Thomas Petroleum, a fuels and chemicals supplier based in Texas, got a couple of pleasant surprises after it supercharged its sales team’s selling process with sales training programs and sales coaching based on the Action Selling system.

One surprise was that the training improved the performance of salespeople regardless of their experience levels. A sales veteran with 50 years of experience used what he learned to close the biggest deal in the company’s history, says Brad Christiansen, Thomas’ vice president of business development.

But a bigger surprise, Christiansen says, was the effect on the company’s sales cycle and on forecasting accuracy. “Since we began with this sales training course, our sales cycle has gone from 9.8 calls to 5.1 calls—a 48 percent improvement,” he says. “In addition, our sales pipeline has become a reliable projection source rather than a water-cooler list of ‘what the boss wants to see so I can keep my job.'”

How can sales training programs and sales coaching speed up an organization’s sell cycle and improve its forecasting ability? Obviously, there is more involved than just effective selling skills. The answer lies in sales skills training that is based on a genuinely great sales system.

In most cases, the length of your sell cycle is a function of how many calls it takes for a salesperson to complete a deal and how effective your sales process is at moving the business forward with each call. If your salespeople “wing it” on client calls, flying by the seat of their pants, then the average number of calls is probably pretty high.

As for the accuracy of your projections about when and if the business in the pipeline will materialize, that’s probably pretty low.

When sales training courses and sales coaching initiatives are based on the Action Selling system, sell cycles get shorter and sales forecasts get more accurate for two basic reasons: Salespeople emerge with a solid definition of the Milestones that lead to a deal, and they are equipped with a selling process that greases the skids to move deals forward faster.

Defined Milestones + Better Sales Process = Speed and Accuracy

When selling skills training is based on the Action Selling system, the sales cycle is studied and documented. The key events that must occur from initial contact to final sale—the Milestones in the cycle—are identified. Commitment Objectives are then tied to those milestones.

So every salesperson goes into every customer call not only with improved sales skills but also with a clear idea of what the next Milestone is, and a clear goal for the call, in the form of a Commitment Objective: Gain the customer’s agreement to take the steps necessary to reach the next milestone.

When the Milestones and sales process are consistent among all salespeople, the sell cycle gets faster and management discovers that forecasts become far more reliable.

In a nutshell: It’s quicker and easier to get someplace if you know the route and what to look for along the journey.

For information about how to improve sales skills and make sales training pay huge dividends, contact Action Selling at (800) 232-3485.

Duane Sparks

About Duane Sparks

Duane Sparks is founder and chairman of The Sales Board, the authoritative source of practical and leading-edge information about the art and science of selling.  He has created Action Selling sales training products and learning systems that transform sales organizations.  Duane is author of these best-selling books: Action Selling, Selling Your Price, Questions (the Answer to Sales), Masters of Loyalty (How to turn your sales force into a loyalty force), and Sales Strategy from the Inside Out (How complex selling really works).

Discover how the best sales training process can make spectacular improvements in sales skills. Action Selling: How to Sell Like a Professional (Even If You Think You are One).