Many SME’s assume that investing in sales training will automatically increase sales productivity. As the sales team is on the frontline when it comes to generating revenue and profit, it’s a reasonable assumption that improving sales skills will have a positive, immediate and direct impact on the company’s bottom line.
Or is it?
Interestingly, this assumption typically hasn’t served companies particularly well: in reality, firms waste huge sums of money on ineffective sales training.
Here are five of the biggest mistakes that cause SMEs to waste their training budgets, and explore the simple processes that can help you get the most out of your sales training programme.
1. Trying to fix the wrong problem
Organisations frequently embark on sales training initiatives without a clear definition of the problems they are trying to solve. While sales training is a great tool for improving selling skills, it can’t fix organisational issues, misaligned compensation strategies or ineffective hiring practices. As such, training should only be undertaken if there is a clear definition of why it is needed and what the expected outcomes are.
2. A lack of communication
For training to be successful, stakeholders need to be a part of the conversation before, during and after the fact, so they can communicate enthusiasm and expectations throughout the process. I’ve seen training programmes become an end in themselves, rather than being used as a means to solve the key problems stakeholders identified.
3. Failing to define desired outcomes
Identifying a problem is the first step, but it’s also crucial to define the desired outcomes that are expected as a result of the training. How will the sponsors know if the programme has been successful? How will they measure results?
The key factors to look out for are: whether participants enjoy the training; whether they understand the material being discussed; whether they are able to apply it and create that crucial behaviour change; whether they receive post-training support to ensure the new method is implemented; and whether the training produces business results.
By including outcome measures in the programme and defining them before the training is underway, you can ensure participants receive the most out of each session. Making use of surveys, coaching and benchmarking to measure the desired outcomes after the training will help to discern whether it has been properly implemented or not.
4. The training isn’t tailored to SMEs
While some companies will benefit from an off-the-shelf delivery package, sales professionals are often resistant to a programme that they feel is too generic or which they struggle to understand how to apply the concepts to their personal situation.
As an SME, the needs of your training will differ from those of a global company or a start-up, so ensuring a programme is right for your business in its current state will help to make training as productive as possible.
For smaller organisations that want to develop their sales and negotiation skills, but find it hard to commit the resources needed, flexible delivery is invaluable. It enables them to develop world-class skills on a timescale – and through channels – that is appropriate for them.
Identifying common challenge areas and then building in scenarios that provide for skill application with live accounts helps participants feel like they’re getting real work done. It also helps prepare them to apply the concepts when they get back into the field following training.
5. Neglecting to reinforce the programme
Finally, one of the greatest challenges is ensuring that ongoing coaching is provided. No matter how good a training programme is, it won’t be as effective if managers or external consultants don’t reinforce the skills in the field or don’t know how to make the trainees confident enough to use them.
As such, you must ensure that a comprehensive reinforcement plan is part of any sales training programme, and that managers have the skills and tools to support their teams.
It’s important to do this immediately after the training, when the session is clear in employees’ minds, but it’s also important to revisit it six weeks down the line, so they can feedback appropriately on how they’ve been using the skills they’ve learnt.