Sales training – strategy or execution?

Sales Training

Some sales training companies have emphasized sales account strategy and some have put the focus on sales call execution.  Most have a sales training program in both areas but have picked a lead horse.  If sales strategy is number one, their sales message will reflex the importance of that choice and likewise if it is the other way around.

If you look at this distinction from the customer perspective, it is easy to pick up on similar opinions.  Some quotable quotes from Sales VPs and Training Directors:

  • “We don’t win by having better strategy; we win though superior execution.”
  • “We don’t need new and better sales strategies to fix our performance; we just need to execute the ones we have.”
  • “We have to make sure we are not doing a good job doing the wrong things.”
  • “If we want to win over the long run we must first and foremost learn how to think and act strategically.”

What are the implications of this distinction for sales training?  Before we examine some guidelines for creating an effective training effort, it is important to get one basic assumption on the table.

Basic Assumption. There is a well-formulated body of teachable knowledge for helping sales reps do a better job crafting effective sales strategies for their accounts.  Likewise there is a body of knowledge for helping them plan and execute sales calls.  And, it is not the same stuff.

With that basic thought in mind, we have distilled the ideas from our B2B clients who are doing the best job in building sales training efforts in regard to this strategy or execution challenge.

  • It’s not one or the other. To compete in the complex B2B market, your sales team must be good at both formulating account strategies and planning and executing sales calls.  Being superior in one area does not compensate for weakness in the other.

  • Teaching the fundamentals needs to be taken seriously. The old notion does not hold water that call execution skills are simple and the account strategy stuff is advanced.  There are key fundamentals in each of the two subject areas and the fundamentals in neither are simple.  In the best sales training curriculum the importance and challenge of learning both sets of fundamentals is recognized and a separate program is devoted to each area.  The most effective placement of this training is right up-front in new hire training.
  • Advance training pays off. In most cases it pays off to put in place a sales training program to teach the application of the advanced sales skill sets and tools associated with each of these two subject areas. When in comes to advance training, the most effective and efficient instructional designs integrate the two bodies of knowledge into a single comprehensive program.  If the sales training program is well designed and customized, a two-day format will accomplish the desired learning objectives. Sales simulations are particularly effective for teaching these advanced skill sets.

Summary. In today’s competitive market having a superior sales team is essential.  There is a lot to mastery.  In addition to all the product and technical knowledge, there are at two core bodies of sales knowledge that the account executives must master – account strategy and sales call execution skills.  In time past some companies have addressed one of these areas but not the other – that is not longer viable.  As a matter of excellence market leaders implement multiple training efforts in these two areas to make sure their sales teams are up to speed.

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©2012 Sales Horizons, LLC

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About Janet Spirer

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. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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