Whether a salesperson is new to the company or a seasoned high performer, the pressure is on in today’s world: Up your game, add more value, strengthen customer relationships and meet aggressive sales targets—fast.
The question is, are sales training efforts keeping up?
Let’s start with your onboarding process. In the past, it’s possible that you could have gotten away with putting new salespeople through an onboarding process over the first few weeks or months, and maybe a sales training course or two, and that would be it. Today, with customer expectations, industry disruption and competitive pressures continually transforming markets and opportunities, sales leaders need to reevaluate what an effective approach to sales onboarding looks like. In fact, research suggests that companies ought to be thinking about onboarding as a year-long process if they want to both retain new employees and increase profitability.
But it’s not just an issue of quantity. There’s also the question of what that onboarding and training time is being used for.
Digital transformation is introducing a vast array of sales technology systems and tools into the sales process, from the CRM to quoting software to AI applications that provide cues during calls and everything in between. Sales organizations are investing heavily in these digital tools, and they expect salespeople to use them. As a result, a significant amount (maybe too much…) of onboarding and ongoing learning time is being spent on technology training and compliance.
Sales organizations also typically devote a fair share of onboarding time to knowledge-building around the company’s products, services and solutions. Between the technology training and the product training, there’s often not a lot of time left over for the fundamentals- the human element of selling- that can often make or break the ability to meet and exceed customer expectations.
There’s no doubt that we need salespeople to leverage the technology and tools. And they have to be experts in what the company offers. But as the business and sales environments grow more complex, the interpersonal human aspects of selling are only going to become more important to a salesperson’s success in the role.
Let’s take a look at two areas where you can recalibrate your approach to get more impact from your efforts and better sales performance as a result.
In our study of 200+ sales organizations, 84% of respondents told us that “Achievement Drive” contributes as much or more to a salesperson’s performance as sales skills or specific product knowledge. Our study also found that the companies that effectively emphasize achievement drive in their sales training and development efforts outperform the rest of the field by 20%.
Most organizations don’t address this critical aspect of sales success in their training because there’s a common misconception that achievement drive can’t be developed—that people either have it or they don’t. While it’s true that things like achievement drive, mindset and beliefs all come from within, our study emphatically shows that these are things that can and should be developed and nurtured. In fact, we found that successful sales organizations create the conditions for people to unleash their inner motivation so that they can consistently reach new levels of performance.
Compared to training on technology and product knowledge, it’s a lot harder to get at attitudes, achievement drive and the so-called “soft” areas, like emotional intelligence, collaboration, communication and other healthy social skills. But our research shows that these are the very factors that can be the turbocharger for success.
The Value of a Great Coach
In a world where the half-life of a learned skill is 5 years, continuous learning is the only option for remaining successful and consistently delivering results, and the best salespeople know this. In a Gartner study, 66% of salespeople said that they expect most learning and development to occur outside the classroom.
The good news is, that means you don’t have to get everything done in one training session or at the annual sales meeting. It also means you need a well-conceived strategy for continuous learning and development that includes virtual and asynchronous learning tools for reinforcement and to sustain new behaviors. An essential component of that strategy is sales managers who are skilled at and committed to regular coaching.
It’s not uncommon for digital natives to seek out learning on their own wherever they can find it. But they can get more value out of self-directed learning if they have a coach to guide them in the right direction, help them discover the opportunities and/or potential barriers they may not see in themselves, and keep their energy and enthusiasm strong, even when setbacks happen.
High performers have strong goal clarity about what they want for the future, and they’re supported by coaches who help them stay accountable to themselves, not just once a year during a formal review but all year long. So while “train early, train often” may be the mantra, in many ways, ongoing coaching is the true catalyst.