Training for consistent message delivery across sales teams and over distributed geographies can be a challenge. However, it is crucial to every organization’s sales efforts and inconsistencies in message delivery can hurt your company’s credibility and ultimately put a damper on sales performance. If a buyer hears from one salesperson that your product is “highly configurable,” hearing from a second that it is “somewhat scalable, as long as you configure it using XYZ.. ” is going to lead to confusion — and possibly the loss of a sale.
The question is, who will train new reps to deliver consistent messages at every stage of the sales process and across geographical locations? And what about more experienced salespeople when new products or services come online?
Training for Consistent Message Delivery is Time-Consuming
All too often, frontline sales managers are — by default — the ones responsible for this training. At many companies, the sales learning team conducts programs for a week or a month and from there, skills and knowledge are passed to the sales managers, who pass it on to reps.
The problem with this system is that it’s very time-consuming — and time is a precious asset for sales managers. Most of their time during the day should be spent closing deals, not on role-playing exercises or supporting the reps on calls and in meetings.
If your organization doesn’t have consistent messaging or a good message-training system in place, your managers’ time could be devoured by all those calls and meetings. The last thing any chief revenue officer wants is to have sales managers basically running a rep’s sales practice for the first six months.
Besides being an inefficient use of a manager’s time, it can easily become a crutch for the salespeople who grow accustomed to the manager doing all the work.
On (and Off) the Job Training
One solution to the problem is enlisting top sellers as mentors to new salespeople. For example, new reps can be enrolled in a mentorship program with a more senior, seasoned salesperson with whom they ride along for one or two months. This takes time off the sales manager’s plate and allows the rep to get another perspective on someone’s sales process. Most reps need to hear from three to five different salespeople over a period of months to find their approach to every stage of the sales process. Speeding that process up is every sales leader’s dream.
New recruits should also be exposed to an extensive library of recorded sales calls and product demonstrations. By the time they watch a dozen such recordings, they can answer 80 percent of the objections they’ll ever hear. And if they do get an objection they’ve not heard before, at Allego, we train them to be honest and tell the prospect, “Look, I’m not 100% sure, can I get back to you with the correct answer?”
Just as important, we encourage reps to train after regular business hours, not just on the job. Sales reps should be productive between 8:00am and 5:00pm. With a mobile video platform, reps can do the majority of their learning podcast-style, during their morning and evening commutes. And on weekends, they should be getting their demo certifications and doing reinforcement training. Hitting your activity goals and your learning goals within a 40-hour work week isn’t possible while you’re ramping.
If your reps do most of their training during regular office hours, they can’t possibly be fully productive. Yes, it’s important to set aside time each business day for cold-calling or role-playing, but reps also need to train outside the eight-hour workday if you want them to ramp up ASAP. Studies show that mandatory training is not as well absorbed as informal learning. At Allego, we trick our sales reps into “training” by sharing best practices, industry updates win/loss reports and customer storytelling sessions.
Beyond the sales Bootcamp
We believe that courses and bootcamp are necessary to the learner’s journey but, it really only constitutes 10 percent of all learning that occurs in your role. If the average sales bootcamp is two weeks and the average ramp time of a sales reps is six months, why do we focus so heavily on just the first two weeks? That’s where organizations invest the most money, when clearly they need to spend more time and money on everything that happens after the initial training. Most of what people learn in that classroom setting is forgotten if it’s not systematically reinforced or practiced heavily. When it comes to consistent messaging, you have to be nimble and you have to be able to change your message as your market, your competition, and your feature set progresses.
There is no worse feeling than being in a sales process and conveying something incorrectly — it is the easiest way to lose credibility with your prospect. The number one reason buyers select a vendor is because of the sales rep’s ability to articulate value. And we’re now in a world where buyers have so much information that they complete 57 percent of the sales process before even engaging a rep. This doesn’t mean sales reps have lost control, it just means the margin of error is much smaller.
The average manager-to-rep ratio in the U.S. is about 7-to-1. If a manager is overseeing seven people through 10 opportunities a month, that’s 70 opportunities a month in which the manager must participate.
But if you can get reps to deliver a more consistent message 30 or 60 days earlier than you did previously, you’ll save huge amounts of your sales managers’ time — time that can be devoted to closing deals and increasing revenues. Driving a consistent message in your sales organization is great, but putting in place a system that combines people, process and technology to ensure the message remains that way as it continues to evolve is crucial.