Every sales manager or director knows the importance of training and following up with their team in order to encourage growth and continue improvement.
Whether experienced or not, all sales reps can benefit from periodic coaching and feedback. While the type of training can certainly depend on each individuals level of experience, as products, customers, and technology changes, so too must the sales process adapt.
Sales Coaching Tips: What to Do
The experience needed to make a great manager, doesn’t always coincide with great coaching skills. A great coach has to understand the methods, but also understand the people.
- Begin with average performers, or those new to sales.Average performers don’t present the same challenges as either under-performers or high achievers, so they offer a good opportunity to practice coaching skills with CRM. New representatives offer an opportunity to mold a fresh mind and teach them great techniques using Customer Relationship Management.
- Ask salespeople to assess their own performance.When it comes to coaching, questions are essential. Most salespeople know what their strong and weak points are; let them tell you. This process ensures critical buy-in and allows you to build on their self-appraisal.
- Don’t pile on many areas for improvement.Resist the temptation to recite a litany of ills and ineffective behaviors. Pick a single need with the greatest potential for payoff, the other smaller challenges can be addressed later.
- End sessions with an action plan, including provisions for follow up and CRM.Without this step, behavior change will be temporary at best. If you are serious about helping people develop their skills and use CRM, coaching needs to be a continuous loop, not a series of random, unconnected events.
What to Avoid: Why Sales Training Sometimes Fails
Most organizations do invest in some form of sales training. But unfortunately, a lot of that training is wasted by focusing on the wrong areas. In sales training, as in many other things, it is just as important to understand what not to do.
1. Valuing drive over technique and process
Don’t get us wrong, motivation is great and has an important place in sales. However, you have to establish technique and process in order to be truly successful. Harness the power of motivation once the sales process and adequate methodology has been established and perfected. Otherwise, you’ll have passionate, motivated sales reps chasing after the wrong sale.
2. No reinforcement
Without systematic, ongoing continuation of learning and a reinforcement of what’s been taught, people usually end up forgetting what they’ve already learned. For this reason, reinforcement within sales training is crucial to its success. Don’t set up day-long sales training initiatives. Instead, break them out over a series of weeks or months, and keep them relatively short. That way, sales reps are more likely to stay focused and actually retain what they’re learning.
3. Over-focusing on technology
Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a solution that we obviously highly recommend businesses utilize to enhance their sales capabilities. With that said, salespeople need to still have the skills necessary to successfully sell. Obviously train your employees on how to best utilize CRM, but don’t limit your training to technology.
4. Aloof sales management
We’ve written extensively about the need for a highly-effective sales manager, and that’s no different when it comes to sales training. Management needs to be actively-involved in the training process, and should be well-versed in sales coaching and training.
5. Inadequate training content
Sales training that worked 10 years ago probably isn’t going to be as effective today. While there’s a lot of tried and true methods that haven’t changed much, there’s a lot that has, especially as buyer’s motivations have altered over time. In addition, younger sales reps such as Millennials aren’t interested in sitting around all day. They’ll likely want to have training on their own terms, and in ways that are easily accessible to them (mobile, video, etc.).
6. Failure to address individuals’ attributes
One of the biggest mistakes a sales manager can make is assuming that everyone on the sales team is “equal” in terms of their talents, skill sets, and attributes. While in general it can be assumed that sales reps have a lot of the same attributes, this isn’t always the case. Some reps may be better suited for different types of selling, so it’s important during training to develop these specialties.
7. Misunderstood sales process/methodology
As we’ve discussed previously, the sales process and methodology of a business must be understood by everyone involved in sales (and marketing as well). Without it, there’s really no point in trying to train your reps, as they won’t be able to see where mistakes are being made or where opportunities may be hidden. Bring everyone into the process immediately, and ensure that nobody’s left out of the big picture.
8. Lack of measurement
Along with reinforcement, sales training needs have some form of measurement. Whether you’re measuring the productivity of reps through CRM or another tool, it’s imperative that you know who’s learning and growing and who continues to struggle.
There is no perfect rule to follow for sales managers, and to a certain extent, personality can play a big role in developing a sales representative. But a sales manager should be able to get the most out of their reps and help each rep develop into the best sales person they can be.