A WORD FROM DUANE SPARKS
Dear Sales Executive:
How does your company’s top management feel about investing in sales training? Skepticism? Grudging acceptance of a necessary evil?
It doesn’t help that despite all the sales training that goes on in the corporate world, a ton of data shows that almost all of it fails and half of all sales reps still don’t hit their goals. In spite of good intentions, many companies suffer from a chronic sales slump.
When it’s done right, sales training can be one of best investments your company will ever make, with an ROI that is downright astonishing. But even if you do the right training in the right manner, top execs won’t just take your word that it paid off on the bottom line. You need proof. You need supporting data.
Where do you get convincing data that your sales training efforts are paying off? Glad you asked.
If you have a question about how to conduct sales training with spectacular (and demonstrable) results, click on “Ask The eCoach“.
We are committed to your professional success.
Author of Action Selling
BLESSINGS FROM MANAGEMENTHow can you prove to skeptical management that sales training works? It’s one of the oldest questions in the industry, and it’s not a simple one. Executives who have been through this before probably saw sales training as a waste of money. But, I have good news for you. It so happens that a great way to gather persuasive data to demonstrate sales training’s effectiveness is also a great way to focus training on areas where it is needed most—thereby making it more effective. In an earlier edition of eCoach I outlined a foolproof plan for designing and conducting sales training that is guaranteed to reverse a sales slump. I said you should start by identifying the milestone(s) in your sales cycle at which a bottleneck begins to form. So, how do you do that, exactly? Study your sales cycle. Your sales cycle is composed of the series of steps or milestones that must be completed to take your customer from the initial call to a solid commitment to buy your solution. Whether you have formally identified it or not, you do have a sales cycle. It might look something like this: Sample Sales-Cycle Milestones Identify a prospect Conduct a needs assessment Demonstrate your solution Present a proposal Gain a commitment Your own cycle may have more such milestones or fewer, but they exist, and you can identify them. To fix a sales slump, first determine at what point in your cycle things begin to break down. For example, it doesn’t make sense to invest in a redesign of your proposal system if your team isn’t making enough prospecting calls to build a reasonable pipeline. How do you know where the bottleneck is? The most reliable way is to look at the history of your sales team’s activity data. Your customer relationship management system (CRM), if you have one, would be the logical source of this data. Backtrack activity to find the bottleneck. I suggest that you start at the last milestone in your sales cycle and backtrack sequentially through the numbers. Using the sample milestones above, for example: On average, how many proposals does it take to get a deal? Then, how many demos does it take to get a proposal? How many needs assessments does it take to get a demo? How many prospecting calls does it take to get a needs assessment? Suppose you discover the following: On average, it takes six prospecting calls to get one needs assessment. It takes two needs assessments to schedule one demo. It takes two demos to get one proposal. It takes three proposals to get one deal. Now do the arithmetic. To get one deal, on average, you need 72 prospecting calls, 12 needs assessments, six demos, and three proposals. Let’s say that each rep needs to do one deal per month to hit quota. Is each rep making 72 new-prospect calls every month? Is everyone conducting 12 assessments, facilitating six demos, and presenting three proposals? If not, what is the earliest point in the sales cycle where quantities miss the mark? Even if more than one milestone is below standard, the earliest milestone below par is the place to start making improvements. That’s where you will find the greatest insight into the origin of your problems. Whatever the underlying causes of a slump may turn out to be, tracing the bottleneck to a particular milestone in your sales cycle is valuable for several reasons:
- It allows you to focus on a particular activity, which gives you the best chance to achieve an immediate impact.
- It lets you zero in on specific skill-building exercises to correct a particular problem.
- Salespeople will be more apt to buy into your plan if it is supported by research you’ve done.
- Connect the successes you experience back to specific skills you helped your team develop with the training.
- Use a validated assessment to measure skill development before, during, and after the training. If you can tangibly show growth in skills from training, then improvements in sales performance can be connected to specific skill gains. This drives enthusiasm for the training, as well as for future sales training.
- Finally, calculate an ROI from what you’ve done using pre- and post- data on bottom-line measures including sales and profit. Management will see why sales training is the best investment opportunity they’ve got.