning. When he/she expects and get feedback, there is more engagement and compliance. Principle Three: Methodology Matters It is best to measure performance in » Continue Reading.
Four tips for developing a sequence of sales training measurement
In my previous post — How effective are Your Sales Training Programs? — we made a business case for why companies should invest in sales training measurement. Now that the importance of measurement has been established, it’s vital to adopt the proper measurement sequence to have the greatest impact on performance.
Sales Training measurement is not a one-and-done prospect. The standard pre- and post-test approach isn’t sufficient to achieve lasting change.
The Kirkpatrick Four-level Training Evaluation model has become a cornerstone in the learning industry, looking at reaction, learning, behavior, and results. These traditional measures are familiar and necessary, but they’re not sufficient. At Richardson, we build on the Kirkpatrick model by identifying additional factors that come into play.
Before training individuals, we want to know their natural talents and skills. There’s an important difference between the two. Talent refers to an individual’s aptitude and motivation. Talent is a part of their DNA because people can be great at jobs that are a good fit. The other side of that coin is that while a poor fit can be workable, it’s not optimal. It’s hard to be passionate about a job that doesn’t play to a person’s talents.
The other element involves skills. This is the “how” of doing something. Skills can be observed. If there was a video camera taping a client meeting, what would the camera » Continue Reading.
Why Do You Need to Measure Sales Training?
We measure almost everything in our lives. Starting at birth, a baby’s height, weight, and length are measured. Parents count fingers and toes. They count age by weeks and months and, finally, years. In school, learning is measured by written tests and fitness levels by activity tests.
In sports, we keep score and statistics. Moneyball analysis has become a widely used strategy in evaluating baseball players. When we travel, we measure distance traveled and time to destination using maps and GPS. We wear Fitbits, keep food diaries, and use apps to track calorie intake.
The point is that we track just about everything. Measurement is an integral part of our lives. How can it not be an element of especially when so much is at stake, considering both dollars spent and the potential for performance improvement?
According to recent data, more than 55% of companies spend in excess of $2,000 per employee on training each year (CSO Insights). TrainingIndustry.com reported that, for 2013, the most recent numbers published, companies in North America spent approximately $142 billion dollars on training; globally, the investment in training was approximately $307 billion.
These are significant numbers. So, when someone asks me why they should have a strategy for measuring training effectiveness, my short answer is, “Why wouldn’t you?” How could any organization not grab the opportunity to measure progress made, » Continue Reading.
Confessions of an Old-school Sales Professional
When I look back over my sales career, I realize that I mainly operated as a relationship-based seller. I had my share of successes with this approach, but I also saw a number of opportunities vanish just as they should be closing.
In one particular instance, I invested 18 months in building a great relationship with a client. At the eleventh hour, as the deal was set to close, it was pulled out from under me. Why? My main contact wasn’t the one who made the buying decision; it was her boss. I had been so embedded in my relationship that I developed a blind spot about considering other people who might ultimately be the decision-makers.
My biggest mistake was believing in old-school sales training, which taught the value of creating a connection with people, because, “if they like you, they will buy from you.” Today, with the knowledge of hindsight, I offer this addendum: It’s not enough to rely on just your interpersonal skills, staying in the opening phase of the sales process, when establishing relationships are key. Too many things can happen to derail the sale, so don’t put all your eggs in the one basket of relationships.
There are several other baskets of sales approaches and, as I’ve come to learn, those that are too narrowly focused can create undue risk of lost sales.
Charismatic: This is the relationship approach. » Continue Reading.