Sales performance improvement is a program of sales training and self development courses to accelerate revenue growth within a company. Sales performance improvement initiatives deliver the best results when sales management and leadership take a partnership approach where ideas and inputs are solicited from the salespeople, and then used in the various courses or programs.
This support approach gives the sales teams the confidence and ownership to improve the sales performance goals. Before setting any sales performance improvement goals, sales leadership has to acknowledge that it is a process not an event, it is a continuous improvement process NOT a single sales training event.
With longer sales cycles, smaller budgets, multiple decision makers and more educated buyers, every business who is striving to achieve sales growth will want to improve sales effectiveness and efficiency through process,tools and technology.
The first step is to understand that sustainable sales performance improvement is a change management project which can lead to resistance and uncertainty, especially if seen as interfering with the current sales model. So it needs to be resourced and planned properly.
The next step is to review existing sales performance improvement assets such as sales training materials, courses, videos, sales playbooks, tools and competency guidelines, as they all play a key role in driving improvement. A business may not have any or all of this content and some or all of the content may not be available in digital formats.
The first real decision in creating a sales performance improvement plan may be to choose between (1) content that is ready (but doesn’t meet the current needs) and use it anyway OR (2) invest in refreshing, upgrading and transforming the content and templates etc for digital access. A point to note is that research shows that salespeople's learning habits and preferences are changing. They they want shorter, more engaging learning content, for example sales training videos or sales training courses that can be accessed online as needed or accessed in their down time.
Document Areas for Sales Performance Improvement
Sales leadership in tandem with the sales teams views need to create a baseline improvement expectation across ALL steps in the sales process for every sales team member. Then the sales managers or sales trainers needs to document what areas have been identified that require improvement for (a) the steps in the sales process and (b) for each salesperson. These in turn would be discussed with each individual as part of the overall sales training and development plan.
It is important to remember that when documenting and creating a paper trail for each sales performance improvement area is to ensure that all the information gathered is entirely objective, fact based, and specific. The trainer, coach or manager should avoid generalities and provide detailed examples to support each area that is to be addressed. Once the sales performance improvement areas have been communicated to all stakeholders, a number of templates will now need to be created. These typically include what was expected in the agreed sales performance plan and what was actually delivered. Other templates or documents, maybe as part of the companies sales playbook could include action plans, reviews and consequences of veering outside the agreed process's in the plan.
Sales Performance Should Match Salespeople's Goals
Sales performance improvement needs to be aligned to each individual salesperson and their goals from their action plan should be personalized. Within the overall plan, align goals that focus on areas of self-development and personal improvement, individual to each salesperson. To ensure ownership by the sales team for the plan, within the sales training section of the sales performance improvement plan, give each salesperson the opportunity to enhance areas where they are already competent and improve areas where they agree they have a skills deficit.
To migrate any perceived disruption or risk, a company can start by introducing a smaller sales performance improvement plan with lower goals. An example would be a goal to improve a salespersons sales habit loop such as doing 10 minutes research work ( the research work output should be documented) prior to making a sales call. Another goal example is for a salesperson during quiet time to engage in social/digital selling to connect with existing customers or prospects in the pipeline (again, goals need to be set). Take note that rolling out a new sales improvement plan with goals is not enough, the salespeople have to understand that there be also be consequences such as reviews and evaluations.
Time stops for no one and in a rapidly changing sales environment if there ever was a time to take action to improve sales performance, it's now. Sales leadership, management and trainers need to plan for the future, the future sales model, the future sales strategy, the customers buying journey, the role salespeople will be expected to execute against and how the business plans to develop their salespeople so everyone has a mandate to doing things better.
Future looking leaders never let the pursuit of profit get in their way of progress. Much like any change management process, the sales performance improvement plan will face obstacles and encounter issues. Sales leaders need to focus on how they envision their sales engine performance and sales growth in one to three years time. This includes working with the sales training and development resources to put some well thought out initiatives into play ASAP, as they can often just comply with current objectives. However, they also need to know that management supports them and communicate that it’s not just OK but VITAL that the business adopts new ways of getting salespeople to learn, develop and grow, so sales performance improvement will be a constant not just an event.
Sales training is about giving salespeople the skills and tools to be successful. Effective sales training and coaching will cover topics such as: Core selling skills, communication, mindset, motivation, reinforcement, retention and implementation.
These sales training tips have been formulated to deliver actual, real-life results to help salespeople acquire the the selling skills without the jargon that often surrounds sales training.
Sales Training Insights
Research has shown it can take 10 months or more for a new salesperson to be fully productive. It may surprise you but 55% of salespeople lack basic sales skills and nearly 60% of buyers say the salespeople are unable to answer their questions effectively. The reality is that lack of sales training hurts companies. When sales people lack training or not briefed properly on the sales playbook, process or how to use the various sales tools effectively, then companies can spend a lot of time, energy and resources with zero impact on sales results. The flipside is that a strong commitment to ongoing sales training whether thats online, in class, seminars, workshops etc. will give any sales team a competitive advantage.
"Companies where salespeople can implement the correct sales methodology and get consistent coaching see over 80% target achievement".
Sales Training Motivation
To start, the best sales training will improve the performance of an individual salesperson on average by 20%. Another sales training statistic is that 65% of salespeople say the quality of training and learning positively influences their engagement with customers or prospects.
So, well planned, content rich sales training courses supported by a culture of learning will cultivate salespeople that are willing, eager and ready to use the knowledge given to them in their daily sales activities.
Sales Training Must Reinforce The Sales Strategy
How often have we heard buzz words like "sales enablement" or "sales transformation" rolled out as a core strategic initiative. There is a sudden surge of energy and activity from sales management around training, product positioning, white papers, sales tools and collateral to help the sales teams. In fact the entire company can be roped into playing their part in supporting the new re-energized sales effort.
Stop. This type of top down directed initiative can quickly end up in costly and wasteful effort around sales training that only confuses the sales people and even customers.
A key role in sales management is to ensure that all sales training and the sales training process reflects the reality of today's markets and the buyer’s journey. Every sales training investment should be about moving the dial on sales performance. This is what salespeople need to ensure they can engage successfully with customers or buyers in today’s social media and internet influenced world.
The goal of any sales training is to help salespeople sell more and sell more often - profitable. To drive up sales results and drive down the sales cycle the sales habits may need to change, which does require effort and constant attention. However when the sales team is successful in increasing the top line revenue or PROFITS, then the rewards are worth the effort.
"65% of buyers "almost always" or "most of the time" chooses a supplier who will work with them to extract value from a vision they have."
"80% of buyers will spend more money with companies whose salespeople understand their business".
Sales Training Has A Vital Role
Sales training is not an add-on or something to turn to get the going gets tough or mainly focused on getting new salespeople up to speed. To focus the mind, consider this "85% of buyers now find meetings with a salesperson from a potential new supplier ineffective!"
However, the benefits of effective sales training can be reflected in this statistic "56% of buyers say that companies, who understand their business and are focused on helping solve identified problems, are more strategic."
The goal is for sales trainers and coaches to help the sales teams change their behaviour to improve sales performance and in so be able to communicate to customers how they can create a path to value. Excellent sales training coupled with sales tools (research, sales playbook, customer insights, big data) can be the cornerstone for companies to hit and exceed the sales targets and fulfilling the buyer's needs.
SALES TRAINING TIP 1 - Constant Reinforcement
Too often the vast majority of sales training is delivered as a one time event. This could be new sales hire on boarding or else maybe at the annual sales kickoff. Then the salespeople go back to their sales roles and focused on generating revenue, meeting or exceeding sales targets.
The impact on sales performance for this type of sales training programs speak for themselves as research shows 84% of sales training content is forgotten within thirty days. The key is to plan out a series of sales training modules and content aligned to every step of the customers buying journey.
Salespeople receive an average of 31.5 hours of training a year, and 63% of sales people say this is not enough. In fact, in employee satisfaction surveys, salespeople state that the biggest need for investment within their company is ongoing sales coaching. Source: Association for Talent Development
Then consider the need for relevant and updated sales training content. Leading business schools suggest that sales training materials and content should be updated every 3-6 months to keep pace with the fast moving sales environment, however only 42% of sales trainers say that their sales training content gets updated only once a year.
Social media, content, news and self-education means that the the buyers journey is changing rapidly and impacting the sales cycle to win deals. Leaving the sales training content the same for a year or more creates a vicious cycle: outdated sales messaging can cause confusion to the sales team causing sales to be out of the loop when trying to engage buyers for the products and services being sold.
The professional sales mindset knows that "practice makes perfect" and ongoing sales training bridges the knowledge gap between the annual sales kick-off and the daily sales role. Due to the influence of the social networks on the buying process, data shows that many salespeople are coming into the buyer’s journey too late and with unsuitable solutions. For a sales person being knowledgeable about a company is just one part of sales training, the other part is communicating the sales messages and having the skills to get the sale by getting in front of the buyer early. This is where new sales tools, like social media lead generation, data insights and social selling are helping sales teams get buyer ready. Growth focused companies are blending ongoing sales training with the latest sales tools.
Any and all sales managers should step up the effort for ongoing and updated sales training. As few as 32% of companies describe their sales training programs as "effective" and 48% of sales trainers state their companies sales training content is not engaging. In fact 25% of sales trainers say the training content does not match the sales teams need for multi-channel selling. The sales training tip is to improve ongoing training, improve content and improve knowledge.
SALES TRAINING TIP 2
Do not substitute sales training time by just providing more sales enablement tools. Sales enablement is all about arming the sales team with tools to improve sales execution and drive revenue. Sales enablement tools and content sharing tools are now valuable resources that help sales move the selling process along. Sales enablement tools are now an essential part of the selling kit but just equipping people with tools is not enough.
Sales enablement tools are designed to give sales people the ability to engage buyers in valuable and relevant conversations based on data gathered. But true sales success is more than a great set of tools. When the sales teams are not properly trained and not skilled in using the sales tools appropriately, companies can invest a lot of time, resources and money to accomplish little return.
So think “cart and horse” or “car and fuel”, it takes one to move the other. Ongoing and regular sales training builds the knowledge and skills that when combined with sales enablement tools will build an effective sales team.
It is the responsibility of the whole company to enable the sales team. So without the resources to an ongoing sales training program, any strategic sales initiative is likely to end up another top down directed activity with limited sales metric improvement.