Most people have heard the phrase, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” The same goes for salespeople: Training attendance can be mandated, but you cannot force a salesperson to learn. However, a facilitator can control the environmental conditions that make a salesperson’s choice to want to learn a whole lot easier.
Start StrongA purposeful, prepared, and authentic facilitator introduction should immediately capture participants’ attention. It is difficult because in a salesperson’s mind, any time not spent profiling, prospecting, and closing deals is time wasted. The facilitator introduction should establish credibility in themselves, their company, and the material.
Their intro also needs to convey genuine passion and excitement because this is the starting point to creating an environment of candid dialogue, trust in the instructed processes and strategies, and believability in the authority delivering the material and the material itself. When a facilitator establishes that a salesperson’s time and money is being spent well in a session, the salesperson will feel motivated yet also safe enough to try out newly learned concepts.
Establish Guidelines for ParticipationNext, a facilitator should set the ground rules for expectations of valued behavior. A facilitator of salespeople should especially value engagement and an effort to participate so that the group can learn from how others do things, as supported by Albert Bandura’s 1977 social learning theory. In my 13 years of working in the sales environment, I’ve learned that salespeople have an innate attraction to observing others. They don’t want to feel like robots, but they know they have to work within a framework. It’s intriguing to them to be able to see how others are bringing their personalities and experiences to the table. This creates a trust circle that encourages perseverance and resilience in activity-based programs, which are two soft skills that are likely to lead to higher sales performance.
I personally follow an 80/20 rule in that the course should be 80 percent activity-based and max 20 percent lecture-based, so that this observation happens routinely. Hands-on learning can be achieved through role play, teach backs, gamification, and team-based competitions with celebratory prizes in which paid and free options exist. This commitment to experiential based learning for salespeople results in maximum knowledge retention and behavioral change after the program ends due to strong audience buy-in.
Communicate Learning ObjectivesLearning objectives should be clearly communicated emphasizing that what they are going to learn works in the field. There’s a notion that sales training exists in a bubble and that there’s a disconnect between what is taught and what actually happens in real life. Statistics on how well the processes and strategies work in the field can be helpful so that salespeople understand that it is replicable. This gives them confidence, which is an intangible that can directly correlate to sales performance.
Providing the audience with a chance to add in what else they want to get out of the session in addition to the formal learning objectives is also valuable because salespeople like to talk, and they also possess a strong desire to feel heard. This gets salespeople talking quickly, which is an environment they thrive in, while also promoting engagement and participation.
Communicate Value to SalespeopleEvery salesperson has a reason why they are in this profession because their roles are not for the faint at heart; they require grit, determination, and mental toughness. The facilitator can help connect the dots through the use of “what’s in it for me” statements. These statements will better link why a piece of content being taught is important to this specific audience and how it will help the participant reach their goals for their future. If done properly, the salespeople are much more likely to demonstrate the desired behavior change.
Don’t Forget MeasurementLearning objectives need to be measured. Salespeople are naturally competitive, so disclosing early and often how they will be measured as well as how the course will be measured is imperative. Participant and course measurement could include perhaps a level one reaction survey at the end of the course, a level-two knowledge-retention quiz after the course ends, a level-three survey sent 90 days post-training measuring behavioral impact, a level-four measurement of results for sales activity and dollars sold, and potentially even a level-five measurement of return on investment.
Beyond evaluation, to truly create a positive environmental condition, salespeople need to give and receive feedback on what is being measured as well as self-reflect on this feedback. Feedback is a gift. By carving out time at the end of a program for personal introspection, a salesperson owns their own learning journey and will be more committed to refining their craft, which gets them in the right mindset for the next step of the learning journey.
As an example, create a set of questions for new hires to answer at the end of each week of new hire sales training in a journal in your performance tool. The salespeople document what they think they excelled in and what they want to continue to work on with full sales leadership transparency. This self-reflection helps a salesperson gradually move from a fixed mindset, in which they believe that we can’t change our intelligence or creativity, to a growth mindset, in which they believe that we can learn and grow through opportunities that result in success and failure. This growth mindset, in my personal experience, can correlate to faster ramp-up time and speed to quota attainment.
Enable TechnologyThese ideas sound great, but unless an organization has the technology to support the environment, they tend to be just that. If a program is being delivered virtually, it’s helpful to ensure learner-use ability by clicking on the engagement features to test the usage ability, such as chat, polls, muting and unmuting, turning on video, whiteboarding with annotations, and so on.
Furthermore, if a program weaves in self-reflection, then a technology-based journaling tool is imperative. If measurement is desired, then a learning management system (LMS) and survey tool make this simple. Otherwise, salespeople will keep on believing that learning isn’t worth their time because their time is money, which is something that no growing business can afford.
How will you put together these elements to get your salespeople in the right mindset to learn?