To Sales Reps and Their First-Line Managers:
You have the right to be:
- Assessed for your individual strengths and weaknesses,
- Educated and trained in areas where you need improvement in ways you learn most effectively and efficiently,
- Provided with the tools and support to sell,
- Sent back into the field with improved selling capabilities, no matter how much experience you have, and
- Be coached and provided with ongoing reinforcement to sustain that improvement.
A colleague of mine is a partner in an outsourced telesales firm. I know him from his past life as a sales rep. He worked for some big name technology companies and was consistently the top performer. He is a sales heavy-hitter if there ever was one. He earned a million or so a year for many years.
We discussed sales training. He said, "I can't tell you how many sales training programs I've sat through. The programs were too long, didn't provide me with value. They were an incredible waste of time." Here is what really got me. "I was offended that management would think so little of me to force me to sit through that."
Did my colleague need training when he was a rep? Sure. He admits he did. But the training he needed had to help him do one thing-sell more. The training he received missed the mark, again and again.
Here are some of sales training abuses from the sales rep's perspective:
- Being trained by someone who never sold.
- Being trained by someone who doesn't know anything about how their buyers buy.
- Being trained by someone who clearly doesn't understand how tough their competitors are.
- Being trained by someone who is more focused on entertaining them than helping them get their job done (so the trainer gets good marks on the post-program evaluation).
- Being trained by someone who tells them what to do, but not how to do it.
- Being forced to sit in a training class where 80% of what they learn is irrelevant to them.
- Being trained on a skill or a process only to find out after the program that there are no tools, no marketing support, and management doesn't know what the reps are talking about.
- Coming out of a class confused about what to do next.
- Not having any post-program support from management or the training provider.
Why is this going on?
Here are some possible explanations:
- Sales management made an uninformed, gut-feel decision on a sales trainer without any regard to whether that trainer would actually help the sales team sell more effectively over an extended period of time.
- Training requirements were not formally defined. In other words, the specific selling challenges the reps face were never assessed, quantified, or prioritized.
- There was no foundation methodology and related processes to be trained on, so the training had no foundation. It was just training on a bunch of unrelated skills. Let's learn golf today, archery tomorrow, football the next day-with no general conditioning, like strength building, stretching, or aerobics.
- The training program content was not relevant to your specific job. It may have come off-the-shelf, or have been designed for customers in another industry.
- There was inadequate or no formal instructional design. Whether delivered live or online, the content may have been relevant, but it was not delivered to you in a way that would promote effective learning.
- Your company thinks of sales training as a necessary but evil expense-nothing more than a box to check.
What should you, as a sales rep, or first-line sales manager, do?
If you saw the movie Network, you'll remember the phrase, "I'm sick and tired of this and I'm not going to take it anymore." Even I'll admit that getting your colleagues together and storming into your Sales VP's or CEOs office is a bit extreme. But there are things you can do:
- Understand that pragmatic sales processes and the training that supports their proper use is good for you, not bad. Keep an open mind. Research proves that when done right, sales training puts money in your pocket.
- Understand that you were hired because you had a set of skills and traits that met the requirements for the job, but that professionals (think pilots, doctors, realtors, teachers, accountants, lawyers) need continuous education. If you don't think you do, you're probably wrong.
- Provide management with a list of areas where you need training. Strongly request that management take the time and effort to find the right vendor to provide that training. It may not be one of the well-known providers. There are literally hundreds of effective sales training providers out there. There are also hundreds who will make matters considerably worse.
- Request that a bit more work go into providing training targeted to different groups within sales. Inside sales should have a program quite different from outside sales.
- Suggest that you and perhaps another rep or two be part of a steering committee to get this critical sales success factor right, once and for all.
- Provide this post to your sales manager or appropriate executive.
Let me know if the sales training your company is providing helping you sell more.
Note: ESR is delivering a webinar for sales training providers only on Wednesday, June 15. Here is more information and registration.