Start with Sales Tools, then Train to Change Behavior

Published on: August 2017

Written by: Andrew Dornon

Why This Matters

Getting sales training right is hard—connecting behaviors to the levers that drive sales results and then convincing sales reps they need to change how they work frankly just isn’t easy. It becomes infinitely harder if their day-today environments don’t support this shift. And understandably so – how many of us would be able to implement a new sales approach on a world designed for a different one?


What’s the Better Approach

We’ve all been guilty of creating “reinforcement activities” or “take homes” as almost an afterthought. Those of us in the enablement world who do so need to break this habit of thinking about the training program first and only later reflecting on how to support it.


start with sales tools


To really drive change, once you’ve identified how you want to shift sales rep behavior, FIRST design the processes and tools that would support those behaviors. Then design your training around building belief and actually using those tools as your participants practice selling the new way. When they get back on the job, those tools they’ve just trained on will be waiting.

How to Pull It Off

1. Understand the goal of the initiative and connect that goal to sales behaviors (I’m fully aware that this is no easy task).

2. Look for the big shifts from current work flow that can be automated or templatized (and thus will be easy to use) and create beta versions. Next, test them, and potentially consider rolling some out before the training to demonstrate the on-the-job implications of the program. Examples: Email templates, prospecting call scripts, qualifying and/or discovery questions in CRM, industry or functional acumen reference material in CRM.

3. Next, hone in on big shifts from the current work flow that will be hard to use because they require rep skill and effort. This could be as simple as a decision tree for rapidly finding insights a specific customer will care about or a solution navigator that incorporates design thinking prompts to help their customer visualize new uses of your solutions. (Really important note: If you’re asking reps to do something hard, the result should be wildly improved results at critical moments in the sales cycle.) These tools, at their best, will act as algorithms by taking rep inputs and producing insights that would otherwise take more time or skill than they have available. Examples: questioning model in decision tree format, needs analysis tool, ROI/Value calculator to create business cases.

4. Build training around the sales cycle, briefly covering the easy-to-use tools as they come up, but with heavy focus on why and how using the hard-to-use tools will drive sales results, and with equal focus on allowing reps to practice using them as they would during a sales cycle.

5. Enablement happens day-to-day, so the training was only the launch. Like a product owner, you need to be close to your customers and users—this means getting user feedback, fixing bugs, gathering analytics, and making updates. An iterative approach will ensure that your tool makes the lives of your salespeople easier.

Only if reps believe they’ll see a questioning model again and they’ll be held accountable to using it, can we convince them that practicing it is worth their time. Tools and templates scale reasonably well and tend to get used if they actually drive results. If we want sales training to stick, then we need to focus on creating tools and templates that are sticky.