How to improve your sales training programs – look to hybrids

Sales training

Plucots? Peacharine? Plueberry? In search for the perfect fruit, breeders are creating new hybrids. These hybrids seek to be juicier, sweeter, and easier to eat. As I walk through the grocery store and notice these new hybrids, it reminded me that a corollary exists for sales training.

Just as people buy fruits they’re familiar with, companies have historically brought sales training around easily identified skills like: sales strategy, call execution, and negotiation.  Why?  Well first, that is how training vendors have organized their sales training offerings.  Second, decision-makers are familiar with these topic programs – they’ve been around a long time and many decision-makers have been through them.

However, just as our fruit breeding friends have become more innovative so is the case with sales training companies.  The sales training equivalent of a Peacharine has now been developed, tested, and the results look very promising.

Second, if you are a major company in the B2B market you have already done the “topic” programs.  Doing another one or replacing one with another is unlikely to move the needle on sales effectiveness.  As a matter of fact the replacement approach is likely to lead to a degrading of results because the pluses of having a common language will be lost.

Programs that focus only on one topic are not optimized to help a sales team meet a company’s strategic initiatives. To achieve a strategic initiative, effective sales training needs to be organized around achieving the strategic initiative – incorporating whatever skill sets and bodies of knowledge required to drive the initiative.  In other words – a sales training hybrid.

Today sales people must possess a new integrated skill set to get the job done successfully. They won’t develop this integrated skill set by attending more sales training programs – each containing a piece of the puzzle and leaving it up to sales people to “connect the dots”.  Although some will, many won’t.

For those of us in sales training meeting this challenge requires the following:

  • Working with the sales leadership to understand the nature and scope of the company’s strategic initiatives.
  • Identifying the new skill sets needed to drive the initiative and crafting them into learnable chunks.
  • Recognizing that programs need to be customized to a greater degree than in times past.
  • Crafting hybrid programs that utilize state-of-the-art learning designs that help sales reps learn the skill sets and connect the dots.

While the plums and cherries individually are quite tasty, there is a place for the Plueberry.  The Peacharine won’t move peaches and nectarines off green grocers shelves. And plums and apricots will still be desired, along with Pluots.

Well, the same is true with sales training.  There is still a need for topic programs to master the sales essentials like how to plan and execute a call.  But, there is also an emerging need to take the next step – hybrids are a part of that next step journey.  

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©2011 Sales Horizons, LLC

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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3 Responses to How to improve your sales training programs – look to hybrids

  1. This is a good post! I’m always looking for new articles on how to improve our sales training, thanks for sharing!

  2. Great blog post. Sometimes the most important part about getting your foot in the door is talking about subject areas they are familiar with.

    • Richard Ruff says:

      Thanks for the comment. We find your comment ever so true. If you want to get in the door, you better be prepared to talk about what the other guy is interested in rather then just doing a good job talking about what you want to talk about. And, given the transformation shifts that have occurred in the last couple of years – what they are intertested in is not the same old stuff.


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