It’s a fact that as robotic and AI technology continues to improve, many human jobs will be replaced by machines. There are few areas in business that are safe from such a threat including the sales force.
Person-to-person contact between the sales department and their clients is still a vital business link. But with the coming age of robotic devices that speak and even use logical reasoning, it’s important that the types of employee training needed to face this competition be utilized.
Unfortunately, statistics show that companies in general do a fairly poor job of training. The ES Research Group claims that their studies show that only 10 to 15% of the information given out during sales training sessions has a lasting impression beyond 120 days.
That dismal number adds up to billions of dollars wasted for training that has short-lived benefits to the company.
Here is a list of the most common causes of training failure:
1. Business and Learning Needs Not Defined
If business managers don’t define the objectives, goals and expectations of the training sessions to their trainees, there is little hope that any long-lasting results will occur.
It’s important to tell learners the desired outcome of the sessions and explain how their training will get them there. Without that, many training programs are ripe for failure before they even begin.
2. Failure to Inform Sales Knowledge
The trend in sales training tends to concentrate on the general skills of how to sell and not on the products that they will be expected to sell. Salespeople must be able to converse clearly about the products and services being offered in order to be competitive.
3. Failure to Define a Sales Process and Methodology
Too many sales training programs fail to teach a process and methodology that sales trainees can follow in order to progress in their sales education. Without a defined process, the training can easily become blurred and forgotten by the salespeople.
4. Training that Fails to Engage the Participants
The worst thing a trainer wants to see during one of their sales training sessions is yawning participants. Adults are not unlike younger school students in that they need to feel engaged by the speakers and teachers in order to stay alert and interested.
Too many training programs are critiqued by the participants as being boring, a waste of time or not relevant. Much of that criticism falls on the shoulders of the instructors.
Adults learn best when they participate. Good training programs need to engage the sales people by allowing them to practice putting new skills and information to use.
5. Lack of Follow-Up Training
Most sales training programs follow a 2-3 day schedule designed to teach salespeople new skills and how to put them into play. As effective as the program may seem initially, without an agenda of follow-up training, sales people often forget what they have just learned. Consequently, the inspiration and excitement generated by a good sales training session often loses its steam very quickly without some form of training reinforcement.
6. Poor Evaluation, Accountability, and Continued Progress Systems
It’s amazing that very few companies go to the effort of evaluating the sales training effectiveness. Without a report card to gauge the results, both positive and negative, of the training, companies have no way of improving their sales training efforts.
Did sales improve as the result of the training? Did they stay flat or even decline? Without follow-up information, there is no way to evaluate the actual success or failure of the training program.
How to Improve Sales Training Programs
1. Hire sales trainers who are able to gear sales training programs specifically for the types of employee training your business requires.
2. Make sure your trainers know and utilize all of the rules of effective time management. They need to be able to effectively teach and distribute information quickly.
3. Utilize short training sessions instead of presenting one long session. Covering one topic per session in 15-20 minute intervals, followed by short practice sessions, holds the attention span of your trainees much more effectively
4. Separate the sales team into smaller groups to maximize their particular strengths and experience. Don’t combine brand new personnel with your seasoned veterans unless you have no other choice. Trainers working with smaller groups can impart concentrated information that is important without wasting time going over old sales techniques.
5. Have information hand-outs ready at the end of the session that summarize what was taught. Do not disrupt the flow of the training by handing data out during the sessions in order to keep the trainees attentive and listening.
6. Make the sessions interesting enough to hold the attention of your audience by interjecting humor or short anecdotal stories that emphasize and enhance the information being disseminated.
Sales is a tricky industry to succeed in but knowing what can go wrong and how to best fix it will put your employees one step ahead of your competition. Hopefully these tips will give you an idea where your sales team can best improve.