ATD Blog

Make an Impact: Sales Training that Changes Sales Team Behavior

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Every sales trainer knows somewhere in the back of their mind when their training isn't sticking, but few do anything to change it. Instead, they focus on "should've" and "could've":

  • The sales reps "should've" paid more attention
  • I "could've" reached them if I had more time to prepare
  • You "should've" told me they're unteachable.

By making excuses, you're not just shifting the blame: you're basically admitting that the situation is impossible to change. In other words: why are you even there?

To make sure your training is reaching the sales reps and making a lasting impression on their work, here are some quick tips from the World Class Selling Competency Model.

Get buy-in from your sales team

Just like comedians don't work funerals, you shouldn't train people who don't want to learn. The first thing you should do is guarantee that the representatives know why the information you're giving them is helpful. And no, "corporate wants you to know this" is not the right answer. In fact, if you can't even explain why this is important to them, why are you training them on it?

Salespeople care about two things: making sales, and making more time for sales. If you can tie in your learning to these two core concepts, they'll be interested to listen but not convinced enough to use it. How do you get them to change their behavior then?

Suit the sales environment

No one's ever made a sale by standing still and reading off a PowerPoint. This means that you can't expect typical lecturing to reach the sales team. You need to address the common situations that salespeople find themselves in, and offer valid solutions. Not only that, but you need to show how the situation may actually look using the methods or techniques you're training them on.

If most of your salespeople start looking for the nearest available exit when you mention role-playing though, then try to guide them through a similar process by addressing common questions that a client may have. More often than not, as long as you don't actually say the dreaded "r" word, you can get away with them actually paying attention and trying out the new techniques. The next question becomes: what can you do to make sure they'll still be using it a month from now?


Make it easily and readily applicable

Your sales team was making sales before you started the training session, and they'll be making them after the session too. Your job wasn't to reinvent the wheel; it was to help them be more effective.

To do that, you need to make sure that your training builds off the foundation of what they're already working with. The sales team's behavior is based on past experience and trial-and-error. While it's hard to make anyone change their behavior overnight, if you at least match their old experiences with new methods, they'll start trying it.

The other main issue with training sticking is that by the time the team finds themselves in a situation where the training applies, they've already forgotten too much. A way to ensure that this doesn't happen is to end your training program by asking each salesperson to thinkabout the next three situations where they can use these new skills. By at least visualizing when they can use it, they'll already be more prepared to use it. When they finally get the chance to try out the new skill they learned, they'll still be familiar enough with it to start changing their behavior.

So why isn't your training sticking?

Sometimes, you're just going to have a stubborn, set in their ways sales team. And since there isn't a mind control ray gun (not yet, anyway), it's difficult to make them change their long-term behavior. But if you've centered your training around what the sales team wants, based it in familiar sales settings, and made sure that they can use it right away, the team will start to come around.


Or you can keep blaming them and wait for that ray gun. Good luck with that.

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In an article posted by Achieve Global in 2008 entitled "Does Training Rely Too Much on Coaching by Managers? it is discussed that "training and coaching needs to be long-term companions in developing employees." Sales Training Drivers is in agreement here and it is centered on the Sales Training Drivers core mission.

Related Product

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ASTD Member Price: $24.95

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About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

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