Are sales training and coaching really necessary?
Regardless of the type of business you are in, the idea is to move product – get equipment into the classroom, food on the shelves, steel to the factory, computers into the office or boats on the lake.
Sales professionals who…
• know their customers and their basic wants and needs,
• understand the features of their products and how to translate them into customer benefits and
• practice to improve their selling skills
…will sell more units than those who do not.
Sales training and coaching are critical, because sales professionals who learn more and practice more, sell more— period.
Why do sales managers exist?
It would be great if every sales professional would take responsibility to be the best, but 95% won’t. That’s why sales managers exist. As a sales manager, you are charged with doing everything you can to increase company sales. The most effective way to increase sales is to increase the skill level of every sales professional, and that means training, retraining, and training some more, as you manage your other responsibilities.
Yes, it’s challenging, but training and coaching consistently and well also present an enormous opportunity to grow your sales, because nearly all companies do a poor job. The sales managers of these organizations are just telling or yelling. Good sales managers, who learn the principles of effective training and coaching, help their sales teams outperform the rest.
What are sales training and coaching? Who needs them?
Training and coaching are really sharing your knowledge about selling and products, motivating your sales team to practice what you tell them and getting them to do it.
Any time you share something that affects the sale, you are training or coaching.
Formal sales training is generally working with a group of sales professionals. It can be as simple as practicing how to greet a customer through a role-playing exercise in a one- hour sales meeting, or it can be an in-depth, two-week program that teaches your sales professionals how to use 24 different sales techniques.
Coaching is working one on one with a sales rep, targeting his or her goals, action plans and needs. It achieves improved results by helping the sales professional develop necessary skills and “want to.” Training, supported by coaching, has a dramatic affect on sales (according to research and experience, it results in net gains of two to four times the average sales professional!).
So, given those impressive results, what prevents more sales managers from excelling as trainers and coaches?
• Time – when and how to prepare and work it into their schedule
• Content – what to talk about in a training meeting or one-on-one coaching session
• Method/process – how to conduct an effective training meeting and a mutually beneficial coaching session
Professional resources can be of great help in overcoming these obstacles. They prepare the meeting and coaching session agenda and content, and contribute to the delivery of the training. You, however, will have to make training and coaching a priority. You must set aside the time, and commit to learning more about selling, so you will have good, current, and practical information to share with your sales team.
If you don’t feel comfortable training or coaching, because you don’t think you are a dynamic person, remember that managers who regularly train and coach their people sell more products, make more money, and are more successful than managers who do nothing at all. So, get started! A year from now, you’ll be glad you did.
Is it necessary to train and coach all the time?
Absolutely! Most sales professionals learn all they can the first year on the job and then stop. Ten years later, they have one year’s experience 10 times and they aren’t any better and aren’t making much more money. Truth-be-told, they have forgotten most of what they have learned over the years. That’s the reality of how we store information. Most of what we have learned is buried in our subconscious, and only consistent training and coaching keep it in our conscious mind where we can use it.
Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. This is the right approach!
Plato defined the job of training and coaching. He said that to be a successful manager, trainer or coach, your primary responsibility is to talk people into using what they already know and to be open-minded about learning what they don’t.
So many people have approached us after a training session and said, “I sure learned a lot,” or “You reminded me of a lot.” In fact, so many have said those things that it’s hard for us to believe that organizations are doing enough training or coaching.
Especially during periods of economic difficulty, it’s a great time to increase your efforts and resolve. One of our customers holds at least two business-building training meetings a week without fail and follows that with a weekly coaching session with each representative. His sales team consistently out-performs the rest. After a recent training session, his four sales professionals set 29 appointments in 30 minutes!
Another company we work with has improved sales by 210% in 2 ½ years by becoming training and coaching zealots – beating their competition day in, and day out. Training and coaching work!
How do I know who needs it?
This one is simple. If they are in sales and they are breathing, they need it. If you have sales professionals who do not want to know more about selling, they have either been conditioned to think sales training and coaching are some form of punishment or they feel they have nothing more to learn.
You can change that. You are the model. As a sales manager, your own attitude about training and coaching will be reflected in your team’s willingness to take learning and improvement seriously. You make all the difference in your sales team’s attitude.
Your enthusiasm and encouragement during training or coaching sessions will translate into dollars… perhaps sooner than you expect. And as you unlock the skills and gifts in each one of your people, and inspire them to excel, you will see the daily results in new sales. Apathy or staying in your comfort zone creates a lousy alternative: lost opportunity and lost sales. So, stretch yourself!
Are you willing to invest the time to train and coach your people regularly to guarantee success?
Now that’s the real question! Why not do it today?
About the Authors:
Senior Partners at WCW Partners, Rick Conlow and Doug Watsabaugh have helped companies, governmental agencies and nonprofit organizations achieve record-breaking results for more than 20 years as performance improvement experts. Their clients’ achievements include double digit improvement in repeat and referral business, triple digit increases in sales, more than 50% reduction in customer complaints, 34 quality and service awards, and domination in their respective markets. Rick and Doug are popular motivators and speakers, inspiring audiences with their engaging down-to-earth but down-to-business approach. They have authored more than a dozen books. Six new titles, including SuperSTAR Customer Service, were published in late 2009.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author. CPSA does not endorse any of the companies, products and services mentioned within this article.