Online sales training – it’s time for a second look

Online Sales Training

Online Sales Training

Recent years have seen tremendous disruption in how customers buy. And if buyers change how they buy – salespeople need to change how they sell.

Customers need fresh ideas and creative insights for addressing a set of needs and opportunities that are both new and challenging. They expect sales reps to be knowledgeable about their industry, company, and issues at a higher level of proficiency than ever before.  They expect insights not product pitches. The want trusted advisors not product facilitators.

So how are we doing in meeting this challenge?  Well, once again it is a bit of a good news – bad news story. The bad news is few companies are completely prepared for the changes taking place.  The good news is there are more effective and affordable training options to correct that deficiency than in times past.

There are any number of reasons behind the good news story from new innovative sales training companies to exciting developments in instructional technology to some really smart analytical tools.

Let’s take a deeper dive into just one of the possible assets for doing a better job doing what we need to do to help sales people meet the challenges of today’s markets – online sales training.

What happened on the first look?  Most companies with a B2B sales team have investigated or implemented online sales training in the distant past.  Unfortunately too many came out of that exploration with less than a stellar opinion of the merits of online learning.

In some cases the Learning Management System cost too much and was a nightmare to implement.  In others the training system was installed and the reps did the training but they didn’t learn very much or they never finished it because it was too boring.  Well that was then; this is now.

Why the second look?  In the last several years tremendous advantages have occurred in online sales training. Today there are some great learning management systems from companies like Bridge and Absorb if you want to develop you own training and online universities like Udemy if you want to sign up for some great existing training options.

Some of the specific reasons for a second look are as follows:

  • Access 24/7
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Review previous lessons whenever you want.
  • Available on computers, tablets and smartphones
  • Join in on online discussions
  • Eliminate travel expenses
  • Minimize time out of the field
  • Try out exercises to apply learning to your own accounts

As the future unfolds there is little doubt that most companies will need to make a greater commitment to sales training if they are going to develop and maintain a superior sales team.  One component of the answer lies in leveraging the advantages of online learning.

Our best sense of the most effective option is a hybrid solution where part of the training is conducted online and part in the classroom.  The guiding principle is conduct in the classroom only that training that can uniquely be done in the classroom – think advanced skill training where optimizing practice and feedback is key.  Do knowledge-based product training and sales fundamentals online.

For more information about online sales training visit our Sales Horizons website.

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

©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC


Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Posted in Online sales training, Sales Training, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,

1 Comment

Sales training and national sales meetings – an odd couple – An STC Classic

A Classic - '63 Corvette

A Classic – ’63 Corvette

As the fourth quarter begins, many VPs of Sales and Sales Training Directors will be focusing on closing Q4 strong and positioning their sales teams for success in 2016.  One item on many agendas will be the annual sales meeting, often sometime during Q1.

Over the years we have attended a number of our clients’ national sales meetings.  Great events!  Lots of good things usually happen.  Salespeople exchange ideas and best practices, sales leaders make compelling presentations (Microsoft comes to mind) and yes, everyone has a really good time.  As a matter of fact, we have such a fond impression of these events we hope, even in face of present trends, that they are not eliminated or replaced by some virtual technology.

We have noticed, however, that some companies strive for a bridge too far and attempt to conduct serious sales training at their national sales meeting.  We would suggest that in most cases this is not a good idea.  At national sales meetings, sales training usually doesn’t turn out very well and the attempt plays havoc with the other benefits that are derived from the event.

Now, it is clear why companies proceed down this path – it’s about money.  Adding it all up, the percentage of money that it takes to implement a company-wide sales training program that is attributed to travel and expense can be as high as 40%.  So the logic goes: If we have all the sales reps together why not save that T&E expense and do our sales training at the national meeting?

And why not? Because, as we said, the sales training usually does not work as well.  Why?

  • Sales rep attention.  At a national sales meeting a significant number of the sales reps would rather be someplace else, and doing anything else than sales training.  This is particularly true if previous meetings have been more like the ones we just described.  In other words,  sales reps had a different expectation about what would be happening.
  • Timing problems.  Most national sales meeting are jammed pack with activities some emerging at the last minute. So more often than not the amount of time devoted to the sales training is insufficient.  In the worst cases, several hours are lopped off the training at the last minute to make agenda time for a new priority. So the sales training ends up being a half-day on Friday afternoon with salespeople leaving early to catch their flights home.
  • Before and after sales training.  It is will know that what happens before and after the training is as important as the training itself.  If that simple idea is ignored, the training becomes just an event.  A typical consequence – without reinforcement 87% of the skill developed in the training is lost within 3 months.  Now, if the sales training is conducted at the national sales meeting, how much pre and post special care and attention will be given to the training given all the other priorities that are on the front burner before and after the national meeting? For those who have not had this experience, the answer can come perilously close to being counted in hours versus days.

So while it’s possible to save some money, at what cost?  What are some alternatives?  If you have a large sales team where bring them together is expensive from a T& E perspective, how can you conduct some effective sales training and minimize that travel expense item?.  Let’s look at a couple of ideas that hold promise.

  • Try on-line training.  In the last several years on-line training has improved dramatically; it is now an effective, efficient, and affordable way to implement a wide variety of sales training programs.

It is particularly effective for conducting any type of knowledge based learning such as: product, marketplace, and technical training.  Although the opportunities for practice and feedback are limited, on-line training is also effective for delivering sales skills training focused on developing initial awareness and understanding of the best practices for any consultative selling model.  When using an on-line approach for sales skills development, the practice and feedback needs to come about via sales management coaching.

  • Bring the training to them.   Rather than bring the sales reps to the training do it the other way around – bring the sales training to them. Try conducting the training over several sessions dedicated strictly to the training at the “district” level.  Move a small group of dedicated trainers to each district to maximize the consistency of the sales training.  Make sure you leverage the advantage of the location of the sales training to engage the local sales managers in the training for the sales reps.

We would suggest that both sales training and national sales meetings are important.  But when done together, they are indeed an odd couple that does not get along so well.

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

©2015 Sales Momentum®

Technorati Tags: , ,

Posted in Sales Training, Sales Training Best Practices | Tagged , ,

Leave a comment

Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day to all of our Sales Training Connection readers. We wish you a strong sales finish to 2015.

Janet and Dick

Technorati Tags: ,

Posted in General Posts | Tagged ,

Leave a comment

Sales excellence 2015 requires trust 2.0 – 7 tips to build trust

Building trust in sales

Building trust in sales

While developing trust has always been important for sales success, today developing trust has taken on a new urgency due to a shift in customer expectations.

Today, customers want fresh ideas and creative insights for addressing a set of needs and opportunities that are both new and challenging.  Increasingly customers want sales reps to be trusted advisors not product facilitators. 

The level of trust … let’s call it Trust 2.0… required for the advisor role is substantial.  It doesn’t just evolve over time. It takes time to develop, requiring explicit thought and action.  Yet it can be lost in a wink of an eye!  However, once trust is achieved everything on the road to sales excellence is a little bit easier. Without it, some aspects of the trusted advisor role are difficult to achieve; others are out of reach.

Developing Trust 2.0 requires more than being talented at some inherent relationship trait.  It requires a repertoire of actions based on a set of sales skills.  And, it’s not just about the knowing; it’s about the doing and the doing must be consistent.  Here are seven skills to get started.

7 skills to help sales reps build trust with customers

  • Do what you say you will do.
  • If you don’t know, don’t pretend.
  • If you make a mistake take responsibility – and avoid repeating it.
  • Understand the difference persuasion and manipulation.
  • Demonstrate competence while expressing humility.
  • Make exceptional things happen but avoid overpromising.
  • Extend trust first.

If you buy the notion that the sales reps achieving the greatest success in the future will be those that assume a trusted advisor role, then it is well to recognize that being a trusted advisor requires more than simply being “the smartest person in the room” – it requires trust.  And, there are “no tricks for developing trust.”  It’s about awareness and skills.

There is no industry where this idea of a trusted advisor is more important than healthcare.  For insight into the importance of Trust 2.0 when selling in the healthcare industry, take a quick read of this short article written by Tom Peterson.  The article was written for those working in the industry but we thought the application to those desiring to be trusted advisors in the industry was particularly relevant.

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

©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC


Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Posted in Sales Best Practices, Sales Call Execution, Sales Strategy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,

Leave a comment

Product pitches – nothing dies harder than a bad idea

Product sales pitches

Product sales pitches

If you are an avid reader of sales blogs, it’s likely you will come across three or four blogs a week about the secret sauce for creating a winning product pitch.  If sales blogs had been around 25 years ago, you would have encountered even more of them because the product pitch has been around for a very long time.

Way back when, companies spent an inordinate amount of time crafting product pitches for their major product offerings.  After the pitches were created, they would charge their sales reps to rehearse them to a point of perfection.  The final step was a fish-bowl type sales training program where a sales rep would get up in front of the class and deliver the “pitch” followed by a withering critique by the rest of the class.

Fortunately that sales training experience has largely fallen by the wayside.  But the product pitch hasn’t and that’s a problem.

The problem with a product pitch is no matter how good you get at a bad idea; it’s still a bad idea. What is it about a product pitch that makes it fundamentally flawed?  Why is the notion such a bad idea?  Let’s take a look.

Why are product pitches a bad idea?

If you have had the opportunity to observe salespeople in real sales calls with real customers the answer literally pops out in front of you.  Product pitches are a bad idea because they are a monologue about product features versus a dialogue about customer value.   

Here it is important to remember that a product feature, no matter how unique or innovative, has no inherent value.  A product feature has value only when it solves a problem that matters to the customer with whom you are interacting and the customer connects the dotes between the product feature and their problem.

What’s an alternative?

If you’ve had that experience of observing sales calls, it becomes clear that many salespeople have developed the expertise to uncover and develop customer needs.  This is because a lot of companies have wisely invested in training their sales teams in the fundamental skills of asking questions and active listening (as an aside if you have not made this investment, you should immediately do so).

However, even among the sales reps who are good at asking questions and uncovering needs, the problem occurs once the needs are on the table.  That’s when their questioning and listening skills all too often are abandoned and they revert into a product monologue – the pitch.

If you are a sales manager and wish to confirm this observation, keep track on your next coaching call the amount of time your sales rep is talking versus the customer once the rep starts talking about your solution.  The percentage is usually heavily weighted toward the sales rep – say 70%.

During this monologue what is happening on the customer’s side of the table?  Not much.  Customers get lost in the narrative.  They can’t make a clear connection between the product solution and their problems.  So,  they don’t understand the total value of what the sales rep is talking about – and that’s when lack of interest starts to set in and objections begin to surface.

The alternative? Ask questions and use your active listening skills even when your present your product solution in order keep the customer engaged.  Ask whether the customer understands why a particular part of the solution is so important.  As you are discussing your solution find out if the customer understands the value of what you are talking about – if not make in course corrections. 

In summary, have a dialogue about the value of your product versus a monologue about the features  engage in a business conversation vs. delivering a product pitch.

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

©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC



Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Posted in Sales Best Practices, Sales Call Execution, Sales Management Coaching | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Sales mastery 2015 – a horse of a different color

Sales Mastery 2015

Sales Mastery 2015

According to Bain & Company, B2B sales executives have seen tremendous disruption   in how customers buy in recent years – and they see no reason to think it won’t continue.

And if buyers change how they buy – salespeople need to change how they sell.

How well are companies meeting the challenge?  The folks at Bain surveyed 550 B2B sales executives.  The overarching finding was – “few companies are completely prepared for the changes taking place.”

There are a variety of perspectives from which to view this challenge.  Let’s focus on what it means relative to the skills of the sales team.  First, what did the survey have to say about sales skills?

  • Only 40% said their sales reps have a strong understanding of their company’s differentiation.
  • Almost one-third said the majority of their sales reps do not have the requisite skills.
  • Three-quarters have made significant investments in technology – but less than a third have realized marked improvements in sales effectiveness from those investments.

As they say – not so good.  If a company is going to among the winners in today’s disruptive market, they will not only need a sales team that is better at doing what they are doing, but one capable of doing something different.  This will require a new and different skill set – “a horse of a different color.

If one believes the “horse with a different color” message, then the question for those of us concerned about the field of sales training becomes: What are we going to do about that?  What do we think companies should do in addition to training in foundational sales skills to help sales reps adjust and adapt to the changes in the buying environment?

Is it about coming up with higher impact instructional designs for delivering the same content?  Is it coming up with more advanced models for framing the existing content?  Or is there an entirely new set of sales skills that require greater attention?  Or, perhaps we should just wait for a revolutionary technology to emerge from our colleagues in educational technology?

What to do is not so easy and there may be more then one right answer.  But one thing for sure – simply doing the same old, same old is not going to carry the day.  And of course re-labeling what we are doing and calling it new is even worse.

So how do you select the right colors?

To get the discussion going we suggest the focus should be on new content – a different set of skills then traditionally addressed in sales training programs.  What are the guideposts that could be used to determine what that new content might be?  Two make the short list.

  • Customer Expectations.  First, focus on how customers are buying in today’s market. Today what customers expect from salespeople is changing dramatically.  Customers want sales reps to be trusted advisors not product facilitators.  Customers need fresh ideas and creative insights for addressing a set of needs and opportunities that are both new and challenging. They expect sales reps to be knowledgeable about their industry, company, and issues at a higher level of proficiency than ever before.  They expect insights not product pitches.
  • World-of-work.  Second, tune into the changes in the background and expectations of the people that are becoming new sales reps in 2015 and how these people are likely to function in today’s world-of-work.

What does the horse look like?

So what might be some of the subject areas that could be incorporated into future sales training programs that would help sale reps adjust and adapt to the changing market demands?  Recently we came across an interesting article in HBR Review that explored the top 10 most important work skills in 2020.   We borrowed from the list those we thought would be particularly important for salespeople and then added a few of our own.  Let’s take a look:

  • Business Acumen.  Being able to integrate a business and economic perspective into customer interactions.
  • Adaptive Thinking.  Coming up with creative and innovative solutions that are not rule-based.
  • Computational Thinking.  Being able to translate vast amounts of data into useful information.
  • Virtual Collaboration.  Working effectively and efficiently as a member of a virtual group.
  • Transdisciplinary Competency.  Knowing how to integrate knowledge and concepts across disciplines and areas of expertise.
  • New Media Literacy.  Being able to leverage new media technologies for creating and delivering persuasive conversations.

But to borrow a phrase, these skills are “necessary, but not sufficient.”  A study by Millennial Branding and American Express, for example, reported that 61 percent of the managers surveyed felt that soft skills were more important in new hires than hard skills, or even technical skills.

The study goes on to report the soft skills most often cited as critical to success.  Although the report was focusing on professionals in general, we thought the work held merit for those concerned about doing something different in Sales.

  • Communication.  Communication moves beyond sending emails, texts, and Instagrams. Everyone inside companies must be able to effectively engage people face-to-face. Nowhere is this more critical than for salespeople who must engage a wide variety of customers across a varied set of situations.
  • Flexibility.  Flexibility provides some unique challenges for salespeople. Beyond simply being flexible about schedules and responsibilities, salespeople increasingly are being called on to marshal and leverage internal resources and to be part of – or manage – sales teams.  In today’s environment salespeople are required to play different roles at different times during the sales process.
  • Positivity.  Salespeople need to learn how to leverage praise from people for what they do and avoid overreacting to criticism and bad news. But, salespeople have a special challenge – not only do they have to work with colleagues, they also have to work with prospects and customers where it’s easy to say “yes” – but yes is not always the right answer. Salespeople must learn how to effectively say “no” or disagree or present a different view to prospects and customers and have the customer view that interaction positively.
  • Confidence.  Confidence is an underpinning of every salesperson’s success. Salespeople must learn to display confidence – it’s at the heart of building their credibility and credibility is a key for success. When someone is new to a company or new to sales, building confidence and credibility can be tough to do. One answer is leveraging your company’s capabilities and success stories until you develop your own tales of success.

If one believes the soft skill story, then a challenge emerges for sales managers.  The first part of the challenge is to recognize these capabilities are not inherent traits but learnable skills.  Second, it’s likely that many salespeople will not develop these soft skills on their own. As a matter of fact in some situations, time may actually degrade the skill.  For example, a salesperson could very easily lose confidence due to failures vs. learning from the failures as to what to do next time.

And finally … Overall when looking at what needs to be done, one thing that will not be different as the future unfolds is the importance of sales coaching.  If we want a “horse of a different color” sales coaching will be more important than ever.

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

©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Posted in Sales Best Practices, Sales Management Coaching, Sales Training, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Medical sales – there is no back to the future

MedTech Sales

MedTech Sales

Constant change has always characterized the business world – so looking in the rear view mirror has never been an ideal  strategy for determining future direction.

Yet, from time to time the scale and speed of the changes are so large and so fast that they can only be described as disruptive.  Today’s medical sales industry is a case in point.

To appreciate the scope of the change let’s travel back in time and stop a few years before Affordable Care Act.  At this junction in the journey let’s look around and make an assessment of what’s going in the industry – what are hospitals buying, who’s doing the buying and what are they willing to pay for it?  Now, quickly fast forward to today and make a comparative assessment.  There is little doubt that the differences observed could only be described by words like “disruptive” and “transformational.”

Selling in the medical sales space is not business as usual! Reimbursements have decreased, costs increases have slowed but continue, profits have shrunk and outcome-based payment models have become a new topic of conversation. Hospitals are adapting to the changes by viewing quality, patient satisfaction and new technology through a financial lens, judging value by looking at new metrics, involving new cost-concerned stakeholders, considering supply chain costs versus purchased price and entertaining consolidating vendors.

At a business level more and more doctors are becoming hospital employees, hospitals are merging with other hospitals and then merging again to form super regionals and not to be left out – insurance giants are looking to acquire other insurance giants.

Now, let’s leap to the other side of table and view this world through the eyes of a VP of Sales for any medical device company.  What does all this mean?  Should they just hunker down until the dust settles and then determine what to do or is every day, another day too late?  If they decide to do something, is it about doing something better or is it about doing something different?

Since there is no back to the future technology due to the shortages of DeLoreans, we sort of need to get this right the first time.  So let’ take a look at some ideas.

  • No new status quo.  The future will be characterized by constant change – that is the dust is not going to settle, at least not in the foreseeable future.  Initiatives to contain costs will continue to be center stage and mergers among all the various business players, including health care suppliers, will continue.  Superimposed on these changes will be significant technological innovations in health care delivery from do-it-yourself biotechnology, to a new generation of surgical robots, to telemedicine and remote healthcare via wearable devices.
  • New winners and losers.  In any industry when there is a period of disruptive change one of the likely consequences is the emergence of a new set of winners and losers.  This impacts all the players including hospitals, insurance companies and suppliers.  Let’s look at suppliers.

As the future unfolds today’s market-leaders are not guaranteed to be the ones that will remain at the head of the table.  To continue to occupy that seat requires a change in scope equal to the change on the buyer’s side of the table, which in this case is substantial.  Therefore to be among the new set of winners, companies will indeed need to do things differently versus just doing things better.  The trap will be doing too little; too late – unfortunately a common pitfall for some well-established companies.

On the sunny side of the street this same scenario can be an opportunity for new small companies that bring a better manufacturing capability and a more nimble operating approach to the market.

  • Can’t win by product alone. Historically, once a new medical device was launched, innovations were introduced over time that increased the cost.  And, all that was usually okay for both hospitals and suppliers: better product – higher cost.  However, due to the trend to control cost fewer hospitals are demanding the “latest and greatest.” Everyone involved is weighting healthcare options more carefully – seeking value at a lower cost.  In the new reality good may be good enough.

If you are not guaranteed a win by product alone because good is good enough, this means having a superior sales team is more important than ever.  A superior sales team now becomes defined as one that can bring value by the way they sell, as well as, by what they sell.  They have to be a competitive advantage and must be able to sell themselves and the company, as well as, the product. This is all easy to say but extremely difficult to do. Achieving this level of excellence has major implications not only for the sales function but also for sales training and marketing.

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

©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC


Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Posted in Health Care Sales Training, Medical Sales Training | Tagged , , , ,

1 Comment

Sales coaching: enough talk – it’s time to get serious

Sales Management Coaching Session

Sales Coaching

Today having a superior sales team is more important than ever.  Good is no longer good enough.  Several factors are driving this need for excellence – two stand out:

  • You can’t sustain a competitive advantage by product alone.  Because of advanced manufacturing technologies and global competition even if you have a great product, the competition is likely to come out with one that is just about as good (or sometimes better), in half the time compared to yesteryear and it’s likely to be cheaper.
  • Customer expectations have changed – they expect salespeople to know more and know it at a higher level of proficiency than ever before.  Customers expect salespeople to bring fresh insights for helping them redefine their problems and imagination for assisting them create alternative solutions.

The bottom line is a superior sales team is more important than ever and it is more difficult to achieve.  Yet, how does a company effectively, efficiently, and affordably develop and sustain a high performance sales team?  Over the years we have written a lot about one obvious initiative that companies must get right as starters – sales coaching.

So what are companies doing that are getting it right?  Let’s explore two answers to that question.  First, they are adopting a model for coaching that provides the best foundation for optimizing the chances of success and secondly, they are serious about identifying and codifying the best practices for executing that model.  Let’s start by examining two different models for sales coaching – a traditional one and one that is proving to be a more viable alternative. 

  • Traditional Model.  “I’m the expert – I’ll diagnose the deficiencies and suggest what you need to improve.  You are responsible for learning what I suggest.”
  • Alternative Model.  “I’m responsible for helping you become more aware of your performance and expand your learning choices.  You are the one responsible for improving your performance.”

The alternative model is proving to be more effective because it is based on the notion that people are more likely to want to change behavior and to learn new stuff more effectively by guided self-discovery than by dictated assessment and tutorial prescription.  In addition it also clearly places the accountability for learning where it belongs – with the sales rep not the coach.

Now, let’s assume that we are into the alternative model idea.  How do you make it happen?  Given all the competing priorities, how does a dedicated sales manager implement the model in the field?  What are the best practices for getting it right?  Let’s take a look at a starter list:

  • Determine Coaching Time Available.  Figure out the maximum time you have for coaching and stick to it.  Most coaching fails not because it doesn’t work …but because it never happens.
  • Focus.  You can’t coach everyone, on everything, all at once.  So determine priorities as to whom to coach – on what.
  • Develop a Shared Goal.  Determine with the salesperson the skills that will be the focus for the coaching.
  • Set Expectations.  Set with the salesperson their responsibilities for the coaching effort.  What should they do to prepare for each and every coaching call? 
  • Select Safe Opportunities.  Determine which calls will be coaching calls.  On some calls you need to help the rep sell –fair enough.  Select other “safer” calls where you let the rep handle the call and you observe and coach post call.
  • Provide Feedback Right Away.  Don’t postpone the feedback – do it right after the call.
  • Set a Next Step.  Agree who will do what between coaching opportunities but always do something. 

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

©2015 Sales Momentum, LLC



Technorati Tags: , ,

Posted in Sales Best Practices, Sales Management Coaching | Tagged , ,

Leave a comment

Best Small Business Blogs – 2015

If you missed the Best Small Business Blogs of 2015 (as culled by –  take a look. You’ll find the Sales Training Connection … along with our 2015 featured post: Sales Reps – How to Bring Value by Saying “No”. Take a read …

Technorati Tags: , ,

Posted in Sales Best Practices, Selling Economic Value, Selling Value | Tagged , ,

Leave a comment

Sales simulations – try one, you’ll like it

Ssales Simulation

Ssales Simulation

Historically companies have often used sales simulations as a capstone sales training program for their senior sales reps or their national account group – that is when the program is positioned as a Top Gun school.

While sales simulations certainly fit this need, thinking of sales simulations only as a training design for advanced programs is unnecessarily limiting. With state-of-the-art designs, sales simulations have become more versatile and cost effective so they now represent a viable alternative for addressing the entire spectrum of sales training needs.  Let’s review what some innovative companies are doing.

1. Some companies now are looking to sales simulations as a way to realistically combine training in sales call execution skills and sales strategy into a single sales training program.  Historically these topic areas have frequently been conducted in separate training session – one year you might do a Miller and Heiman sales strategy program and the following year SPIN Selling.  Both programs have great track records, but there are benefits to an approach where training salespeople on sales strategy and call execution skills are integrated.

First, this notion acknowledges that sales call execution and sales strategy are two intertwined activities. After all, the best sales strategy cannot succeed when poorly executed and vice versa.  Ask yourself:  How often have you delivered an excellent sales strategy program yet nothing substantial really happens?.  Reason – the ideas are never put into practice; the sales reps can’t execute them in the “real world”.

A second reason is the combined approach reflects the need to minimize time out of the field.

2. Beyond integration, sales simulations allow companies to address unique sales performance problems.  For example. let’s say you are facing the challenge of moving from selling individual products to selling an integrated solution or you are introducing a unique new product where the sales process involves new call points that have new definitions of what constitutes value.

Sales simulations allow companies to meet this challenge because they are a third answer to a classic dilemma.  In situations where the sales performance is new and unique, companies often replace their existing sales training with a “better fit” program.  The obvious downside risk to that approach is you end up replacing the existing common language with an alternative and confusion rather than improvement is the end result even thought the new program is a better fit.

Some companies employ a second option – do nothing with the hope that salespeople, on their own, will adjust their existing skill sets to the new requirements and pick up the required new skills.  The usual result is some will but the problem is many will take too long and some will never make the transition.

Sales simulations represent a third option that allows companies to help their sales teamsadjust and adapt their existing skills sets to the new buying environment, yet maintain the common sales language in which they already have invested.  This is possible because sales simulations are highly customized so they can be designed to “drag” the new real world into the classroom and because 100% of the classroom time is spent on the reps practicing and getting feedback on how to adjust and adapt their existing skill sets to the new challenges.

3. Finally, companies find sales simulations as an ideal alternative to put in place sales training programs that are “sticky.” Simply put, companies seek to decrease the amount of time it takes for sales reps to translate the principles and best practices learned in sales training programs into real performance improvement in the field.  Sales simulations are an effective answer because of their realism and relevance and because they focus on practice and feedback vs. lecture.

Highly customized sales simulations can now be designed cost effectively.  They are high impact and engaging because they drag the real world into the classroom and realism, relevance, practice and feedback are optimized. There is little doubt that guided self-discovery via customized experiential learning beats lecturing with PowerPoint decks.

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


Technorati Tags: ,

Posted in Sales Simulations | Tagged ,