There are three basic necessities for a sales training/certification program that will produce lasting performance gains and a positive, measurable ROI.

– The program must teach a sales system that is genuinely more effective than what salespeople are doing now.

– Training must proceed according to the realities of adult learning and behavioral reinforcement.

– The system must rely on key skills that can be taught.

Let’s look more closely at that third principle.  Any number of traits and characteristics may contribute in some way to sales success: an outgoing personality, the gift of gab, etc.  But while innate personality traits can be talked about, they can’t really be taught.

If a skill can’t be taught, potential can’t be unlocked.

Achieving dramatic gains in sales performance, for an individual salesperson or an entire sales force, is all about unlocking the hidden potential that actually exists.  If a skill can’t be taught, there is no key to the lock.

The Action Selling ® system relies on five key skills that research shows are critical to success in virtually any selling situation.  They can be taught.  They can be measured.  And on-the-job performance gains due to increases in each skill can be documented.  Here they are.

1. Understanding the Buyer/Seller Relationship.  What are the incremental decisions that customers make that lead to a sale?  How can we impact those decisions?  Yes, there is a buying-decision process, and sellers need a corresponding sales process.

2. Sales Call Planning.  Results improve dramatically when you stop flying by the seat of your pants and learn to use a consistent, proven planning process.

3. Questioning Skills.  Effective selling is all about asking, not telling. Learning how to ask the best questions at every stage of a sales call gives you the foundation skill that lets you build optimum relationships with buyers.

4. Presentation Skills.  If you think great sales pitches are born from great standardized product presentations, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.

5. Gaining Commitment.  No sales call is successful unless the customer commits to take some action that will move the sales process forward.  Do you know what commitment you want from every call, and do you ask for it?  Most salespeople don’t.

When those five skills are learned and certified, performance potential is unlocked.  Nobody has to wonder whether the sales training was worth the money.  A company can count the dollar return on its investment simply by watching what happens to sales revenue and profit margins.

Action Selling ® In Action

Last year a major automotive-parts distributor trained and certified its 1,200+ salespeople and their managers in the Action Selling ® system.  Using a valid and reliable instrument developed by The Sales Board, the company measured gains in both learning and on-the-job performance related to the five skills discussed above.

With a benchmark assessment before the training took place, the company established existing proficiency levels in all five skills, individually and overall. When it measured proficiency again 90 days after the training, all five skills had improved dramatically.  The average overall score (for the five skills combined) rose from 57% to 82%–a learning and performance gain of 44%!

The company also measured its return on investment in the form of changes in sales revenue and profits following the training.  (See the previous eCoach edition for more information on this rigorous measurement effort.)  Results? Within 90 days after the initial training, the program returned more than $3 in the form of increased gross profit for every dollar invested in the training. Conservative projections showed than in the first full year, the ROI on Action Selling ® would be 14:1!