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.
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