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Follow the Leaders to Sales Training Success

Updated April 2021

You may think a successful start to sales training begins with a room full of eager, well-prepped trainees. It might be a good start for the trainer, but a successful sales training program must start with an entirely different audience: the sales leader. 

Why Sales Training Fails

HubSpot Research's survey of salespeople revealed "more than half rely on their peers to get tips for improving. 44% looked to their leader, 35% to team training resources, and 24% to media." That is a lot of people looking to their leader for advice on improving. 

Again and again, poor sales training results could be directly linked to either limited or a lack of sales leader participation. If leaders aren't focused on training and its results, it is very hard to get employees to care and put lessons learned into practice.

Attendees from a Pivotal Advisors' webinar backed this point up by agreeing that the main reason their sales training had failed in the past was "no accountability from the sales leader." According to TaskDrive, "26% of sales representatives claim that their sales training has little to no effect."

Now to be clear, sales leaders are not 100 percent at fault here. Many don't know what they don't know, and most do not know they should be reinforcing the sales training, or how to do it.

Cost of Sales Training

According to the American Marketing Association, "While the amount of money spent on sales training will vary by company size and industry, organizations spend an average of $2,236 per salesperson on sales training every year. By one account, U.S. companies spend $15 billion each year training sales employees." That cost alone has a significant bottom‐line impact. 

How to Drive Sales Training Success

Here are some tips for making your sales leader more enthusiastic and a visible driving force behind sales training success.

Sell the Leader by Underscoring the Benefits

Before the first design planning session, you need to sell the leader on the training program's bottom-line benefits. The front-line sales leader is the most critical person in adopting your training programs, as he/she provides coaching and accountability for its use daily. 

The leader needs to see how the training will lead to better performance, more sales opportunities, more sales closed, higher margins, and a more intelligent, effective sales team. The great thing about excellent training is that it will make the sales leader's job easier because each team member will perform better.

Involve the Sales Leader from Start to Finish

If you want your sales team excited about training, make sure the boss has wholly bought into it. To ensure sales leaders are promoters of the sales training system, materials, and approach, involve him/her from the very start. Sales leaders should be well integrated into all aspects of the sales training life cycle. 

From early design to training sessions to measurement, the more effort sales leaders put into building and participating in the training program, the more knowledge and enthusiasm they will have. They will then share it with the sales team, and receive more commitment and dedication from all parties.

Have the Sales Leader do the Training

Sales leaders have ascended to their roles because of their own sales talents. Put those skills to work for training's benefit by designing training segments for the leader to lead. By having the sales leader take on a role in the actual training, sales teams see their leader embracing the process and are more likely to understand the importance of adopting the new knowledge into their own sales processes. The team will also see the leader's commitment to the training and expectations of it, which should also drive the team's adoption.

Integrate Training into Existing Systems

Sales leaders want and need simplicity when it comes to managing and monitoring their teams and performance. Likewise, salespeople wish to have and need a documented process that is streamlined with their existing practices. For this reason, sales training concepts should integrate into systems that are already in place instead of in a folder, binder, or another tool.

The better training works within the organization and its current sales processes and tools, the less pushback there will be from all involved.

Create and Use a Performance Management System

To get a leader excited about sales training, show them how to reinforce the training concepts and measure results efficiently. Whether the performance management system you use is a set of simple checklists or a sophisticated technology solution, measurement and accountability are the keys to driving adoption, increasing performance, and showing the value of training.

If your company does not have a training performance management system in place, now is the time to implement one, be it simple or complex.

The Results

Without a plan for consistently reinforcing the concepts taught in sales training, they will be lost, and salespeople will revert to their old habits. Develop a few simple tools to optimize training for more significant business results, and always start with the sales leader first.

If you need help to identify the skills your salespeople need to train on? Or how to determine which type of sales training is best for them? Reach out to us at info@pivotaladvisors.com

About Gary Braun

Gary is a founder and co-owner of Pivotal Advisors. He has worked for 20+ years as a salesperson and sales leader. Gary has been a guest speaker for many groups such as Vistage, Allied Executives, CEO Roundtable, Sales Management Association, and more. If you want to find out more about Gary check out his profile here.
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