In todays highly competitive selling environment, there is less room for apprenticeship, as organisations need to see a swift return on their investment.
Therefore, Sales Directors need to allow sufficient time to enable their investment in training and development to pay off. Introducing ongoing reinforcement programmes will help accelerate the benefits gained from the training and development investment.
A Variety of Development Solutions:
Skills development can take many forms, including:
* Formal and informal mentoring
* Sales coaching by managers or professional consultants
* Classroom training,
* Distance or e-learning,
In mentoring, salespeople choose a mentor (usually a high-performer or more experienced person within the organisation who can serve as a model and/or guide) and consult that person periodically for advice on a range of issues from strategy for handling a particular sales situation to advice on long-term career development. Since the best way to learn something well is to teach it to others, mentoring programmes offer organisations a win-win proposition: in addition to enhancing the skills and performance of the salespeople, they help mentors develop their sales skills while improving their coaching and management skills as well.
Today, more and more organisations are waking up to the value of building a strong coaching culture. Analogies to athletic coaching are common but especially apt. Training alone does not guarantee that a great athlete will deliver a gold medal-winning performance. This can only come from continuous daily support and guidance from an expert coach. Equally, top sales professionals need expert coaching support from their managers to stay at the top of their game. Whether coaching is delivered face-to-face, on the telephone, or via e-mail, those organisations that have a strong coaching culture attract and retain the best salespeople.
The challenge for Sales Directors is to provide the support that sales managers all of whom are hard-pressed for time need in order to provide the kind of support their salespeople must have. Successful Sales Directors have found a range of supporting tools, resources and kits that save managers time and enhance the impact of their coaching time.
Whatever coaching framework is chosen by an organisation, it must be easy to use, flexible so that the coaching sessions are tailored to the needs of their team, participative so all of the salespeople are engaged and, above all, fun. The fun factor encourages salespeople to become hooked on their own continued development.
In many companies, very little systematic thought is given to the design of a sales training programme. Very often one of the following fallacious schools of thought is encountered.
* Salespeople Are Born Not Made- therefore the selection process is the only step to getting the right man. Having been chosen, the new recruit is then either successful or not, without any help from the company. Research does not bear out this theory.
* Must Know The Product From The Ground Up – all training is therefore devoted to lengthy product training, working on the shop floor, progressing paperwork, etc. Whilst product knowledge is very necessary, it is questionable whether this is the right way to learn it or whether this is sufficient on its own.
* Watch Me Son – the new Salesperson is sent out with an old hand to watch (and thus learn) the experienced persons techniques. Thus the new salesperson may not only pick up bad habits from the experienced person (who usually is not as trained as a trainer), but also mere observation will not teach.
If a successful training programme is to be developed, it must be planned with careful thought given to the following questions:
* What are the key objectives?
* What should be taught?
* Where should it be taught?
* By whom? And most critical
For Example: Typical Objectives Of A Training Programme:
* Increased sales
* Reduced individual selling costs
* Increased individual earnings
* Reduced personnel turnover
* Reduced need for supervision
* Improved employee morale
* Stronger customer relationships
Therefore, the objectives have to be formulated in these terms, i.e. turning the companys investment in personnel into an asset producing an increased return on that investment.
Training is an essential part of the profession of selling, as it is in any other profession.
Training, particularly sales training is a lengthy and complex process if true learning is to take place (i.e. if behaviour is to be modified) Too often, insufficient thought is given to what is to be achieved, by whom and how. The whole situation firstly needs careful analysis with regard paid to the limitations of training, as well as to its value. Then the programme can be formulated and, very important, evaluated against specific objectives. Only in this way can we be sure that the training is in fact achieving positive results.
Finally, formal training can also have a huge influence on skills development, especially if it is implemented with two additional ingredients:
* The training must be based on what the salespeople need and should be tailored to address diagnosed performance gaps. Using a diagnostic approach a formal sales team skills audit, saves an organisation money and time because there is nothing to be gained from teaching people something that they are already doing well or, conversely, that they dont need to do in the first place. A well-targeted programme is far more likely to engage participants full interest because theyll see its immediate relevance to their daily results.
* Any training programme will be more effective when the skills that participants learn are reinforced on a regular and continual basis. For maximum impact, every level of management must reinforce training. Such reinforcement can come in many forms, but the best way is for the sales manager to serve as a model of excellence who provides an ongoing demonstration of required skills so salespeople begin to live and breathe them.
Copyright 2006 Jonathan Farrington. All rights reserved