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ATD Blog

Back to School, Back to Basics


Wed Sep 01 2010


Despite the impassioned pleas by millions of children across the nation, it's that time again. School is back in session. Even though they may never admit it, children are actually excited about the upcoming school year. Every year brings a new range of possibilities. Yet before they do anything else, they must do one thing: go back to basics.

As adults, we may forget the amount of time that we spent at the beginning of every school year reviewing what we had already learned. Sometimes, it was just a simple review. Other times though, that second chance at learning was just what we needed to understand the topic at hand.


In the spirit of going back to school, here are five "back to basics" lessons for sales trainers from some of our Sales Training textbooks.

Lesson 1: Develop good habits, because every little thing matters (10 Steps to Successful Sales ). Good habits don't appear out of thin air. They're behaviors that must be cultivated every day. We're all aware of the big things that can make or break us, but how often are we late for meetings, or forget to return phone calls? These small details can often add up to create a big problem. Get to work building the right habits for the little things, and you'll be amazed at how often they diffuse disasters before they can even start.

Lesson 2: Partner with Your Sales Team (Sales Training Basics). The only thing learned in an "us vs. them" classroom setting is how quickly nothing will get done. An easy way to partner with your sales team is to identify their number one goal for the year and focus on how to help them achieve it. While working towards this goal, make sure your training is concise, relevant, and immediately applicable. If you have feedback or criticism, try to keep it positive and offer solutions to the problems you see.

Lesson 3: Teach good listening skills (Sales Training). Just as you can't train your salespeople if they're always talking, customers can't make a purchaseif they are never given a chance to speak. Instead of preparing what you have to say, listen intently and ask questions. A client doesn't want to waste hours trying to solve problems, so they'll likely tell you what they need quickly. The faster you can quickly identify a client's needs, the faster you can start your pitch. If you practice this enough times, you'll realize how successful you can be without saying a word!

Lesson 4: Organize your salespeople by priority (Sales Coaching). You should break your salespeople up into three categories: the crisis zone, the command zone, and the develop zone. Your "crisis zone" includes your salespeople who are underperforming. Address the reasons for this and aggressively work to get them back on the right path. Your superstars belong in the "command zone." More often than not, they're still not at peak performance, so work with them to reach their maximum results. Lastly, your "develop zone" defines your average salespeople. They have the potential to become your superstars, so your focus here should be to draw out their personal strengths and cultivate them.


Lesson 5: Use the right metrics for evaluation (Sales Training that Drives Revenue). In order to be successful, you first have to define success. Some possible ways to measure success are through the number of accepted proposals, increased size of orders, or increase in gross or net revenue. Try to avoid personal scores from the salespeople, as this is subjective and can vary from person to person. Overall, ensure that you know whether the information you've provided is being applied.

Going back to basics from time to time can be a good thing. It gives you an opportunity to review things you already know and approach other items with a different perspective than the first time around. So with that in mind, start learning and start training!

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