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.