Who's delivering your sales training?
You cannot fake real sales experience and sales wisdom. It is one of the professions that is the hardest to teach and train because without real life sales experience you are at risk of being seen as inauthentic.
To help you make the best choice when it comes to selecting the right sales trainer let's consider the following:
- What capabilities do you need to be a good sales trainer?
- What attitudes and mindsets can makes sales people and sales results worse?
Without real life sales experience, you will are likely to lack empathy and real insight for the daily challenges of the intricate world of sales. Those who talk about selling but have never had a sales budget to achieve, prospecting calls to make on a daily basis, or need to meet new people and quickly adapt to their styles while trying to understand their needs, will not be as authentic as someone who has been out there and experienced selling for real.
You can have certain knowledge about selling processes, sales figures, or selling strategy but talking about selling and actually living and experiencing a long-term sales career are two very different things.
Over the years of building my own business I have seen my fair share of good facilitators and trainers, but when it comes to training in sales those trainers who lack genuine sales experience find it hard to tackle sales training. They often don't stack up when it comes to feedback from participants.
The overwhelming feedback from participants on sales training programs, based on research both locally and internationally, shows they want to be trained by a real sales person who understands them on all levels: the thinking and skills required to sell, the resilience needed to keep going, empathising with the challenges and setbacks and how to overcome them, the ability to deal with different people who are not always welcoming, and the business knowledge and street smarts that come from being in the field earning your way as a sales professional.
Based on this information you may well think that all you need to do is put a great sales performer up the front of the classroom and press play.
Many companies do follow this line of thought without the proper consideration for the other skills involved in being a competent sales trainer. Here are some of the common traps companies often fall into when trying to deliver sales training:
Trap 1: Motivational speeches
Many companies think that all sales people need is a bit of motivation to make them sell more so they get in a pumped up motivational speaker with a bit of sales experience to tell war stories and how you can be like them if you only do this or that. The effects of this approach are short lived. It soon wears off. This type of approach is like a hot bath that soon gets cold.
We get a lot of salespeople saying they are sick of these types of approaches to sales training because they are left with little to show for it - they are given no real skills or tools they can use in the field. Here is some feedback from one of our training participants, "Your program was very down to earth and engaging. A wonderful contrast from the loud music, gimmicky motivational speakers we often get. A very effective style, we learnt real skills and took away real tools we can use."
Trap 2: Promoting your sales person to sales trainer
Another trap can be promoting your sales people to sales trainer with very little support to become a good sales trainer and program designer. As a result we have seen plenty of disasters when you let good sales performers loose on sales training.
If your sale trainer has not been properly trained in adult learning principles, classroom facilitation techniques and strategies, and is unaware about how to create practical learning content that works based on good instructional design, then you are likely to get a good sales performer up in front of the participants telling war stories about their experiences and telling everyone to be like them. That is not training or educating people - at best it may be entertaining but that is about all you can hope for.
This is a recipe for disaster.
Just because you are a great sales person or great motivational speaker does not make you a great sales trainer.
Being a Competent Sales Trainer
The latest research shows that there are 5 competencies encompassing 18 separate skills, associated with being an effective sales trainer. These include business acumen and communication, instructional planning, effective selling skills and experience, talent management, and teaching capability.
The sales trainer is one of the key factors that can influence the effectiveness of the sales training program. Sales trainers perform many different roles including talent developer, coach, mentor, sales talent evaluator, sales skills evaluator, and training program design and implementer.
As facilitator lead classroom training is still a key component of sales training we would do well to examine the competencies and skills required to effectively run these sessions. Barrett have developed a sales facilitator/ trainer competency model that helps us determine and identify skills and performance expectations for new, as well as experienced sales trainers.
Some of the main categories of competencies we look for in a competent sales trainer are:
- Planning and Organising
- Building Relationships and Networks
- Consultative Problem Solving
- Results Focus
- Quality Orientation
- Comprehensive communication skills
- Business acumen and Common Sense
- Create Collaborative Client Relationships
- Design and adapt course content for an effective learning outcome
- Plan Appropriate Group Processes
- Create and Sustain a Participatory Environment
- Guide Group to Appropriate and Useful Outcomes
- Build and Maintain Professional Knowledge
- Model Positive Professional Attitude
Trap 3: Not passing on the right attitudes and beliefs
Besides skill, experience, and capability, you should also assess for the right beliefs, attitude and values needed for being an effective sales trainer. Poor or inaccurate perceptions about selling passed on by the sales trainer can damage your sales training efforts on a grand scale.
If you hear a sales trainer say the following:
- "Oh we don't call ourselves sales people here"
- "We don't have to sell - we consult"
- "The product sells itself"
- "All sales people are pushy and rude and we aren't like that here, are we?"
Do your internal and external audits:
- Be wary of sales people coming to you offering to be your sales trainer. Check their motives. Are they struggling with sales or ashamed of being called a salesperson and looking for an excuse to get out and find another role? Are they overly addicted to self help books and motivational pep talks which pump them up to feel positive, only to be in need of more when the effect wears off? Do they look for or talk about getting ‘quick fix' answers to theirs or other sales people's emotional issues about selling?
- Be wary of external consultants or sales trainers who are unable to accept that they, too, are sales people. Ask you prospective sales trainer or consultant: "Are you a good sales person?" If they say anything that indicates an emotional denial of their sales role like "I'm a consultant not a sales person' then that say goodbye fast.
Think of the saying ‘watch who you let near your mind' and remember that includes your sales trainers.
So, who's delivering your sales training?