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"I think it's extremely important to beef up internal Sales Training resources so that you can take training to a much higher level. I think we were always cautious about spending money on Trainers because we hated seeing them essentially doing nothing when they weren't in the classroom. Now, when they aren't teaching, they're COACHING and that is really exciting. Even if our Sales Managers don't do that much coaching in the field, our Sales Training Team is picking up a lot of the slack. We have completely re-thought the whole paradigm of how Sales Training fits into our strategic goals. We're spending a lot less money on external training courses now because we don't need them as much. Follow-up coaching is finally happening and I can truthfully say, we now have a strong coaching culture.
Jason B. - EVP Sales
Competency Thresholds - The Key to a Great Coaching Culture
A very interesting thing happens when you start testing and recognizing/rewarding Sales People for learning and mastering selling skills. They start ASKING to be coached because they want to be certified and earn recognition for their progress. This creates a powerful self driving motivation to enable more effective coaching to happen. Their resistance to coaching drops which is a big part of what causes coaching not to happen in the first place. It's important to set up testing and certification methods so they are fun, motivational and credible.
"We started our competency threshold training and testing with our Sales Trainers and Sales Coaches and I think that was a really good way to go, you were right about it. They had a lot to learn and it took more training than we expected to get them up to speed but it made a huge difference once we started rolling out the system to the Sales People.
I think it's critical to get Sales Trainers involved in this kind of follow-up coaching and frankly, it's more important than the classroom stuff they do. I get reports every day about coaching interactions and who made progress. I actually call 2-3 Sales People every day and congratulate them on passing various thresholds which gives me a new way to go out and spread good news which is always welcome. This is a great new element of our Sales Management approach that is already paying off."
Jerry B. - EVP Sales
Web Delivered HR Services
Way too often training is seen as event driven or event + e-learning resources driven. What is missing is the follow-up in the field. With a good competency threshold "certification" system, you'll have a way to make sure that follow-up training and coaching is NOT the weakest link. Competency threshold training holds Sales Coaches and Trainers accountable to get real results that go far beyond good surveys and evaluations. The goal of competency thresholds is raise competency, not just raise awareness which is where most sales training drops off. When done right it is a powerful way to focus Coaches and Trainers on results that generate sales.
I strongly believe most sales organizations do not come anywhere close to tapping into the potential of internal Sales Trainers the way the could. All too often, Sales Training is event driven and mostly class driven. This is a big mistake. Sales Trainers should be able to teach live events, train and coach in the field, on the phone and in an e-learning platform/system. What we want Trainers and Coaches to be accountable for is getting their teams over the competency testing thresholds, not just getting good evaluations for their deliveries.
With competency thresholds, you have the power and tools to completely transform the role and contribution of Sales Trainers. They will become a powerful ally to generate more sales and not a necessary cost that takes everyone "out of the field." This is also a very important element for the Sales Coaches. This is the way to really get them coaching and measure it.
The old saying, "if you can't measure it, you can't manage it" is even more true today. The reason so many Sales Managers focus on data, sales numbers and CRM reports is because these are tools to measure activity and performance. One of the main reasons that sales coaching doesn't happen is because it's not typically measured. It's often talked about theoretically as a good strategy that should produce results, but it's tricky to measure and as such, harder to manage.
Sales Coaching is mostly about raising the skill level and performance potential, under pressure, of Sales Teams. Competency thresholds are a way to MEASURE progress in this area and dramatically accelerate improvement. Ideally, Sales People are motivated to pass competency thresholds and begin to drive a ground-up motivated desire to be coached, tested and certified.
Demonstrate > practice > coach > test > more practice is the simple way to think about competency thresholds. Sales Coaching is about focusing on a skill like communicating three compelling and tailored competitive advantages, then demonstrating how its done with live and recorded examples and then practicing until the Sales Person achieves an acceptable level of performance.
This gives Sales Coaches performance metrics to achieve that can be measured and reported and it also creates a much higher level of accountability to learn, grow, improve and master the fundamentals of the selling process for all members of the Sales Team, including Sales Managers. I cannot overstate how powerful competency thresholds can be in terms of building a true sales coaching culture.
Often, when sales training is over, participants return to the field with a motivational push to "go out and try what you've learned and let us know how it's going!" Typically, the Sales Manager doesn't follow up much and some use what they learned and some don't. Competency thresholds change that. They put Coaches and Trainers into the role of practicing and testing Sales People until they can do, under pressure and with increasing difficulty, the key selling skills like asking good questions, listening, summarizing, tailoring a solution, communicating competitive advantages. Training isn't complete until the Sales People MASTER the execution of these skills and that makes a huge difference. It also gives Management a better way to hold Trainers and Coaches accountable for real results.
"We took your advice and made a bunch of recordings of our Top Performing Sales People using the sales process. We made recordings of the elevator speech, value proposition, how to overcome frequent objections, how they summarize a discovery interview, how they tailor solutions, pretty much every step. We now use those recordings constantly in training and, more importantly, Sales Coaches use them in their interactions with their teams. They are used in sales meetings, on our e-learning platform and even played in executive board meetings.
I am convinced that these recordings are the key that got more of our Sales Coaches actually practicing with their people because with them, even if the Sales Coach can't do great demonstrations, they can fall back on the recordings for support.
There are so many ways to use Top Performer recordings I can't believe we didn't do it before. It's interesting how Sales People now want to be recorded to be part of the influence team.
Christina R. - VP Sales
Luxury Travel Sales
It really helps if the Training Team can build a big and useful archive of Top Performer Recordings. These are audio (video usually isn't necessary) recordings of Top Performers demonstrating all the various skills that are part of the competency testing. Sales People learn better from demonstrations and when they are having trouble learning a questioning process they'll get it faster if they can just listen to 5 good examples or demonstrations than any other method. Top Performer Recording can also form the foundation for a solid e-learning system to support Sales Coaching and competency threshold testing.
Outline of Key Points in this chapter:
"The truth is, when you told us about competency testing and certification we sort of thought that was more of a call center type thing and wouldn't work with Business Bankers, but we were wrong. After a bit of a rocky start, it really took off. For us, it made a lot of difference to get some better Sales Trainers involved in the process. Getting them out of the training rooms and into the local offices and out on sales calls was a big step forward. They became much more integrated into the Sales Management Team and methodology and weren't out there on their own island of training events. Our Business Development Officers are all motivated to be coached tested and certified. It really works."
Vince T - EVP Commercial Banking
Chapter Overview and Selected Quotes likely to be used