Have you ever wondered how to become a VP of Sales? I can tell you exactly how to do it, because I’ve lived this journey myself. By the time I was 30 years old, I was working at Oracle (via startup acquisition) helping them build the #1 performing SaaS sales team in my region. At the time, I had two years as a VP of Sales under my belt. And while there is no one perfect trajectory that a sales career follows, there are some key questions you should ask yourself before you start the journey.
There is only one reason that a business should invest in sales development training programs: Sustainable growth for your company. A business exists to earn money, making anyone with the ability to sell an asset.
Sales forces today face new and complex realities and are constantly having to keep up with the ever changing landscape of the sales process. Because of this, they should be getting the best training possible. so they are equipped to handle most anything and are able to stay one step ahead of the new age customer. Regrettably, the price for any sales training is high and in the US alone, companies spend over $20 billion per year to train their sales forces. In a 2016 study done by The Association for Talent Development (ATD), it was found that organizations spend an average of $954,070 on sales training every year—with a breakdown of $1,459 per salesperson. That is a lot of money.
However, unfortunately most of the training program are useless, much of the training is useless.
The current programs are riddled with problems and fall short of being of any real value. So, what are the barriers and what can we do to make it better ?
To Sell or Not to Sell
Even a natural salesperson--someone with the innate ability to sell--needs to consistently sharpen their abilities to regularly improve sales performance. Selling is fundamental to business success and the survival of a business relies on good selling.
Selling is the act of:
Influencing thought and attitude to get a specific result
Offering a solution for customers with a problem, a need, or an aspiration.
Identifying a genuine need for a customer and finding a way to fulfill it.
So, to develop their capacity to "sell", salespeople must put themselves in a position where they are developing their ability to influence, developing their ability offer solutions, and working on their ability to identify and fulfill genuine needs.
Sales Training Program Failure
To achieve a team full of superstars that consistently outperform and surpass metrics, you should locate a smart sales training development program tailored made specific for your team, that provides ongoing and revolving follow up support and education. The hard part is locating such excellent programs. I have found that in general most programs don't work for at least three reasons.
1. THEY ARE BORING
Sales training is supposed to ignite a fun and competitive atmosphere, where everything feels exciting and relevant, and sales people work hard to bring their skill to the next level. Unfortunately, that isn't generally the case. The lectures are dry and unexciting. The PowerPoint slides are outdated and boring you to tears. The end result is an unengaged, unmotivated salesperson, fighting back sleep and watching the clock waiting for a lunch break.
What can be done ? This problem could be improved with something as simple as implementing interactive activities where salespeople can socialize, bounce ideas off one another, and learn together as a group. If the training would foster a learning environment by focusing on the sales people, using custom tailored content, there would undoubtedly be an increase in learning and retention. Adding exciting videos, playing competitive games, and including an incentive would also amp things up and keep people on their toes. The method of learning style is important and most people forget 90% of what they heard three days later, but if you add an image, retention increases by 65%.
2. A FAILURE TO FOLLOW THROUGH OR PROVIDE ANY ONGOING SUPPORT.
I think it's fair to say that most of the training development programs don't think a one time training is the answer. However, the fact remains there is a striking lack of follow through or continued reinforcement after the initial training session. This, essentially renders the training program ineffective because without continued education and learning, salespeople will stop improving their process and likely forget everything they learned. Providing additional resources and follow up is key to helping lead salespeople to success. Ongoing training is essential and helps improve salesperson accountability while offering them support and mentoring.
What can be done ? Sales leaders must approach training as an ongoing process rather than just an onboarding process. Some companies have used virtual role playing where they may make mistakes and receive constructive feedback from their fellow peers and managers. Other companies have engaged in gamification whereby they can reward excellent performance while motivating salespeople who might not be performing so well.
Creating a coaching culture and having the sales rep in a 1:1 situation is great for the individual's’ ongoing development. It helps to reinforce learning and drive the sales person into continued improvements. The bottom line is to see big improvements in your sales team, structured training must be offered as a continuous process regularly.
3. A FAILURE NOT HAVE A ONE SIZE FITS ALL TRAINING PROGRAM.
A generic sales training regimen may be a fit for some of your entry level team members, but likely will hold no value for high level productive members. So, this is the part where sales managers must get involved and actively participate in developing their sales force. If salespeople are all being taught the same thing, the unique needs of the customers and their market are not being considered. Managers can identify strengths and weaknesses and help make sure the right knowledge is being passed onto the right people. Clearly fundamental selling skills apply across multiple industries but if you can't apply the other concepts you are learning to your specific business, you won't get much value out of the program.
What can be done ? Every company is different. They have different needs and requirements so it is important for organizations to find a training provider who's learning objectives are closely aligned with the company's overall goal. Managers must provide skills assessment and identify how each individual would benefit from training.
Sales training should be viewed as an investment in your growth strategy, and effectiveness can be measured by return on investment. Businesses must stop treating training as a line item expense, and instead look at revenue growth and cost savings. If a sales development program will be effective, it must focus on the employee, provide an engaging and relevant interaction, and provide appropriate follow up and continued training. Leaders must carefully select and implement the right training program that meets the needs of their salespeople and ties into the company's overall goals. Investing in your employees is the most sustainable way to create value. The bottom line is, If you don't have sales training, you don't have growth.