Mid-Year Sales Training Strategies: Turning Knowledge into New Behaviors
Training strategies have to go beyond event-based training and address the issue of turning knowledge that can be forgotten within weeks or even days into daily behaviors.
If you’ve implemented sales training this year, you’re not alone. Studies have shown that upwards of $5 billion is spent annually on sales training. But the question is, what kind of a return are organizations getting on that huge investment?
Salespeople are selling in a much more complex world today, with longer buying cycles, an increased number of people involved in the process, and an increasingly well-informed customer base adding to the pressures. The fact is, event-based training can’t significantly improve performance to the degree necessary for salespeople to compete and thrive in this environment, particularly since most of the knowledge they learn will be forgotten within weeks or even days (The Forgetting Curve).
For training professionals, the challenge is turning that knowledge into daily behaviors. Mid-year is a good time to reevaluate whether your sales training implementation plan is designed to deliver the business results your organization is expecting or if it’s simply checking the box on a training requirement.
Here are 3 mid-year questions to consider:
1. Do I have a structured follow-up plan in place?
We assume that if we teach skills in a workshop, sales representatives will remember and practice them. But study after study tells us that, without reinforcement, most people forget nearly all of what they’ve heard and quickly go back to old habits.
Make sure your structured follow-up process includes:
• Accountability for real-world application
• Repetition and time lapse
• Feedback on progress
• Positive reinforcement and supportive coaching
There also has to be commitment at all levels to the follow-up process. Many organizations start out with good intentions but gradually slide as things get busy. Reinforcement is too important—to the success of the training programs, the sales professional and the company—to go by the wayside.
Especially if salespeople are struggling to hit their numbers, look at what reinforcement you’re currently offering and what additional performance support tools might help. New technology options provide you with so many more innovative and engaging ways to you refresh skills and enable broader adoption of processes.
2 .Where does the training intersect with the culture?
Even if there are follow-up activities to support the training, that doesn’t mean the concepts will become part of a salesperson’s day-to-day business behavior. For the training and skills to turn into a way of doing business, they have to be hard-wired into the culture. Here are some places where integration is key:
• Field ride evaluations
• Performance appraisals
• Coaching support tools
• Other training and communication
Do a quick check of your business and performance systems to make sure they’re aligned with the desired behaviors. You might discover some weak spots that could be contributing to performance lapses or a breakdown in process and skill application.
3. Are managers building the bridge?
If managers don’t understand, believe in, model and coach to the skills, your training efforts are largely going to be wasted. Managers have to know the concepts, believe their people will benefit and provide supportive coaching.
Now is a good time to consider whether your managers need training themselves to learn how to not only role model the desired behaviors but also be able to coach their people as they practice the skills. Many managers say they coach, but in reality, they’re not doing what needs to be done—and their actions could actually backfire. Effective coaching is critical for creating the willingness to practice the skills and a drive to achieve greater sales potential, even when dealing with the ups and downs of a challenging selling environment.
Implementing sales training is an important first step, but it’s only that. In a recent study of best-in-class sales training practices, Aberdeen Group found that the best of the best are 22% more likely than all others to refresh training on at least a quarterly basis.
It’s mid-year. Are you setting your organization and your sales team up for best-in-class status?