When the Training Wheels Come Off


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I was lucky enough to be introduced to a sales team’s top performer for 2013. Julie’s Sales Operations leader thought I could learn a lot from her. Half way through the year, she was 90% to goal. Her pipeline was full of opportunities likely to close this quarter. She and her team were on pace to crush the number. But it hadn’t always been so rosy.

Historically Julie has been an ‘A’ player, but 2012 was tough. She missed her number and did not know why. She fought her way through the past 6 years with Solution and Spin selling. Almost overnight, buyers stopped responding. Our research shows that Julie is not alone. Last year’s top talent is struggling. Training dollars are being misallocated. By signing up for our 7th annual Research Tour your team can learn why. After signing up you will receive the Redesigned ‘A’ Player Competencies Dashboard.

The Dasboard will allow you to:

  1. Improve your sales team’s talent level
  2. Generate more leads at the top of the funnel
  3. Convert more leads into opportunities

Julie was sick of battling on price. If another customer told her every competitor’s offering felt the same, she might scream. Her sales manager knew her potential and sent her to a weeklong sales training. It simply reinforced the strategies she was already employing. When she went back into the field nothing had changed. The Need-Payoff that she had been trained on was thrown out the window.

She was frustrated and went on LinkedIn, ready to test the market. While there it dawned on her. The top reps in her industry were meeting and networking online. Her clients were sharing articles that her competitors had written. Buyers had decided on the benefits they wanted before a sales call. Julie took it upon herself to transform the way she engaged and sold to her top clients.

Does this ring a bell? To avoid endless price wars, you look for key differentiators. Budget has been invested in Training and Development in the past year. Your CRM supports the sales process. Unfortunately, the impact on revenue has yet to be realized. Post-training feedback shows that deals are not closing faster. Deal sizes are not larger. The pipeline is not expanding.

Why Bother?

The cost of hiring or developing the wrong rep is staggering. Think about all the resources invested. A 4 day training at corporate. Hotels, flights and food. The laptop, phone and admin support. And all the while, they are bringing in a salary. The cost of one mis-hire can be well over $500K. You have to invest in training, but you must invest wisely.

The Old Model

Many artifacts common in sales trainings no longer work. Employee assessments are not testing for mastery of a sales process. Product pitches centered on the new cool features are not resonating with buyers. Do you think a 3 year old training module is focused on social selling? When a new rep leaves a training, he does not have the tool kit to succeed. Frustrated, they revert back to old ways of doing business. They believe that what worked before will work again.

The New ‘A’ Player

To survive in B2B selling in 2014 a new set of skills is required. Chances are your top sales talent is already engaging in some of these activities. The majority are not. To see the best results, the entire organization must be trained on these new competencies. The new ‘A’ players have branded themselves as authorities online. They generate referrals through their LinkedIn connections. They produce and share content that resonates and is relevant with buyers. They understand how to qualify a lead and convert it to a sales opportunity.

The top sales reps in your organization 3 years ago did not possess these skills. They were not necessary. Now they are crucial. The Redesigned ‘A’ Player Competencies Dashboard highlights where to focus training initiatives.

Training and Development is a continuous process. But at some point, the training wheels come off. Your training will be effective if it’s focused on nurturing new ‘A’ player competencies. If reps see early results, they will adopt these new training strategies. If they don’t they will revert to tactics that no longer work. Ensure your training dollars are well spent. Focus them on the capabilities that will ensure you make your number in 2014.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

John Kearney
John Kearney serves as Senior Consultant at Sales Benchmark Index (SBI), a sales and marketing consultancy focused exclusively on helping B2B companies exceed their revenue targets. John has helped organizations implement Talent Development and Sales Process programs that have led to revenue growth of 20% and increased efficiencies within the sales team.


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