In any human endeavor you find mastery, you find organizations and individuals who place a high premium on continuous training. Because they believe their performance is important, they train, rehearse, and develop their skills and their competencies on an ongoing basis.
"Under pressure, you don't rise to the occasion you sink to the level of your training. That's why we train so hard."
—Attributed to a Navy Seal
Most sales organizations treat training as a once-a-year event, checking the box that they provided their teams with sales training. These same organizations will often complain training doesn't work. While their training certainly doesn’t work, this is only true because the organization chooses an approach destined to fail. There is no real commitment to improving their sales performance. Few people would actually believe that a person might master a skill or gain a complex competency in a single day's training. Pretending this is possible indicates a lack of commitment to the outcome of training: stronger performance to improve results.
Transforming your sales results requires a commitment to continuous training and development.
On Training and Maximizing Human Potential
You and I are mostly made up of potential. Our potential lies latent until we act by unleashing new competencies.
One mistake an organization can make in hiring a person is looking at their experience without recognizing their full potential. Most salespeople haven’t yet tapped their full potential, regardless of how much experience they have. Sales organizations and salespeople who hope for better results already have everything they need in their latent human potential. This is too often ignored because people mistakenly believe technology is the key to sales productivity and better sales performance.
A lot of sales organizations already employ salespeople who could be future stars and President’s Club winners. These sales reps may languish in the middle of the pack. If you are salesperson who wants to climb the stacked ranking, there is no end of training available to you should you choose to tap into your latent potential.
On Training and Your Sales Force as a Sustainable Competitive Advantage
Business leaders are often introduced to Michael Porter’s Five Forces Analysis, a framework that first appeared in the Harvard Business Review in 1970. The five forces determine whether an industry is attractive and profitable. The first force shows up as industry rivalry. When Porter first published his framework, there were fewer competitors than there are today because the explosion of new business models based on e-commerce and the digital age hadn’t yet happened.
My formative years in sales and sales leadership were in a highly commoditized industry. Most of the time, winning a client meant displacing a competitor. I learned that winning deals came from creating more value in the sales conversation, something that resulted in win rates between 85 and 95 percent. A win rate in that range provides an extreme, sustainable competitive advantage.
Training, coaching, and other forms of development designed to improve your win rates should dominate your initiatives in 2023. You will not win all the clients you want; however, you will win all the clients that want to buy from you. Despite this fact, in most sales organizations, there is too little emphasis on sales effectiveness.
Salespeople who train every week—whether through online courses, reading books, or studying what they can find online—will improve their results. This is especially true if they recognize why sales is broken and adopt a modern sales approach, one that allows them to create greater value for their clients inside the sales conversation.
How to Think About Training Today
The way we used to train salespeople was expensive and time consuming, making it difficult to justify the investment. Better methods remove the expenses and costs of training, including the time commitments that once kept salespeople in a training session instead of in the field. Because they build on a modern approach, these methods are also more effective than check-box training.
You can provide 25 minutes of training every two weeks. There is no reason to work on more than one skill or competency at a time. In fact, keeping a tight focus on your training offers particular benefits. In training sessions, information is transferred, but that isn't enough to improve your results. The best way to structure a continuous training program is to use the 25-minute bi-weekly session to provide a strategy your sales force will practice over the next two weeks. The top reason why sales training fails is that the sales force isn't held responsible for making the behavioral changes to support it. This focused approach is designed to give salespeople time to adopt a new approach or strategy and practice it until they reach a level of mastery.
In a year, training every other week allows you to provide 26 training blocks. Those blocks allow you to train the skills and competencies your team needs to improve their results and become a competitive advantage, especially against salespeople who do not spend time mastering their craft.
While the training is important, the key to improving sales results is having sales management who can lead, help, and coach their teams. Responsibility for ensuring behavioral changes are actually implemented belongs to the sales managers.
There’s an old adage that says, “If you don't have time to meditate for an hour, meditate for two hours.” The same is true for continuous sales training.
Training Is More than More
One mistake sales leaders make is believing they need more, when they really need better. One sales manager told me he needs 800 percent of pipeline to reach his sales goals. He believed he could reach his goals by creating more opportunities. What I took from this metric is that his team had a 12 percent win rate. Instead of flooding his pipeline with an absurd number of deals, he should have trained his sales force to get their win rate closer to 40 percent. His best salespeople quit.
Continuous training is an essential part of achieving mastery in any profession or endeavor. By committing to ongoing training and development, individuals and organizations can unlock their latent potential and gain the skills and competencies that will help them to perform at a higher level.
Continuous training helps to ensure that individuals can stay up to date on the latest trends and techniques in their field and gain the confidence and experience necessary to tackle new challenges. It also allows individuals and organizations to stay ahead of the competition.
Through continuous training, organizations can create a sustainable competitive advantage and ensure that their teams are well-equipped to take on the ever-changing landscape of business and industry.