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Keeping Your Team on Top with Persistent Sales Training

On Sunday, I was reflecting on what might be a good topic for this week's sales management blog, when I realized the idea was right there in front of me. On Friday afternoon, one of my client's two new salespeople called me individually to practice making a telephone sales call and performing a sales discovery call. My client and I wanted to make sure the salespeople knew what questions to ask a prospective customer and if they could roleplay effectively. The salespeople have been going through our three-week new-hire training program, which is a prescriptive approach to ensuring new salespeople know everything from how to sell their company and their company's products/services, to how to use the copier and telephone system.

Next, on Monday morning, I led a client's sales meeting, where we discussed the concept of account planning and learned how to "cross-sell and up-sell" to increase their sales revenues. Each salesperson will create 10 Accounts Plans in the next two weeks. Tuesday, I am speaking at a sales kick-off meeting on the topic of "Changing Times Means changing Tactics."

Because of other commitments, I couldn't attend one of my other clients' sales meetings, where the all the salespeople (and management) are reading a sales-related book and discussing one chapter a week -- a kind of book-club approach to sales training. 

How are all of these actions related? They are helping drive a higher level of professionalism within their sales organizations.

  • They are focused on sales training. While Acumen Management is not a sales training firm, it is focused on ensuring our clients execute on holding a minimum of two hours of sales training a month. We have a quarterly objective that each client creates an entire quarter plan for training sales on skills, operations, and product/service knowledge. This includes dates/times, topics and what each salesperson is responsible for. If you want a copy of the outline, send me an e-mail at [email protected].

  • Roleplaying is a must. Connecting the brain and the tongue is the essence of ensuring your salespeople can communicate effectively. During the new-hire training program, the salespeople have to "sell" their company to other salespeople -- the sales manager as well as the president of the organization -- before they can hit the street.

  • New ideas are important to stay fresh. Creating a learning environment and building training programs to introduce new ideas will re-invigorate the sales atmosphere. Even when old ideas are reviewed or new concepts are introduced, the brain cells will kick in. I have heard it a hundred times: "I remember that from a long time ago. I had forgotten about that [sales skill] but I will start using that again." I like to suggest your team read at least two books a year and discuss one chapter a week. If your sales team is following the sales process it has used for the past five years, it is time to shake it up -- it will be good for them, your prospects and your revenues.

  • Increase your professionalism. This is the ultimate sales/marketing differentiator. Ensuring your sales team presents themselves in front of a prospect at a higher level than your competition will impact your revenues faster than anything else you can do. Record them making tele-sales calls, video record them selling your company/products/services, and inspect what you expect. Keep a record of how many sales calls you make each month with each of your salespeople and watch them make new calls, discovery calls and proposal calls -- even if they are top performers (you might learn something) or if they have worked for you for 10 years!

Bottom line: Develop an attitude of high performance and high expectations but increase your commitment to training.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on January 29, 2013