Sales management coaching training – necessary but not sufficient

Sales coaching puzzle

Sales coaching puzzle

A while ago we received a call from a company wanting to talk about coaching training for their front-line sales managers.  They were real cheerleaders – they believed sales managers were the pivotal job for sales success and coaching was the sales managers’ key responsibility.

Since over the years we have published a lot about sales coaching and designed some very successful sales coaching training for clients, we thought we might be able to help. But as the conversation unfolded that “we might be helpful” thought began to fade.  Here’s why.

From a getting sales coaching training right perspective, they had taken all the traditional steps and had executed them to perfection.  It certainly was  fair to say they had done “everything right.”

First, they trained their sales reps in classic fundamental selling techniques so the managers did not have to start at ground zero.

Then they trained their sales managers in coaching techniques.  We first thought perhaps they might not have done such a good job at training their sales managers to coach – but it wasn’t so.  They had designed a customized sales coaching simulation that was close to what we would have proposed as the highest impact training design.

They also took a subsequent step.  When a new sales skill was introduced they trained the sales managers first and then had the sales managers participate as coaches during the program for the sales reps.

After all that, we asked: What were the sales managers doing or not doing that needed to be fixed?  Here the answer was interesting and a good lesson for all of us concerned about sales coaching.

From their analysis, the basic problem was what we would label as the “doing and telling” trap.

- Doing.  Rather then coaching, too many of the sales managers fell back on what they were use to doing, really good at doing and in some cases preferred doing – which was selling. 

A number of the sales managers had been promoted from internal sales rep positions and some maintained close ties to their favorite accounts – often failing to completely turn over those accounts.

In other cases when the sales manager went on sales calls where the pre-planned purpose of the call was coaching, they would just jump in and take over the call at the first sign the rep was not doing “the right thing.”

- Telling.  Despite the training when it did come down to coaching, the approach used by some sales managers could be summarized as follows:  “I’m the expert – I’ll diagnose what’s wrong and suggest what you should learn. Your job is to practice what I recommend.”

The company was, we think rightly, concerned that this implementation approach was not the best path forward.  We suggested they might consider an approach that could be described this way: “You are the one responsible for the learning.  I’m responsible for helping you become more aware of your performance and expand your learning choices.”

We discussed with our new friends their observations were not atypical.  Even if you do a great job in sales coaching training, it is easy for sales managers to fall into the traps they had identified.

So regardless of the type of coaching training, specific steps need to be taken during the sales coaching implementation to address these traps because they are likely to occur and are unlikely to be self-corrected.  Most importantly, they will probably high a significantly negative impact on the sales coaching initiative.

Following the sales call we spent some additional time thinking about what it takes to implement an effective sales coaching effort and what ideas we might pass along.  Let’s take a look:

Overarching principle: great sales coaching is a puzzle of many pieces.  The major walkaway is that skill development and hence training is only one piece of the puzzle for getting coaching right.  To optimize the potential of coaching, it is necessary integrate coaching into the culture of the organization and that requires viewing the challenge through multiple lenses.

Implementation ideas.  Although solving the larger puzzle is company-specific, here are some ideas to consider:

- Management selection process.  Often companies will just select from their pool of high performing sales reps – the higher on the list, the greater the chance of being selected.  If sales coaching is a priority, think about what other criteria might be important.  For example, have they shown any interest in coaching in previous positions or outside of work?  Have they served as formal or informal mentors for other sales reps?

An additional perspective is to consider the “soft skills” that people tend to possess that become effective coaches.  Integrity Selling have done some great work on this topic – Are Communication Skills Really Soft Skills?

- Time management.  In many cases, sales coaching fails not because of the lack of skill on the part of the sales managers, but because they simply run out of time.  Coaching gets pushed backed to Friday and it never happens.

This is a problem that can only be solved by the top sales leadership.    Sales coaching takes time. If you want sales managers to start committing more time to coaching, to what do you want them to stop committing time?

-Recognition and rewards.  Ask the following question: What are the forms of recognition and rewards for those that do a great job coaching?  If all “pats on the back” are about what deals were closed today, then coaching is unlikely to flourish.   The problem with sales coaching is the results usually do not turn up in the short run – the real payoffs occur down the road.

-Participation in additional training.  When the sales team is introduced to a new sales skill or process make sure the sales managers are included in the sales  training.  You can’t coach it if you don’t know it.

Here the best model is to introduce sales managers to the content first, then have them participate in the sales rep training as coaches.  The more difficult the content, the more important this design idea becomes.  The difference in the performance change out on the job can be dramatic.   

-Coach the coach.  If you are a company with a small sales team, say fewer then 10 sales managers, or a larger company where only a subset of sales managers need help, then adopting a coach-the-coach model can be an idea worth trying. The best approach is to solicit help from an expert in sales coaching in your industry.

-Blueprinting. Usually there is a subset of front-line sales managers that are getting it right. If that is the case, blueprint how they do what they do, codify it into a set of best practices and leverage the findings to help others.

Making coaching happen.  If you talk with sales managers, most think coaching is a good idea and that it makes a difference and they are right. CSO Insights reports that 20% more reps achieve quota at companies that develop effective coaching efforts.

So the issue is how to get it right and here we suspect it’s true – sales coaching training is necessary but not sufficient.

In many situations coaching fails not because of the incompetency of the sales managers – they have experience with what sales excellence looks like and they have a good sense about coaching.

So it is not about incompetency; it’s about ineptitude – that is the lack of being able to make happen something as difficult as coaching on a continuous basis when operating in a demanding and complex environment.  Sometimes the ineptitude is due to a lack of awareness on the part of the manager but more often it is related to factors that are in part or totally outside of their control.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

 

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Building sales management excellence: 12 questions for getting it right

Sales Management Excellence

Sales Management Excellence

Herminia Ibaraan, an INSEAD professor, published a provocative book arguing that in today’s market if you desire to get better at management you must venture outside your comfort zone.  Being stuck in outdated mindsets or ways of doing things will not lead to success.

The message is: to achieve success, managers must learn to pivot – that is do something different rather than just getting better at doing what they are doing.

Although the book was about management leadership in general, we felt the message was particularly important for front-line sales managers.  There is little doubt that front-line sales managers are the pivotal job for building an effective sales team.  If you find a company with an outstanding sales team, it is likely you will also find a cadre of outstanding sales managers.

So, if you are a sales manager, how do you move from here to there – from being okay to being outstanding?  We would suggest that the discipline of asking yourself a set of questions about what is going on is a great first step for making that happen.  Here’s a short list:

  1. What is going on in the buying environment that would impact how we sell?
  2. How do the changes in the buying environment impact our overall strategy for business development?
  3. What skill sets does my team need to adapt and adjust to the changes that are occurring?
  4. How should I prioritize my coaching time?
  5. How can I optimize the quality of feedback I share with my sales team?
  6. How can I help my sales team better leverage institutional resources?
  7. Under what conditions should I participant in sales calls – how does that differ by the individual team member and type of call?
  8. What can I do specifically for top performers? under-achievers?
  9. How can I increase the percentage of time my team spends selling to customers?  What is the major time sink?
  10. What can I do to increase the overall motivation of my sales team?
  11. What is one innovative idea I should try to increase the sales   productivity of the team?
  12. What is the one skill I must get better at?

In Sales, the need for improving management leadership is something that is ever present.  However, from time to time the scope and scale of the disruptions in the market are at such a level, the importance of getting management leadership right moves to center stage – this is one of those times.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

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Medical sales – the power of selling with clinical data

Seling with Clinical Data

Seling with Clinical Data

Physicians – and other prescribers – report that clinical data is increasingly important in making decisions. So, as one “moves to the other side of the table,” selling with clinical is not a “nice to learn” but instead one of those “must dos.”

Sometimes clinical data is not available. But even when it is, too many salespeople do not optimize its use during interactions with medical staff. So let’s take a look at some ideas that might help.

An overarching principle.  At a foundational level it is important to distinguish between “selling with clinical data” and “presenting clinical data.”  The former is likely to have a greater impact.

The two approaches are substantially different.

  • The selling with clinical data approach involves the sales rep customizing the integration of the key information from the study to each physician to help differentiate the product, emphasize the benefits and alleviate possible concerns. 
  • When the alternative presenting the data approach is used, the sales rep typically just delivers a standard “pitch” about the study.  There is no attempt to relate the findings from the study to the specific needs and concerns of the physician in question.

The caution is, as one might suspect, selling with clinical data requires a greater understanding of the study and more effort in the pre-call planning.  No surprises here.

Common traps.  Let’s examine three common traps that get in the way of executing the selling with clinical data approach.

  • Failure to really understand the study.  Using clinical data in a more compelling fashion requires a more comprehensive understanding of how the study was designed and executed so the data can be interpreted in greater depth and with greater clarity.  Some examples: knowing possible misinterpretations, understanding cross tab information by parameters such as age and gender, understanding fundamental statistics like levels of significance and confidence intervals and if a drug study, understanding the findings in regard to interactions with other drugs.
  • Not sharing study findings in a sequence that is easy for physicians to process. You have to share the information in a way that’s easy for the physician to process. It’s important to put yourself in the physician’s shoes and figure out the most effective sequence for sharing the clinical information throughout the call.  Most importantly tie back the findings to the benefits for the patient at every opportunity.
  • Not leveraging attribution.  Using words like: I, me, we, and us in relating to the findings reduces the third party value of the study.  Rather, salespeople should know about and leverage the third party conducting the research.

Sales Training.  If you are a Sales Training Director or a VP of Sales, let’s do a short quiz.  Do you buy the idea that the effective use of clinical data in sales calls is a big deal?  And if so, have you put in place a well-designed training module to help your sales reps to develop the skills to get that right?  Our experience is the answer to the first question is overwhelming “yes”– the answer to the second – not so much.

One thing is clear – selling with clinical data is becoming increasingly important. Today, prescribers are looking for objective proof of how any medical product can help solve a problem and deliver results – which means salespeople in the medical sales industry must be able to leverage the power of clinical data.  Unfortunately it is not only important but also difficult to execute effectively – so if your answer to the second question was “not really” – you might want to revisit the question.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

 

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A 2026 excursion to the future of sales training

Sales Training - 2026

Sales Training – 2026

As a way of exploring the future of sales training, let’s time travel to the year 2026 and examine the major trends of the day.

Suspending disbelief, assume you have time traveled and have arrived in the summer of 2026.  You are journeying south on Highway 1 towards Big Sur in your Apple Titan 2.0.  You have preprogramed your new Titan including a stop for lunch at Nepenthe.  You have about an hour before reaching Nepenthe so you have downloaded a presentation from the Holographic Sales Training Journal about the present trends in sales training by Dr. William Beckett the Vice Chancellor of the Sales Domain for the Deep Learning Institute.

Let’s tune in and listen to what Dr. Beckett has to say.  The presentation was developed as a comparison to what is happening in 2026 versus ten years earlier in 2016.

Inflection point.  A number of the authors writing back in 2016 suggested that sales training was at an inflection point.  The notion was if one looked backed 10 years to 2006 and compared what was going on in sales training to the happenings in 2016, things looked strikingly similar.

More importantly, however, some suggested that was about to change dramatically driven by shifts in the business environment, changes in the demands of the millennial generation and advances in learning technology.  Those authors turned out to be correct.  The period of 2016-2026 has proven to be one of those “hold on to your hat” periods that has ushered in significant changes in all aspects of sales training.

Design philosophy.  In the past, there was a tendency to design and execute sales training in isolation.  A propensity existed to underestimate the importance of viewing sales productivity as a puzzle of many pieces where sales training was but one piece.

From 2016 to 2026 both suppliers and customers took a more holistic and integrated approach for improving sales productivity.  They have looked at sales training while simultaneously examining other factors such as territory design, compensation and go-to-market strategy.

Learning methodologies.  The trend towards the use of new instructional methodologies has increased at an increasing rate – particularly those combining emerging technologies and experiential based learning models.  Three technologies that have had significant impact are: mobile application technology, virtual meeting technology and augmented reality.

A classic example of the latter was the recent development of a virtual reality product sales training curriculum developed by one of the leading MedTech companies that enables sales reps to actual walk through a human heart to better understand the clinical factors related to implanting their latest absolvable stent.

New mobile platforms such as the iPhone 12 have provided “bit-sized” learning consumables that are individualized for each user and are self updating and available anytime – anyplace because of the new nationwide USA Internet Network.

The standup trainer with the 50-slide PowerPoint deck that was still dominant in 2016 has disappeared.  Classroom training is limited to advanced interactive skill training that is conducted in small groups scattered across wide geographies connected by holographic imaging devices and monitored and coached by senior sales consultants who provide feedback and facilitate discussions.

Content.  As the time period unfolded, companies were faced with a continuous set of disruptive changes in the market.  As a result they came to recognize the challenge was more about reinventing than improving.  As a consequence they started to look for sales performance improvement partners with reps that could function as trusted advisors that could provide insights that make a difference versus product facilitators who simply have solutions to sell.

As the notion of the trusted advisor took hold there was a demand for sales training programs to integrate new content. The areas that received the greatest attention related to the skill sets associated with providing business insights such as: business acumen, adaptive thinking, data retrieval and interpretation skills plus the skills to work effectively and efficiently as a member of a virtual group.

Customized programs.  By 2020 the migration from generic to customized programs became complete.  It became clear that generic programs simply were not effective for delivering the level of skill development demanded by the transformational changes in the buying environment.  Technology advances that enabled materials to be customized more affordably and more efficiently facilitated the transition. Market leaders put in place mechanisms for program materials to be updated automatically in real time.

As part of the demand for more affordable programs, solution providers began to replace the traditional per head pricing models that were common in 2016 period with license-to-use arrangements that negate intellectual property concerns.  By 2026 per heads pricing models have become almost completely nonexistent.

Alignment with strategic business initiatives. Companies and sales training vendors have stopped organizing programs around content topics like: sales call execution, account strategy and negotiation.  This has meant that some of the most popular and widely used sales training programs in the 2006-2016 period have largely fallen into disuse.

In the past sales training was often conducted based on a “we haven’t done any it a while” model or the emergence of some sales model from a new popular book.  In 2026 that is no longer the case, now investment in sales training is driven by the need to implement the company’s business initiatives.  The business initiative is used not only to define when training needs to be provided; it also defines what the training should look like.

For example, if a company is moving from selling individual products to selling an integrated solution, then the sales training is designed to help the sales team adapt and adjust their skills to executive that transition.  Or if a company has decided to shift from selling on price to selling on value, then the program addresses the skills required for making that shift.

The design point is programs must incorporate the comprehensive skill sets relevant for selling in the newly defined market. This is the exact opposite of immediately defining every training challenge as “pounding a nail” because you have a hammer at hand – or teaching a sales strategy model because that is the intellectual property base that is presently in vogue.

Sales training providers.  In 2016 there were a wide variety of players engaged in sales training from large companies with worldwide capability to small one and two person organizations that extended their reach by using 1099 personnel.  What was particularly interesting, as one author of the time noted, was a number of the smaller companies that were extremely innovative; hence they were “on a good day” able to win and successfully implement projects with major B2B companies.

As the time period from 2016 to the present unfolded, the profile of the market of training solution providers changed.  The shift was driven by the above noted trends related to the business environment and the need to leverage the emerging learning technologies. These trends changed the nature of the talents required and increased the capital investment needed to function in an ever increasing competitive market.

As a result a number of new types of business relationships emerged as the time period unfolded.  Three proved to be particularly noteworthy:

1. Alliances and Partnerships.  A number of the smaller sales training companies failed to adapt to the changes in the business environment.  They tried to adjust to the new demands by simply improving doing what they were doing versus reinventing themselves.  By 2026 many of these companies had closed their doors.

On the sunny side of the street, a fair number of the smaller sales training companies adapted to the need for greater depth and breath of talent and the requirement for more capital investment in new technologies by forming alliances and partnerships with other sales training companies.  These new relationships took on a variety of business forms ranging from informal alliances to formal partnerships to mergers.

Some of the small sales training companies pursued novel approaches and sought out alliances and partnerships with training companies in closely related areas like leadership development while others moved to form relationships with small high technology companies specializing in areas like virtual reality and gaming.  Many of these latter partnerships have proved to be highly successful.

2. Acquisitions.  Back in 2016 there were 3 to 4 well-established, large and highly successful sales consulting firms.  These firms provided a wide portfolio of services ranging from sales compensation to go-to-market strategy to territory design.  None of these firms emphasized sales training for a wide variety of reasons.

By 2026 two of these firms had purchased high performing sales training companies to fill out their portfolio of services.  Because of purchases the firms were able to provide a “one stop shopping” approach to sales productivity improvement.  The sales training offered by these firms are now rated among the best of breed.

3. New Players.  One of the unanticipated and perhaps most exciting trends has been the entry into the sales training market of companies that heretofore have not been in the sales training industry.  Four companies (names have been withheld) have produced a great deal of initial promise:

  • Media Company.  Prior to 2016 Company A had been doing outstanding training in professional development as part of their Learning Institute.  As the 2016-2026 time-period unfolded they leveraged their extensive internal expertise and expanded that work into other domains including sales training.
  • Internet Company.  Historically Company B’s Training Center had done outstanding work related to helping clients use mobile devices as tools for learning.  In 2020 Company B started developing downloadable learning modules for mobile devices in a wide variety of domains including sales for both the B2C and B2B markets.
  • Computer Company.  By 2016 Company’s C’s Virtual Academy was offering 100’s of free online courses in areas like cloud development, gaming and data base development.  They also made an early investment in augmented reality technology.  As the application of that technology expanded into training and education they started to offer online courses in a wide variety of personal and professional development areas ranging from early childhood education to sales training.
  • CRM Company.  Because of its farsightedness to expand its portfolio beyond CRM, Company D has continued its unabated growth.  As a part of that growth they have parlayed the work of their university in self-paced online learning – developing a number of client–centric application modules which incorporate the client’s CRM database.  These modules have provided an affordable and easy-to-use vehicles for the client’s sales and marketing groups to use their CRM database in new and exciting ways to improve their sales effectiveness.

Back to the present … On April 1, 1976 Apple was founded to develop and sell personal computers.  If Steve Jobs and his colleagues at Apple can revolutionize not only the computer industry but also the worlds of animation, music, mobile communication and perhaps America’s true love the automobile industry, why can’t a Media or Internet company dramatically change the landscape of the sales training world?

As Peter Drucker once noted – “Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window.”

With that caution in mind this particular article was not about attempting to paint a desired picture of the future of sales training but instead to encourage those who care about sales and sales training to pick up a brush.  Because Drucker also shared with us the idea that – “the best way to predict the future is to create it.”

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Transitioning to sales manager – a rubicon moment

New sales managers

New sales managers

Congratulations! You’ve done it! You have crossed over! You are now a sales manager.  So, what do you do now?  Even after some initial guidance from colleagues, most new sales managers find themselves struggling to figure out how to balance the requirements of the position.

The mountains of paperwork about HR concerns and other administrative requirements take most new sales managers back a step or two.  Few find themselves “ahead of the curve” and doing what most needs doing – selling with their sales team when they need help and coaching so they need less help.

The institutional challenges and roadblocks are difficult for the individual sales manager to avoid.  So, in reality, the answer is usually one of smart management not prevention.  Let’s take a look at four overarching principles that can help get things going in the right direction.

1. Think about where to start.  When taking over a sales team there is a chorus of requests to fix things. While this may make your sales team and upper management feel good and reduce the noise level, it will probably do little beyond that.

Another approach is to identify the reasons behind your sales team’s success and focus on leveraging them.

Any manager will share when moving into a new management position there are tons of things you can “fix.” But, the wiser among them will also suggests you can’t fix everything and some of the things you can fix aren’t going to help achieve your business objectives.  When it comes to the “fix things” approach not only is there not enough time but even if you did do it, your sales team will find their heads spinning as they try to digest one change after another.  But, what if you take a more measured approach?

  • First, figure out what individual team members are doing successfully and codify those successes so they are repeatable by others. 
  • Then then identify what “needs fixing” in order to meet your goals, prioritize which ones to address and act on them one by one.

When you are a front-line sales manager many people are pulling you in lots of directions.  Consequently, it is easy to fall into the trap of addressing the urgent versus the important.  One answer to that dilemma is to rise above the noise and focus on leveraging what is presently working.

2. Do no harm.  Due to not knowing the rules of the road quite yet and wanting to avoid making the big mistake upfront, new sales managers often hold the reins a bit too tight. This makes the time problem even worse.

For example, if the salesperson has to go back to the sales manager to get an answer to every unusual customer request – no matter how small it is – then the salesperson becomes frustrated and looks “small” in the customer’s eyes.  As a matter of fact if that is the case, customers soon learn that it’s best to just go directly to the manager since only they have the answers.

What happens to the new sales manager?  They become even more inundated with emails, voice mails, and texts from sales reps and customers requiring immediate attention.  In these cases the new sales manager becomes a bottleneck – resulting in declining customer satisfaction and perhaps revenue declines!

3. Be a filter not a funnel.  All sales managers get a tremendous amount of internal requests from top management related to answering ever-popular questions such as: Are you meeting your sales figures?  Here the trap is passing all these requests directly on to the sales team and getting them bogged down with paperwork and activities that reduce selling time.  The most effective sales managers handle it differently.  They are a “filter not a funnel.”

Simply put, they filter the information “coming down” from the division or central office and only funnel to their sales team the information the sales person needs to succeed.  They eliminate the clutter going to the team thereby freeing up time for the salespeople to spend on selling.

Unfortunately too many new sales managers don’t eliminate the clutter and their sales teams spend a disproportionate amount of time playing with paper work requirements rather than calling on customers.  Although this filtering can be challenging for a new sales manager, the sooner they learn the more likely those sales figures will be what they need to be.

4. Don’t panic: acknowledge.  No matter how skillful, everyone makes a fumble or a mistake of some type during a transition period.  Some mistakes are annoying; some are just difficult to handle, and some are potential showstoppers.  But regardless one’s skill or luck, mistakes occur.

There is no way to avoid mistakes completely so learning how to handle them is critical to success.

The bottom line for handling mistakes is when something goes wrong – take responsibility for it – and do it quickly.  The first step is “acknowledging” the mistake.  Conveying that you are going to do something about making things right is the next step.  While the other person still faces the problem, they now know they have an acknowledged partner working with them to solve it.

Getting it all right.  If you are about to assume a sales management position and want to get serious about surviving the transition, take a half day and pick up David Brock’s new book: Sales Manager Survival Guide.  It contains a comprehensive set of best practices for successfully pulling off what is one of the more difficult career moves – becoming a sales manager for the first time.   

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

 

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Medical sales training – something different vs. more of the same

Medical sales training

Medical sales training

From time to time entire industries go through dramatic changes driven by forces that are disruptive in scope and scale. Today the healthcare industry is a prime example.

Most healthcare organizations are uncertain about the best strategic path forward.  However, what is clear is standing still is not an option.  Moving forward the challenge will be about how to reinvent versus how to improve.

Hospitals will need to explore ways to reduce costs and to improve patient care.  Clearly for the market-leaders this journey has already begun.  They have changed what they buy, how they buy and what they are willing to pay for it.

In times of such transformational market change, a new set of winners and losers emerge among the sellers to the market.  If you are a company selling medical devices, equipment, consummables, software or other medical market products/services, a piece of the puzzle for being among the winners is making the investment in your sales team commensurate with the need for change and the opportunity to benefit.  Those that prosper will recognize that if buyers change how they buy then sellers need to change how they sell.

If your customers are making changes, then the case is made that it’s no longer business-as-usual for your sales team.  When the changes are dramatic then it becomes a matter of doing something different rather than simply doing a better job doing what you are doing.  The required shift in selling isn’t incremental; it’s transformational.

So, what does it take for a company to implement a sales transformation?  The question can and should be explored from a number of perspectives, here let’s just drill down and examine what it means for designing sales training.

Building transformational sales training

What are the lessons for designing effective sales training when doing something different versus more of the same is the challenge … and doing too little, too late is a common pitfall? For designing an effective sales training effort to help a sales team adapt and adjust to transformational changes in the customers’ buying process?

  • Lesson 1 – Understand the Difference.  The design of the sales training solution is strikingly different if the challenge is to help a sales team take a meaningful next step for doing something different versus getting better at doing what they are doing.  Achieving the former requires greater design innovation and a longer timeframe for skill acquisition.
  • Lesson 2 – Build Upfront Understanding and Enthusiasm.   Before the sales training, the leadership team must set the stage for sales training more substantially than usual. This includes communicating what is to be done and why it is being done. The sales team needs to see why the sales process needs changing, what the new process looks like, how others are also being asked to change and what the anticipated payoffs will be.
  • Lesson 3 – Select the Right Partner(s).  There are 100s of viable training companies if you are selecting a sales training vendor for your national sales meeting. The number is dramatically reduced for a sales transformation project. The best fit will of course depend on the specifics of the transformation being planned – nobody is the best across the board.  However, there are overarching considerations worth highlighting such as: understanding your culture and industry, committing the A-team, bring innovative design expertise, and being receptive to alternate pricing models.
  • Lesson 4 – Spotlight the Pivotal Job.  The front-line sales manager is the pivotal job for driving the success of any sales transformation effort. They need to be engaged in defining the new sales process and take a leadership role introducing it to the sales team.  They will also be the key element in helping the salespeople learn the new required skills.  Hence, they need trained first – and subsequently they should participate in the sales reps training.  Perhaps most importantly, they need to be committed to providing coaching over the long haul.

Getting the foundation right

If the healthcare market is undergoing transformational changes in the way they buy, then it is likely that a parallel effort will be required on your part from a sales perspective. And, from a competitive standpoint it does not pay to be the last holdout for the ways of yesteryear.  Three principles for crafting effective training are worth keeping in mind:

  • Changing Behavior is Tough. Your sales team has been doing what they have been doing for a long time – changing technology is easy compared to asking people to change their behavior.
  • Walking before Running is Okay.  Once the change reaches a certain level, it is worth considering doing it in phases or using a “skunk works” approach to work out the problems.
  • Sticking to your Guns.  Sometimes doing the change a crisis such as a fall in revenue figures will occur; this of course is the time when the brave of heart must step forward.

When any company is faced with disruptive changes that are demanding they must reinvent what they do and how they do it, they look for partners with sales reps that can be trusted advisors who provide insights that make a difference versus product facilitators who simply have solutions to sell.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

 

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Happy July 4th!

July 4th Fireworks

Wishing everyone a happy 4th of July holiday!

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Navigating the byzantine world of the complex sale

Complex Sales

Complex Sales

When comparing small transactional sales to large complex sales, the differences in the buying process are difficult to overstate. In a complex sale the buying cycle is longer with more twists and turns; more buyers are involved both as individuals and as committees; and the competition is keener.

Everyone knows it – some because of a leap of faith and others because of experience. A centerpiece for success in complex sales is getting the right message, to the right person, at the right time. Easy to say, but not so easy to do when the buying process is difficult even to identify let alone manage.

However, several characteristics of the buying process tend to be true more often than not:

  • Each player involved has a differing view of what constitutes value and
  • A lot of the decision-making is going on when you are not there.

With that said, what are some of the best practices for achieving success when selling in a complex sales market?  Here’s a short list:

  • Network – Know who is playing which role, the relationship between the players, and what they think about you and your competition.
  • Leverage institutional resources – The lone wolf sales strategy simply does not work – you need the power of the team.
  • Develop and rehearse internal champions – You need someone to tell your story when you are not there.
  • Document good news – Bad news documents itself unfortunately good news does not.
  • Deal with passive competition – When the buying process stalls, craft strategies to overcome the no-decision momentum.
  • Broaden the definition of competition – Competitors include everyone competing for the same budget dollars – not just direct competitors.
  • Differentiate by adding value – The product or service being sold may not vary much from one company to the next, so profile the added-value services and assistance extended to the customer.
  • Sell to the c-suite – The probability of capturing the business is significantly reduced if you cannot successfully sell at the senior level.
  • Make the business case – It’s unlikely a sale will be closed without making a strong business case to prove the business need to invest in the solution is worth the cost and risk.

Relying on relationship selling alone for success will not carry the day when you are engaged in a complex sale.  You must be business-savvy, possess superior sales skills, know the customer’s business and have the institutional awareness and political acumen to leverage and orchestrate internal company resources.  You must be a trusted advisor who can provide insights that make a difference versus a product facilitator who simply has a solution to sell.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

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Sales alert: millennials are here

Millennials and Sales

Millennials and Sales

Millennials, born between 1982 and 1993, are 80 million strong. In 2015 Millennials passed Generation X to make up the largest share of the workforce.  In 2020 they will be nearly half of the workforce.

Some important facts about Millennials as reported by the Council of Economic Advisors are:

  • Millennials are now the largest most diverse generation in the U.S. population.
  • Millennials have been shaped by technology.
  • Millennials value community, family, and creativity in their work.
  • Investments in human capital are likely to have a substantial payoff for Millennials.

What does this mean for Sales?

  • Take a second look. Whether you are talking about recruiting, selection, onboarding, training or compensation, it is will worth the time to consider whether your processes are in tune with the experiences and expectations of a cohort that will comprise an increasing percentage of your sales force.  The danger is doing too little, too late to optimize the potential of an entire generation of sales people.
  • Leverage the spirit of collaboration.  The day of the lone wolf salesperson is coming to a close.  Today, selling is becoming a team sport. The good news is while competitive Millennials like working in teams, so leverage that mindset. Millennials will embrace team selling – leveraging institutional resources and helping one another out.  Additionally, when working as individuals, it’s important for sales managers to show Millennials how their work ties back to the sales team’s overall performance and the company as a whole.
  • Optimize the power of technology.  Although it is a myth that every Millennial was given a smart phone at birth, there is some truth in the fiction – back in 2000 I recall a colleague’s 6-year old grandchild had one at the top of Santa’s list for that past Christmas.

Increasingly Sales is being impacted by the digital revolution.  Customers have more information about the products, predictive analytics have taken the guesswork out of determining who is a potential buyer and automated sales management tools are cheaper, better and more pervasive than ever.

Millennials want to be judged on the quality of their work product. They believe they can work from anyplace by leveraging technology. So leverage their knowledge and interest in the power of technology.

  • Invest in training.  Education and training have been part of their experience since day one. Continuous learning is important to Millennials.  They want to enhance their skills – technical, interpersonal, and professional.  If you don’t provide it, they will find someone that will. The investment is easy to justify since in market after market, buyers are experiencing disruptive changes that impact how they buy.  This means your sales team needs to change how they sell and sales training needs to move to the center stage.

A spotlight has been placed on Millennials in the workforce because of their sheer numbers. While many of their expectations may be similar to others, there are special considerations to keep front-of-mind. The good news is they care about purpose, are high energy and view feedback as a developmental opportunity.

Every year Beloit College distributes a report to its faculty sharing the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering the college. Looking at the reports it’s easy to see why the Millennial mindset differs from others in the workplace. For them the Soviet Union never existed and “google” has always been a verb.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2016 Sales Momentum® LLC

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