The business acumen challenge for new sales reps

Business acumen challenge for new hires

Many companies offer training programs for new sales reps that focus on products with some competitive information and sales skills added.  Often, they are accompanied by various levels of testing – spanning the rigorous scale from minimal to washing new hires out of the program.  

However, as Forester reports, few sales reps have the benefit of robust new hire sales rep training programs that teach them how to sell.  

  • The average number of days for new hire training in most organizations ranges from 5 to 15 days, so most sales reps learn how to sell while on the job.
  • Most content presented is company-centric, not focusing on the buyer, so sales reps often don’t learn about business drivers and market forces affecting their customers in new hire training. This makes it difficult to get a great jump start when they try to sell into accounts in their assigned territories.

As we’ve said in prior posts, successful sales reps must have the right conversations with the right people at the right time. But not developing business acumen about customers in new hire sales training leaves new sales reps to obtain that information themselves – an inefficient process as well as one that also leaves sales reps to develop their own understanding of the value of their solutions. When they do it on their own the results are usually partially incomplete or even incorrect.  

A few companies have taken the challenge and are starting new reps off “right” by designing new hire sales training programs that move beyond product, sales skills, and competitive knowledge to incorporate business acumen (e.g., why customers buy, market drivers, potential players in the buying process).  We think this is the future – and hope more companies take this challenge.  

Check out other posts on sales effectiveness at the Sales Training Connection. 

©2011 Sales Horizons,™ LLC

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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