Huge amounts of time and money are spent annually on different sales methodology trainings. Unfortunately, we’ve all experienced such a training that had little impact. There are 3 main reasons for training failure:
- Content: doesn’t align with the reality reps face. This could be because when an organization is trying to wholesale adopt a new pre-packaged sales methodology (like Challenger, SPIN, etc), the methodology is too complicated (a nine-stage process that includes two stage sevens), or the enablement team didn’t connect with the right parts of the business in designing the sales approach.
- Intervention: doesn’t engage and inspire the field, so they don’t buy the concepts. Most commonly this comes down to program design – E-learning or lecture style training are the least effective methods, while effectiveness increases as reps get to interact with the new sales motions more.
- Execution support: often consists of some take-home material and possibly a follow up conversation with a manager, which if we’re being honest, we know won’t get it done. You could nail the content and the actual delivery of the training program—inspiring reps to change how they sell—but if they go back to the same proposals with product-focused pitches, managers coaching on concepts that don’t align, etc, then they will likely fall back to their old way of working.
Principles to Avoid These Problems (No Silver Bullets)
- Content: when introducing a new sales methodology, especially one that’s not built just for you, it’s critical to change how leaders (both inside and outside of sales) and managers think and talk about sales. For example, if you’re adopting an insight selling approach, marketing needs to ramp up the creation of insights and collateral. If you’re building a methodology yourself, then the process of creating alignment is easier, BUT it’s critical you get input from the right leaders, managers, key account managers, and high performing salespeople. If the approach you’re trying to introduce clashes with reality either because leaders haven’t changed or because your stakeholder group steered you wrong, then getting reps to adopt it will be tough.
- Intervention: should generally include a case for change, so reps understand why that which led to their success thus far won’t work as well in the future. Once they’ve accepted that something needs to change, your change can be introduced briefly. And then the most effective way to change beliefs and behavior is to let them practice using the new methodology through the sales cycle in as interactive a method as possible— such as case studies based on real customers or role plays where they get feedback from enablement or managers.
- Execution support: should make it easy for reps to take small risks and get feedback. What’s needed depends on the methodology being adopted, but changes to CRM fields, updated prospecting templates, questioning models, and proposals are common and easy to scale. Coaching and feedback are critical as reps take their first steps in front of customers, so whether via the enablement team, peers or managers (or a mix), structured activities and then feedback sessions should be put on the calendar before or immediately after the session to ensure that they actually happen.