Sales simulations – why sales reps like them

Sales simulations

Sales simulations

Think back to the sales training programs you’ve attended. It’s likely that the great sales training programs had two characteristics in common – the same characteristics that have salespeople excited about sales simulations.

  • Realistic and Relevant. For a sales training program to be great, salespeople must have the opportunity to wrestle with the challenges they face everyday. The program cannot be academic in tone or esoteric in content.  That means salespeople must have the opportunity to develop account strategies, call on key decision makers, and handle tough objections. Today’s sales simulations deliver on that mandate better than any other type of program.
  • Practice and Feedback. Like most, sales people don’t learn by listening and watching. So, a large file of PowerPoint slides is unlikely to increase sales performance.  Learning really happens when the time devoted to practice and feedback is maximized.  Ask anyone who has attended a sales simulation lately how the program did on the practice and feedback scale. The answer is almost always – “Terrific.”

When would it be a good idea to use a sales simulation?

During the last several years companies have used sales simulations to address a wide variety of training needs ranging from training new hires in selling fundamentals to advanced programs for National Account Executives.  At this point, it is a fair to say that sales simulations represent a viable alternative for addressing the entire spectrum of sales training needs.

In addition to addressing standard sales training needs, some companies have used sales simulations to focus on challenges that sales simulations uniquely are suited to address.  For example:

  • Aligning the sales training to business goals. In the last several years the degree of change in the business environment has accelerated at an unprecedented rate.  Because of this change, expectations for sales teams have increased dramatically; yet in a substantial number of cases the sales force has not been able to adapt to the new selling demands.
This presents a classic dilemma. Do you replace your existing training with “better” programs? The downside risk is you end up replacing the existing common language with an alternative and confusion rather than improvement is the end result.  
The other option is – do nothing and hope the performance problem can be addressed by other means such as coaching or replacing staff.  This is one of those “bad if you do and worse if you don’t” dilemmas.  
Sales simulations represent a third option between shifting to a new common sales language and doing nothing.
  • Decreasing time to mastery. The mastery question can be summarized this way: How can we put in place a set of sales training programs that are “sticky” – where the principles and best practices learned in the classroom are translated into real performance improvement in the field?
 An innovative approach being tried by some companies involves using a “1+1 design” for sales training.  Day One addresses all the principles and skill models with initial skill practice exercises and Day Two is a simulation designed to apply those skills to the type of opportunities and challenges they face in their territories.

Summary. More innovation has occurred in the sales training industry in the last five years then the previous ten for good reason.  Companies have come to realize that having a superior sales team is more important than ever and that building a superior sales team is more challenging than ever.  Sales simulations are one innovation that is quickly developing an impressive track record for achieving that goal.

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©2013 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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