The Best Way to Help Your Salespeople Learn

By Byron Matthews

One of the most frequent complaints we hear from sales leaders is their teams don’t spend enough time actually selling. This is true – data backs it up. According to the 2016 Sales Performance Optimization Study from CSO Insights (the research division of Miller Heiman Group), sales professionals spent 64 percent of their time at work doing other tasks rather than selling.

I’m sure that’s a fact most C-Suite executives don’t want to hear. The last thing sales leaders should be doing is distracting their teams from selling. Isn’t that their most important job?

Forward-thinking leaders at leading organizations recognize a need to initiate training regimens that keep sellers selling the majority of the time and add value to what they are working on in real time. When training regimens are done correctly, an hour of learning doesn’t necessarily equate to one fewer hour of selling. Effective training enhances everything the sellers are doing in the moment.

One of the best ways to do this is to make sure your training is being led by sales and service professionals, not training professionals. You want your training to be a dialogue, not a monologue, and the best way to ensure this type of learning and communication is to have sales professionals lead your training initiatives.

Here’s what I mean: When professional sellers head up your learning initiatives, they can infuse the learning with real-world deals that are currently in play. After all, they have carried a bag, they’ve held a quota, and they’ve talked with clients – just like your sales team. A recent study from Forbes reveals 70 percent of learning on the job occurs informally, meaning people are naturally learning from their leaders and their peers. Since sales professionals are already learning from sales professionals, doesn’t it make sense for the same people to head up the formal training aspect of your learning initiative?

The best way to engage sales professionals and their peers is to make training a conversation about what they are experiencing in the field. Right now.

The benefit to this type of training is obvious. While it may take sellers out of the field for a brief time, they still continue selling like it’s a regular business day. The payback is obvious as well – sellers work on their existing deals during training and they get immediate feedback and coaching from actual sellers. If the training is done right, each deal is also consistent with the company’s framework and processes, and each seller will also follow the methodology already in place.

So you now think of training as deal-pursuit workshops that allow sales professionals to bring their most challenging and important opportunities forward so they can work on them throughout the training initiative.

Keep in mind the intent of any training program is not focused solely on concepts. Rather, it should encourage salespeople to employ the skills and methodologies learned during the workshops to create winning pursuit strategies and win more business. When salespeople are finished with their training, they should have a well-developed and actionable plan to go win more deals.

In this way, the result doesn’t end with training. In fact, training is only the beginning.

To learn more about how training can impact your organization, download the white paper “Six Ways to Shift Your Sales and Service Training Approach to Ensure Your Learning Investment Pays Off.”

Byron Matthews leads Miller Heiman Group’s commitment to championing customer-management excellence throughout the customer life cycle and across the enterprise. His dedication to placing the customer at the core of everything gives Miller Heiman Group its expanded, holistic approach for developing, managing, and sustaining long-term customer relationships. Before joining the organization, he served as senior vice president of sales at Aflac, where he led more than 30,000 sales professionals across multiple channels. He also spent more than five years at Mercer as global sales performance business practice leader, where he grew revenue more than 40 percent.

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