Your company leadership has decided that business results could be better, and they’ve identified top-line (sales and service) as where the improvement needs to come from. After careful scrutiny, it is observed that sales force execution has either stagnated or has never met expectations in the first place. Somewhere, there’s a sales execution gap that needs to be addressed.
By talking to sales coaches and managers, the gap is narrowed down to a competency problem that sales training can be reasonably expected to address. Most companies spend $10,000 – $15,000 to hire an employee but less than $2,000 to train that employee. No wonder a competency problem exists.
Although the company has competent sales managers, it is determined that they don’t have the necessary skills to conduct sales training internally. At this point, a decision is made to hire a sales training company to conduct the needed training that will address the sales execution gap.
A quality sales training company will increase the competency of your sales team and address sales gaps. But there are many sales training companies out there, and picking a good one will have a definite impact on whether top-line numbers improve as they should.
Here are the steps a company needs to take when selecting a quality sales training company.
1. Identify the specific need.
This process is initially started by identifying the sales execution gap to determine if sales training would be helpful. Be sure to have definite objectives for what you want sales training to accomplish. What behaviors among sales staff would show the competency you seek? Be as specific as you can for best results.
2. Check into companies that seem able to meet your specific needs.
The prevailing advice is to check each sales training company’s references, but ASLAN President Marc Lamson feels that references are a waste of everyone’s time:
“It’s not about checking references the company gives you, it’s about finding out on your own which clients they’ve worked with” and what those clients have to say about the sales training company, Lamson states.
A reference has been hand-picked by the sales training company and is likely to say only positive things. If there are negatives out there, you will have to find them on your own. Use your contacts and see what you can dig up.
If you don’t find anything negative, then you’re clear to move forward in the process.
3. Identify whether the company’s philosophy matches up with yours.
A philosophical match is highly important, because the sales skills and techniques taught will be based in that philosophy. If you can’t find the value in the sales trainer’s approach, the arrangement is not likely to be a beneficial one. Most companies will be very upfront about their sales philosophy because they know a good match is essential.
4. Get firsthand knowledge about sales training content.
Lamson says he thinks it’s important for prospective customers to see a training in action before deciding to hire a company. “Get on a plane,” he advises. “Go see a training that company is giving to a current client in person.” Unfortunately, he says, fewer than half of his clients follow that advice.
Since getting on a plane isn’t quite so easy these days, there may be other ways to experience training content. Most companies now have virtual sales training workshops hosted online or offer e-learning options for review.
There may be sample sales training content and presentations or exercises that the company will let allow prospects to view. White papers and ebooks can be other ways to get a sense of the content offered and the way it will come across.
5. Look for customized content.
A one-size-fits-all approach may work if the sales training company only works with companies of a specific size and industry, but those who vary their clients should also vary their methods and content. Customized content shows an attention to detail and a willingness to meet clients where they are at, rather than trying to press each client into the same cookie cutter mold.
The steps to many sales training are the same, but specific training methods and the gaps they address should be customized to each client’s needs. “You take them up the steps from unconsciously incompetent to consciously competent,” Lamson says. But the way that happens for each client is often very different.
6. Make sure there’s follow-up.
A study by Training Industry found that without follow-up, 50% of sales training content is lost after five weeks. After just three months, a whopping 84% of content was forgotten. It will be difficult for your company to make positive gains in competency if nearly all of the material is forgotten within a short period of time.
Some of the best follow-up is provided by your own sales coaches and sales managers, who must be trained alongside the rest of the sales team. Good sales training programs include, and stress the importance of, having coaches participate in sales training. Train the trainer programs are great for ensuring reinforcement occurs across sales teams.
No matter who provides the follow-up or what methods are used, ongoing sustainment and reinforcement is the only way to ensure there are lasting gains in the skills needed to close execution gaps.
7. Evaluate the people and their stories.
When meeting with representatives from the sales training company or the actual trainers, conduct an honest evaluation of their manner as well as their message.
Could you see yourself working with or training under them? Do the things they say match up with your own business perspective?
Lamson advises listening closely when a representative tells stories about clients they’ve worked with or content they’ve delivered. If the stories are true, they are likely to be full of details. Vague stories are a red flag to Lamson, who feels that they could indicate embellishment or misdirection.
If anything doesn’t add up, it’s probably best to proceed with extreme caution, if at all.
8. Find out about ROI.
A sales training company should be able to tell you how to measure the ROI of a training program so you know exactly how the company benefitted. ROI is more than measuring increases in the bottom line, which can be attributed to many different variables.
Using the specific competency goals identified at the start of the sales training process, you can measure success with specific metrics like shortening the sales cycle, increasing the number of qualified leads, and improving the profit on each sale through negotiation.
If a sales training company doesn’t have methods for measuring ROI, it may be because their clients aren’t seeing any. Be careful about committing resources to a company that can’t show you the benefit in quantifiable ways.
Do your research and follow the above steps when choosing a sales training company. It will benefit your team and your bottom line.
Or please feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding how we might be able to assist in your exploration efforts.