By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company
Years ago as a newly promoted sales manager I attended a 3-day pilot of a sales training workshop my company was considering. The instructor did a fine job and there was good content in the program. The consensus was that the entire sales staff should attend the program. Given the level of experience of people I had inherited within my district, there seemed to be significant upside in having them attend the workshop.
As each of my 8 salespeople returned from the sales training, I asked: “What did you take away from the workshop?” In retrospect that question sums up one of the major reasons that sales training initiatives fail or yield disappointing results. It is also why CustomerCentric Selling® (CCS™) promotes sales process that becomes part of an organization’s sales culture rather than training which often devolves into an event with limited staying power and benefit.
How does a manager of 8 salespeople, each taking different lists of “nuggets” from training, go about managing a sales team? The short answer is that I allowed them to get out of the training whatever they could, but standard practices that could have provided widespread benefits were not adopted in my district or company-wide. The high quality program brought in at great expense and with high hopes ultimately degraded into an event. Six months later, the training was a vague image in the rear view mirror. Most people had reverted to old habits and few of the “nuggets” were still being applied.
In wanting to avoid delivering “drive by” sales training, CustomerCentric Selling® suggests many steps to help customers implement process with the ultimate goal of changing the way sellers communicate with buyers. Here is an overview of approaches to implementing process that will yield long-term benefits:
1. Outcomes are discussed with executives within companies that are considering CustomerCentric Selling®. The major issues such as win rates; length of sales cycles; forecast accuracy; start up times for new hires; etc. are identified.
2. For each desired outcome a detailed discussion helps identify why outcomes/goals can’t be achieved in the buyer’s current environment.
3. Specific CustomerCentric Selling® capabilities are identified that buyers believe can address barriers and empower them to achieve the desired outcomes.
4. Attendance by a small group to a Public Workshopis recommended. This is our “proof step” and provides a much better idea of how the process would work in the prospect’s environment. A small group of people:
Experience the program first hand
Learn the scope of creating Sales Ready Messaging®
Have input as to what if any, modifications to the program are needed
Have a clearer idea of potential benefits and can create a cost versus benefit with the help of their business partner
1. If the decision in made to hold one or more internal sessions several activities take place:
The scope of Sales Ready Messaging® is determined
An evaluation of CRM milestones is made and thresholds are set for deliverables for different sized transactions
The agenda is reviewed to make sure all topics are relevant. Future attendees will learn the skills to execute the entire process rather than having an “a la carte” attitude when leaving workshops.
The skills to execute the process are acquired in structured role-plays where students are shown how to sell their own offerings by executing Sales Ready Messaging®.
1. Shortly after leaving workshops, salespeople with the help of their managers will re-grade their existing pipeline against using new qualification criteria.
2. Managers help sellers retrofit the new process to have existing and new opportunities documented in a way that allows them to be graded based upon measurable events.
3. In order to be forecasted, opportunities in a seller’s pipeline must adhere to the required documentation.
4. CCS® Business Partners offer consulting services and support to help in implementing the process.
5. Success metrics are tracked on a quarterly basis to measure results.
Making purchase decisions on sales training is difficult. There are a myriad of choices. Many executives feel there is a need to hold training sessions, but don’t have clearly defined outcomes and a sense of what capabilities are needed to achieve them. That said I believe disappointing results are nearly guaranteed when sellers attend training and believe they have the latitude to adopt only those techniques they deem relevant to their selling approaches.
To optimize the chances for successful outcomes, I believe it is critical for members of the organization to attend an initial workshop, modify the program to fit the organization’s sales environment and set the expectation that attendees will be expected to execute the entire process. We take pride in the Success Stories featured in our newsletter and on our website that demonstrate the potential value of implementing sales process.
The ultimate goal for our clients goes beyond training. Adoption of sustainable skills so that sellers can execute sales ready messaging® and document progress on opportunities allows sales managers to grade pipeline based upon measurable buyer actions. As you can see from the results in Success Stories there is significant upside for clients that successfully implement sales process.