Developing Sales Reps While They Sell
- Most business-to-business organizations do not provide ongoing sales rep development outside of initiative-based training
- Sales enablement professionals highlight a lack of core selling skills as inhibitors to growth
- Integrating ongoing rep training and coaching efforts into daily selling activity increases rep competency and results
People love to talk about work-life balance – however, I think many of us secretly feel that balance never really happens! Today, we allow life to become more integrated and no longer compartmentalize our time, networks or energy. We can take our work with us via smartphones wherever we go, and through that same device, take our life with us to work.
In the same way, sales rep development (training, coaching, tools) and sales rep selling activities should be integrated. Training efforts must go with sales reps when they are in the process of selling. and selling details must come to sellers when they are training. Yes, initial training and certification is critical before reps are put in front of a customer, but sales steps can be feathered into the training to make it more practical. Likewise, ongoing rep development and training should be blended into the sales effort once reps are certified to sell. Here are some ideas on how to make this happen:
- Training and sales process alignment. Create training programs that are modular and similar to the sales process of the seller. For example, instead of training on a subject dedicated to a specific product, weave product information into each stage of the selling cycle training. Early training modules first focus on the customer needs that company solutions will solve, and then on the discovery and qualification questions to determine the customer’s details. Additional modules focus on which solutions will solve which needs. Later modules train on the value the solution delivers and the details on how the solution delivers that value.
- Create real-world practice scenarios. When building training modules, enable reps to use their own opportunity or prospect information to practice. For example, role-play cold calls with sales reps using prospect information from their territory.
- Bring selling skills into every training module. When training reps on competitive information, have reps practice competitive displacement conversations or objection handling techniques.
- Technology integration. Integration of sales tools and technologies – e.g. sales force automation (SFA), prospecting, coaching, training, sales asset management (SAM), communication and presentation tools, email, phone, webcasting software – enable sales to work from one, not many, systems with cut-throughs to other systems if necessary. But ideally there is complete two-way integration of information and activities. For example, when a rep is composing an email to a buyer, the integration with the SFA system identifies the sales stage of the buyer and his or her area of interest. Using this information, the SAM system suggests content to send to the buyer. Finally, the email and its content are noted in the SFA system under that buyer and opportunity.
- Mapping and tagging. Map micro-learning modules and sales assets to the sales stage and tag based on selling characteristics (e.g. buyer, industry, geography, product, selling activity). For example, a negotiations module is mapped to buyers who are purchasing and the sales stage is “proposal.”
- Seller activity-driven delivery. Track seller activity and based on KPIs, generate training modules or coaching requests to overcome an issue. For example, an opportunity that is in a later sales stage but where customer engagement has been low, would result in a conversation with the sales manager on selling strategy. Another example is of a seller who is discounting deals heavily – this could generate a negotiation training module. Train managers on how to use opportunity and funnel dashboards to look for skills development and coaching opportunities and then provide the tools to coaches to enable them to execute.
Integrating rep development efforts with selling activities drives better retention, utilization and confidence in the knowledge, skills and expertise that reps need to sell effectively. Improved rep competency translates to improvement in rep performance. What is one thing can you do to drive rep development into the daily selling activity of your sales reps?