It’s surprising how often companies decide they need sales training before answering this key question.
In many ways the decision is a no-brainer: Good sales training helps you engage better with customers and it helps motivate and keep great sales people.
So budget time comes around again and everyone agrees “sales training” is something that funds ought to be allocated for.
HR duly allocate a pot of money and everyone moves on to arguing about what to cut from the marketing budget. Only 50% of that works, right?
Yet how do you work out what sort of sales training you need before deciding where to spend the budget you fought so hard to ring-fence?
How do I choose a sales training company?
Choosing the right sales training for your business is a real challenge.
Search for ‘Presenting Skills’ in Google and the pages of offers and companies go on and on and on. It’s showing a total of 260 million results so your filtering skills need to be really good!
Like most users you’ll probably only look at the top 5 listings on the page, but how do you know they’ll be right for you?
How do you know whether their ability to deliver training is as good as their ability to market their services or spend on an Adwords campaign to attract your attention?
Can you recommend a sales training company?
Recommendation is where many business leaders start when buying services, and rightly so. All the same, how do you know the person making the recommendation has the same needs as you?
Have you noticed how the best-rated restaurant on Tripadvisor is often a cafe? Obviously it’s not serving the best food in town, but people leaving the reviews rate it as a place that provides snacks, not a full-service restaurant.
In a training context your friend might have needed public speaking and voice projection skills but you need story-telling and presentation creation skills. That well-intentioned referral to the trainer that they used may still be wrong for you.
Many business owners will head off into a conversation about training with scant knowledge about what’s really going on and what really needs to be addressed. Without this, it’s easy to be seduced by brochures, training models and statistics that offer the promise of success.
But what if it won’t or can’t deliver the same for you, because it doesn’t address your specific need and situation? What if it could actually make things worse and complicate your business further?
Or even just waste your money?
How do you identify sales training needs?
Before you spend time or money on training, figuring out just what you need and why will ensure you bring the right training team into your business.
This is where we’re going to ask you to do some prep work.
You might be really frustrated about an aspect of your sales approach, and it’s tempting to go straight out to look for a fix.
But before you do, write a training brief.
It will help you get your head around what’s going on. It will help you describe your situation to potential training providers and help you get the results you actually need (not just what the trainer wants to deliver!).
Most importantly, by focusing you on your real needs it will save you time, money and heartache.
What should you include in a training brief?
1. Your company and context
Who you are and what you do. Whether you sell products or services – and what they are.
The size of your business in terms of people, turnover and clients.
Which sectors you sell to and which of these perform best for you.
Your strategy and plans for where you’re headed and why.
The culture you have and how that shows up in behaviours.
2. What’s happening now?
What’s not working the way you want it to and what are the symptoms?
Where within your sales process does this happen? For example, is it in how you prospect for new work, how you manage existing clients or on-board new ones, how you win work from the proposals you write etc?
What impact is this having on your results, your sales funnel, your team, your ways of working or your clients?
3. Is my sales problem a symptom or a root cause?
This is really important because it determines where any training is focused.
Is what you’re seeing a symptom of a problem somewhere else in your business?
If it is, you risk training the wrong content or people unless this is addressed as part of the training.
Or can you pinpoint the exact root cause, and you know the training will address it?
4. Your sales tools, processes and systems
What sales tools do you use to support your business?
How well are they utilised and trusted?
How well are they integrated to other systems… or each other?
Are they a given, or can they be replaced / enhanced?
5. What training have you done before?
Should this training build on previous workshops or is it stand-alone?
What impact did previous training have in the short-term and longer-term?
What worked / didn’t work and why?
6. What are the results you want to achieve?
What do you want your sales team to do or achieve differently after the training occurs?
What teams or departments will this involve in your business?
Does everyone need to act consistently or will there be some variance across the departments (and where might this occur?)
7. How do you implement training?
What’s your budget – or at least an idea of what you will and won’t invest?
How equipped are you or your managers to support and embed new learning?
How willing or equipped are your people to assimilate the learning and use it in their day jobs?
What’s the time frame you want to work to and why?
You don’t need to answer every single one of these points but a one or two-page summary of the questions will save you loads of time in the long run.
When you describe what you need it will help potential suppliers understand how best to help you and rule out those that can’t. It’ll put you on the front foot in those conversations and give you confidence to dig beneath the glossy sales pitch.
Most importantly, it will also ensure that when you do commit to training you have the confidence that what you’re doing will actually deliver what you need.
It’ll transform your business and leave you with the buzz in your team you were hoping for.
A win for all involved!