Regular sales training or coaching by an effective sales coach has a measurable impact on performance.
Guest Article - November 2010
Sales trainers are often asked to justify why a business should pay for their services. In this article I will provide 20 compelling reasons why sales training is not simply a cost that your company should carry but rather an investment that all ambitious companies and organisations should seriously consider to help them achieve both their strategic and tactical goals. This applies equally to SME'S with just an owner/founder salesperson right up to large integrated sale forces.
1. Increase your orders
I hope this is self evident. All training courses worth their salt should pay for themselves. After attending a course results should be manifest in increased ongoing sales. The incremental margin easily paying for the sales training investment.
2. Increase your skill set
Training courses should leave the recipient(s) of the training with a heightened skill set and a willingness to try new things. Knowledge is power and the more sales knowledge that you can develop the more business you will bring in.
3. Increase your ideas base
Very often a good course will act as a kind of internal brainstorm. New relevant ideas will flow from new thinking introduced during the course. New ideas drive results and new innovations drive sales, service and delivery.
4. Increase your confidence
Confidence is key in selling and an increase in confidence stemming from the learning and development will have powerful impact on results. If a new idea is correctly introduced, correctly taught and correctly assimilated the results will be quickly evident on your bottom line.
5. Increase motivation
A motivated sales force is vital for any company. The sales process flows when the employee is engaged and motivated. The twin benefits of investing in employee knowledge as well as giving increased opportunity for commission will ensure a more motivated sales team. Increased motivation also reduces sickness and absenteeism levels and guarantees that sales people are spending more and better quality time selling.
6. Increased retention of staff
Losing employees, especially good ones is a massive drain on any business. The cost of losing embedded knowledge and recruiting new employees often dwarfs sales training costs.Results show that a well trained employee is more like to be loyal and hence more likely to continue to show up and perform. If you invest in your salespeople they will invest more of their time in your business.
7. Increased competitive edge
Are your competitors training their salespeople? If they are, you are at a disadvantage. New thinking, new methods and new techniques resulting from sales training will give whoever is selling an edge that your competitors may not have. Competitive advantage is tough to achieve at the best of times, sales training is a fantastic and low cost way of forging ahead.
8. Increase in technical competencies
Some individuals are naturally fantastic vendors of your product. Others have to learn this skill and work at it. By employing the use of a trainer you increase people's technical competencies. This has an effect of raising the bar at the top level but also by raising the lowest common denominator at the bottom. Increase in technical competency may only give rise to a 5% improvement for your top performers but it can give a 20/30% boost to your lower performers and close the competency gap.
9. Decrease in costs
Moving away from the increases for a moment and focus on an area that all companies would like to decrease. Costs. Sales training will create a structure where inefficiencies are ironed out. By training salespeople to sell better and all that's associated with that you decrease costs in terms of time costs, output costs, salary to commission ratio cost, opportunity costs and even consumption costs.
10. Increase in team strength
Team dynamic is vital in an organisation that sells. Engaging in a training program makes the bond stronger and makes the flow of information within teams better. It also helps people to learn and grow together and builds commonalities allowing deeper absorption of the training with the organisation. The team that trains together wins together.
11. Increase in professionalism
Selling is the key skill within the new post recession economy. Nothing else can happen if customers don't buy. Thus selling must be treated as a professional occupation rather than the problem child of the firm as it so often is. Effective training is a big step towards fostering that professionalism. Training on one level makes the recipient feel more professional about his or her role and on another level sends a message to the trainees that selling is something to be taken very seriously and to be worked on constantly.
12. Increase in efficiency
Sometimes the simplest ideas produce the greatest results. I have often seen sales training where the greatest win is not an introduction of new ideas but rather a change in, or a discarding of old inefficient ideas. A good trainer will be able to identify this and tailor the course accordingly.
13. Increase in customer satisfaction
Effective training produces instant behavioural results, great sales training leads to long term ingraining of new behaviour. Without customers there can be no company, without more customers there can be no growth. Sales training when delivered correctly fosters heightened levels of customer delight. When salespeople view customers as not merely commission drivers but rather as their assets to be nurtured and developed the long term win is huge.
14. Increased structural benefits
Whilst I would never advocate a rigid uniformity I do champion the benefits of a structural consistency within a team. The salespeople must learn to sell within defined parameters and must not undermine the company offering by "going off the reservation". This is especially beneficial when someone new arrives. Good sales training will give an outline structure that allows visibly and consistency making the process easier to manage.
15. Increased ambition
Often before undergoing a sales course many are unaware of their potential and handicapped by their beliefs. Properly delivered a sales training course will sow seeds of ambition and raise the ceiling of what can be achieved. Belief is a key component in success, increased realistic beliefs will raise the ambition levels of your people and push them to achieve more for themselves and deliver more for the company.
16. Increased responsibility
Sales managers frequently tell me that they need their staff to take more responsibility for their performance. If you decide to employ the services of a sales trainer you get this responsibility instantly. By training staff and giving them new tool and skill-sets to achieve you remove performance excuses. Sales training also shows that you are serious about growing both them and the business and ensures that they take more responsibility for their actions and performance.
17. Increased understanding and buy in
By investing in salespeople the company also buys the right to ask more of them. If an organisation needs increased sales figures in the next quarter for example it's easier to ask people to perform at the higher level if you have invested in them. Asking for 20% uplift with nothing to back it up can be a hard demand for management to make. Salespeople who feel well treated are more amenable to management demands.
18. Increase in the vibrancy of company culture
One of the key metrics for a successful sales team is the potency of the culture within which they work. A strong defined culture generally allows sellers to thrive. A weak or negative culture can be a sales inhibitor. A good sales trainer will enquire about the culture in advance of training and tailor the course accordingly. By investing in training you build the culture and you strengthen the belief system within the organisation.
19. Increase the alignment of company and employee goals
Oftentimes management are so involved within the organisation that they miss the little things that an external trainer will pick up on quickly. I have seen management's frustration with sales teams that are not pulling in the same direction as the organisation. Sales training brings the two together. By agreeing an objective with management and then by delivering training accordingly the sale trainer can align the goals of both parties. Sending people on sales training sends a message, delivery of the training makes this message concrete so that all parties are working towards common goals and all parties understand their roles to achieve this.
20. Increase the joined up thinking within the organisation
Too often the people who are selling are left out of the decision making process and this creates an entrenched attitude. Too often the people selling have preconceived ideas about other areas of the business that does not allow a smooth flow within the company. A good trainer will investigate the frustrations of the stakeholder departments as well as the salespeople before designing a training course.
I hope that reading this has been a useful exercise. As a corporate trainer I obviously have a vested interest in selling my product but the above 20 reasons are not simply a sales pitch. Having worked on both sides of the fence, as a manager running a large sales force who had to maximise return on training investment and now as a trainer working to deliver maximum return for my clients training investment I understand the decision making process.
Sales training is essential for all of the reasons outlined above and should never be viewed as cost but rather as an investment. Return on investment is easily achieved when the training is well prepared, well delivered and well followed up. My absolute belief is not how can we afford to pay for sales training but rather how can we afford not to?
Just take a small recap of the above 20 points? If you were asked if you would pay, say £50, to achieve just one of the above points with just one of your people any manager would consider it money well spent. Achieving all 20 of the above benefits is a huge win and it is possible with the right training and the right trainer. Next time you consider the cost of training divide the sum involved by 20 (for each of the points above) and then by the number attending the training and you will see exactly how small an uplift is needed in order to guarantee return on your investment.
Article by Simon Kenny
About the Author:
Simon Kenny is Director Sales and Leadership. Simon had 11 years senior management experience at FTSE 100 level specialising the management of sales, marketing, customer retention and CRM. He holds an M.A in business and economics.
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