Competency thresholds are the key here. Sales Trainers need to be held accountable for raising competency levels, not just delivering good live events.
It is much better to think of Sales Training as the Special OPS component of the Sales Team. Sales Trainers need to become highly talented people that can dig in with a Sales Team and raise the bar because they have the total skill set. All too often, Sales Trainers are hired with minimal experience, are paid too little and simply do not have the competency to do much outside of very basic classroom training. This is a big missed opportunity.
Think bigger. Imagine the potential of having a robust team of highly talented Trainers that can fill the gaps that Sales Managers can't. Imagine what a rigorous remote telephone coaching and mentoring program could do for your sales teams? Invest in building a fantastic Sales Training Team and it will pay dividends many times over.
Sales Organizations are made up of Sales People, Sales Executives, Sales Managers, IT Support and Sales Trainers. Each of these 5 groups plays a vital role in the overall functioning of the entire sales force. After consulting with hundreds of companies on projects to increase sales, I can say without any hesitation at all, the most under utilized and under developed of these 4 groups is the Sales Training Team. There are a growing number of large companies that don't even have Sales Trainers and if they do, it's often an administrative function to coordinate and organize events.
The most important people in elite military units are the trainers. Talented trainers are absolutely vital on pro sports teams. It's just remarkable how often big Sales Teams do almost no training (a few days a year) and when they do, it is often on some new account development system that an external training company just came up with. The basic skills of selling are very difficult to learn and master. It takes practice with a great coach for most Sales People to get good at asking great questions, summarizing a discussion, tailoring a solution and communicating differentiating factors.
The plain and simple truth is that most Sales Executives want their front-line Sales Managers to do most of the training and coaching and they simply don't. This is reality. As a result, there's a big break in the results chain. A competent, skillful Sales Training Team is a powerful competitive advantage IF they are used the right way. Training can be delivered in live events, over the phone, over the internet, inside of e-learning systems and in side by side interactions with customers. This is the way to get the most out of a Training Team.
"One of the things we hated about having Sales Trainers on staff was what to do with them when they weren't teaching classes. It just seemed like wasted expense.
We do not see it that way anymore at all and, in fact, they are now more useful when they aren't teaching their new hire classes because they are doing the coaching that so many of our Field Managers just won't do. We train the heck out of them now and the Sales People get a lot more out of their interactions with them."
Ray L - EVP Sales
Chapter Overview and Selected Quotes likely to be used
A great Sales Trainer should be able to teach sales, sales coaching, account development and should be able to do one-on-one practice and coaching, competency testing, small group skills clinics, sales call ride-alongs and remote coaching. When the Sales Training Team has these kinds of skills, it gives you a lot of options. It generates a lot more productivity and allows management to give them very measurable responsibilities that go way beyond instructor evaluations.
"We thought of Sales Training as a necessary cost for a long time in our company. We often promoted decent Sales People who wanted to do something different into the role and most of what they did was new-hire training and basic selling skills live events. After we made the commitment to really beef up our training team it really did change the way we thought of training. Now, each Sales Trainer has Sales People they coach for 30-days in addition to the programs they teach. Those coaching sessions are often better than what they get in the field from their Sales Managers. We under-estimated the potential of our Sales Training Team and now that we're changing that, it's making a real difference."
Larry Y - VP Sales Training - Commercial Banking
Think of training more in terms of getting the Sales Team over competency thresholds as presented in another chapter than simply delivering live events. The real role of Trainers must be to improve the performance of the group they are working with. Too many times, Trainers are evaluated on participant evaluations they get from the training classes they deliver. This is, in reality, a very small element of what their performance SHOULD BE centered around. In general, Sales Training teams in most companies are too small, don't have a complete skill set and are under utilized so their contribution is not that significant. As such, Executives are always on the lookout to cut costs in training.
"What really changed my thinking about Sales Training was the week long boot camp you did for our Sales Trainers. I had no idea they had so much to learn. We thought they were pretty good, but in reality they were pretty much beginners. They didn't even know what incremental training drills were and now, that's a big part of every training program they teach. We had no idea how important live demonstrations and perfect recordings were which is why our programs seemed to go slow and at times, wane in energy. The amount of practice, repetition and coaching in our programs has gone up ten fold because finally, our Trainers understand what to do and how to do it.
We now put a lot more effort and resources into developing our Trainers and it gives us more options on how to use them. They make more field visits, go on more ride alongs and are now delivering phone based remote coaching with real sales goals. What a difference!"
Tom P. - VP Training
Networking Hardware Sales
The Most Under-Utilized Resource By Far
"For us, what we've learned is that we were under-staffed with Sales Trainers because we hated seeing them idle when they had no classes to teach. When we learned how to utilize them for remote coaching and we started plugging in competency testing, the light bulbs really went on. Now, we are always on the lookout for ways to improve the team and grow it. We know the impact they have on sales and in some ways, they are doing more than the Sales Managers. It's a team approach and the synergy of Sales Managers + Sales Coaches is a winner for us."
Alice J. - SVP Sales
More Quotes Added Every Week
Learning how to sell is hard... learning how to be a great Sales Trainer is even harder. All too often, Sales Trainers learn by trial and error. They get some course manuals, some training on how the courses work and might co-teach with a Senior Instructor a little, then they typically get their own classes and they're off and running. I'm simply amazed how many Sales Trainers I work with that have never been coached on basic delivery and facilitation skills. Trainers need to learn facilitation, story telling, how to give crisp clear directions, how to coach, give feedback, read an audience, use inspiration, handle disruptive participants, manage the clock and keep energy high. This is HARD TO DO. Invest in more training for Sales Trainers and the payoff is huge. They can contribute much more when their skill levels go higher.
Outline of Key Points in this chapter:
It is very important that the person that manages the Sales Trainer has all the skills that are needed to be a Sales Trainer and has the ability to evaluate and coach Trainers rigorously. This is not an administrative job... it's more of a platoon leader. Sales Trainers are the "special ops" group in the Sales Team that can parachute in, do what ever is needed to help the team improve and be there, in the trenches making sure it happens. This person must be FANTASTIC in front of a group and know how to teach facilitation interactive training skills.