Buying sales training – today vs. yesterday

Sales Training

Sales Training

In the last ten years the world of sales has changed significantly.  Competition is keener – products are more complex – market changes are more rapid. As a result, a sales person has to know more and know it at a higher level of competency than ever before.  And, if one is “keeping one’s ear to the ground” the rumblings of more changes can clearly be heard.

One of the consequences of these changes is a new set of demands on those that are responsible for buying sales training.  Standard questions like: What are our priority needs? What should we buy?  And how much should we pay for it? – all have different answers today vs. yesterday.

What are our high priority needs? Historically buyers exclusively brought sales skills training around identified topics like: sales strategy, call execution, and negotiation.  Why?

First and foremost, Training Directors were responding to the need to address specific skill sets that were identified as deficient. Secondarily, that is how sales training vendors organized their sales training offerings. Today, however, Training Directors are getting a new type of request.

In today’s world, VPs of Sales are asking for sales training programs that can help their sales team to drive the company’s strategic sales initiatives – for example, how does a company move from selling individual products to selling an integrated solution.? This requires a different type of program.

While there is still a need for topic programs to master the sales essentials like how to plan and execute a call.  An emerging answer to the “priority need” question is – sales training is needed to help companies achieve theirs strategic sales initiatives. The good news is such programs have been developed and the results look promising.

What to buy? If one were to time travel back 20 years, there were half dozen plus sales training companies on the landscape.  In fact, they were the companies that started modern-day sales training.

Fast forward to the present – the landscape has changed dramatically.  Today, someone wanting to buy sales training could easily spend a morning on the web reviewing options.  So, one difference is simply the number of viable training vendor options available.

A second difference is around instructional designs.  In the past all the programs were strikingly similar in design – PowerPoint driven with customized cases, role plays, and exercises.  Today more versions of that type of program are available but more importantly new instructional designs have been introduced – ranging from e-learning programs to sales simulations to custom programs designed to address specific strategic objectives.

How much should we pay for it? Sales leaders know the contribution a world-class sales force can make to the bottom line.  And, they recognize effective sales training is a significant piece of the puzzle for achieving that goal. The problem is a gap has developed between what is needed and what is affordable.

Historically the classic approach for purchasing sales training has been a “per head” fee model.  A company purchased the training and, although there are other costs such as design and instruction, the largest cost factor related to how many people attended the program. The more people … the more money.   Most importantly the per-head fee obligation was forever.

Many companies can no longer afford this arrangement.  The demand for sales training is too great; and money is too limited. One innovative option that has emerged for addressing this dilemma is moving from a “per head” model to a license-to-use.With this approach, companies do not pay their training partner year after year for every sales person attending the program. Rather, they pay a one-time license fee that includes all the materials necessary to customize and deliver the program to their sales force. Significant savings are achieved immediately and grow as time progresses.

Today the need for sales training is greater than ever – the good news is sales training is greater than ever.

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©2011 Sales Horizons, LLC

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About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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