I took a look at the postings – “…the best sales training is sitting with sales people at the top of their game.” What a great idea! But it was followed by this: “…you may be lucky if the people at the top of their game take you along…”
Not much help there.
Then I noticed another post recommending a training that “sounds a bit naff” – I think that means crazy – but “is worth attending once you have learnt basic sales techniques such as asking open ended questions.” Wait! Open-ended questions as a selling skill is something I remember teaching in the 1980s (before Neil Rackham came along and taught us that not just open-ended questions, but specifically Implication and Need/Payoff questions are strongly positively correlated with success in selling. And then Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson followed in 2011 with a suggestion that, rather than simply asking questions, we might assume that our prospects don’t know what’s possible, and may very well need to be educated by us!)
The dated and impractical information bothered me. So I jumped in. Here’s my post:
The best sales skills training workshop I ever attended was one offered to a single company – so the examples used were situations that were specific to that company and not off-the-shelf examples. The strongest salespeople in the company were very much a part of the learning experience, their perspectives were actively sought in the workshop. The information presented was based on the most recent sales research – the person wasn’t teaching, for example, Relationship Selling to new account salespeople, because there is substantial data available that says that Relationship Selling is an ineffective strategy in pursuing new accounts. And she wasn’t teaching “overcoming objections” when all the evidence says that people (prospects) HATE having to fight with salespeople, and would much rather simply be heard and understood, and then to receive information about the subject, even if that information differs from their thinking. The best sales skills training workshop I ever attended provided some support after the workshop for the people who attended it, not just by tracking Sales KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), though it did that, but also by giving some coaching to the attendees as they used their new learning, to be sure it turned into actual dollars/euros in new revenue. (This coaching was done mostly via email, which kept the cost down.)
What I didn’t say in my post, but can say here on my blog, is that I taught that Sales Skills Workshop.
And I did it from the perspective of having read everything I can get my hands on about what’s working in selling today. I’ve also been teaching selling of professional services (accounting, consulting, legal, information technology, and research and development services, mostly) for twenty years, and I’ve conducted follow-up programs that tell me exactly what information workshop attendees are able to USE and TURN INTO NEW REVENUE.
If you’ve read this far, I assume you’re considering getting some Sales Skills Training. Why is it important to have an experienced Sales Trainer – ideally one who has worked with people in your line of work? Because the key to effective Sales Training is not learning a bunch of “techniques” – it’s taking solid sales principles and using them in realistic conversations that relate to what you’re selling, so you can see how each skill ties into moving toward an actual SALE.
Selling is different, now, than at any point in history. You need practical skills, an up-to-date approach, ideas that you can use immediately to turn contacts into prospects, and prospects into clients. And you need the skills to identify the contacts in the first place – as well as a means of prioritizing selling so it isn’t last on your list of possible activities in any given work day.
That’s worth investing at least a day of your time in a workshop – you can’t do this via webinar or Skype (though you can follow-up on a workshop using those technologies).
And remember that no sales skills, no matter how powerful, will be used immediately by every person who attends a workshop. Be sure the Sales Trainer is going to keep in touch with you, and with your team, for a period of time after the workshop, to be sure the return-on-investment happens immediately – and if it doesn’t, it’s important that that is not YOUR problem. Hold the Sales Trainer’s feet to the fire to help your people drive new revenue.
Lenann McGookey Gardner is a Harvard MBA and a former #1 Sales Rep at a unit of Xerox Corporation. She has provided learning experiences and coaching support to professionals in 43 countries, showing them how to use state-of-the-art selling skills to attract more clients and bring in more revenue. The author of the forthcoming book WIN MORE CLIENTS, her book can be ordered in advance, or more information obtained, by going to www.YouCanSell.com, or dialing 505.828.1788.