Why Sales Coaching Reinforces Skill-based Learning

Most sellers have little time for training, and when they do, it seems that product training takes center stage. After that, it is company process training – meaning more about the internal workings of how orders flow through the organization than even close analysis of the key steps within sales for a predictable process to happen. When are sales teams making time for ongoing, regular learning about some of these topics:

Messaging – how well is our message resonating with prospective customers?

Prospecting – with our great messaging, how good are we at identifying more probable buyers, rather than long-shot, long-term, “need to educate” future customers?

Energy and Self Management – other than just checking on whether salespeople look busy, when are we making time to measure and track progress in the area of setting goals and accomplishing actions? Just like a very talented athlete, being drafted into a (choose your major league sport) team doesn’t assure activity will happen to the extent needed, and neither does it guarantee results. Many aspects of planning and creating an environment for sales accomplishment come from non-judgmental, regularly scheduled sales coaching.

Storytelling – the art of story is what helps sellers paint a picture to the prospective buyer. Just like any other skill, this needs to be developed over time, with lots of reinforcement and support in crafting stories that resonate with your company and product messaging. When do we make time for that?

Moving sales opportunities forward – there are skills involved in how and when to follow-up, how to create a multifaceted approach, how to track and update valuable customer insight, and in how to bring an opportunity across the goal line.

We have all seen the studies about how ineffective sales training is on its own - only 12% retention 30 days after a training session of most any type.

ES Research states that “A good or bad experience with sales training often has more to do with matching offerings to needs than with the “quality” of the training or provider. No single sales performance improvement provider is right for every company’s requirements”

Studies from several training research organizations show that when coaching follows training, on an ongoing basis, bigger gains happen. Based on our own research, 20% or more increase in sales revenues booked and 32% more of the right sales activities as median metrics are achievable when 90 days of coaching follows a training program.

Why? It is very simple. As adults, we learn through repetition and reinforcement. Additionally, as adults, we have different styles of learning. I’m a very visual learner – so if you tell me lots of facts, steps, metrics, and other information I’ll probably retain much less than a very auditory learner. Give me a digital copy of key points, and my retention will go up. Interact with me during training and a week later with key points, and I might put ideas into actual action. THAT is where the benefit starts to happen.

Example: I worked with a sales team who is not leveraging LinkedIn as a way to research prospective customers and learn more about their existing customers. Many on their team do not have LinkedIn profiles. With this sales team, stopping by or doing a virtual presentation, or talk, or training on how beneficial it will be to many on this team is useless because there is no environment of support once the session is over. However, if we work at it in an interactive way, every week (as we did), progress happens.

This is a critical idea for sales leaders to understand. Whether you work with internal or external training resources, some very objective (non-judgmental) follow-up needs to happen one week out, two weeks out, three weeks out, six weeks out, and up to 90 days out to ensure some additional level of adoption. That is assuming that there is full, complete support and modeling from leadership.

Think of the chicken and the pig in a bacon-and-egg breakfast – as the old story goes, the chicken is involved and the pig is committed. When on-boarding new sales team members or doing ongoing sales training, front-line leadership and their leadership must demonstrate support and commitment – not just a nod of the head involvement. If the sales environment is not one of openness and learning, even with training it will be challenging for new skills adoption.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

Lori Richardson is recognized as one of the "Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012" and one of "20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management". Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for tips and strategies in selling.

Topics: B2B

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