Yesterday the CEO of a mid-size financial services company complained that no matter how carefully they designed their sales process and the accompanying training, they have been unsuccessful in establishing a consistent, long-term implementation of the process throughout the company.
Yesterday certainly wasn't the first time I've heard this lament-and it certainly won't be the last.
There are a number of possible reasons for sales training failure from treating sales training as an event instead of an ongoing behavior change process, to salespeople who view attending sales training sessions as torture, to the company's failure to provide follow-up coaching for the sales team. All of these are real issues that can negate any potential success you might experience from your investment in sales training.
But there is another cause of training failure that isn't addressed as often but can be more destructive to your company's training efforts than any other single factor-your sales managers.
Are your sales managers reassuring their charges that, "yes, you have to go to the training, but don't worry; just go and when you get back sell the way you've always sold?" Maybe they don't believe in the training you're giving and are intentionally training their team in different processes and tactics?
If you fail to get full buy-in from your sales management team to the specific training you are presenting, you will not have comprehensive and universal implementation of the training.
Your frontline sales managers who work with their team members have more influence on how your salespeople sell than anyone else-more than senior executives, more than middle sales management, more than the training department, more than HR, more than the expensive sales trainers you hire.
If they don't believe, the salespeople won't believe. If they don't reinforce the messages, the strategies, and the tactics, those occasional training sessions will be nothing more than expensive exercises in futility.
How do you get all of your sales managers on the same page?
Before you ever put a salesperson in a training workshop or seminar, each and every manager must have gone through the management version of the training. Each manager must understand what the company's comprehensive, unified sales process is and how the particular training that is scheduled fits in the big picture; what short and long-term results are to be expected; what their job is in reinforcing and coaching the training; and what criteria will be used to determine the success or failure of the training.
Most of all, each manager must believe in the process and strategy. .
Whether the training is presented by an in-house trainer or by a professional trainer brought in from outside, each segment of training should consist of a management segment designed to gain manager buy-in and to give them the tools and knowledge they will need to coach sellers once they are back at the office and a segment for salespeople that is attended by their managers.
And although the initial cost of training in terms of both time and money will increase, the long-term result will be reduced waste of training dollars and increased sales. That wished for unified sales process will begin to become a reality because the biggest determent to success has been turned into the biggest promoter of success.