To train, or not to train?

That can’t be a real question can it? Doesn’t it apply to everything?

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As we enter a world where mundane jobs with low skillsets are disappearing as rapidly as the technology that’s replacing them, it’s becoming even more important to teach and train our sales people, and - as importantly - their managers.

At Indicator's Sales Syndicate, when we ask most prospective member sales managers how much training they’ve had, most answer with a laugh and a shake of the head… “I had a few days transitioning from my predecessor,” they say. When we ask what training they’ve had since, we usually get a blank stare.

In just about every case, they were one of the best salespeople and had been promoted. Logical progression, right? Into a completely different role!

Sales Management is not the same as Sales

It’s not even that close. It’s all about recruiting, motivating, training, setting compensation, reviewing, pipeline managing, forecasting and probably firing. All things that they’ve never done as a sales rep or account manager. Selling was about selling things, none of that recruiting or managing stuff.

In a similar vein, we often do the same thing with our new sales people.

We recruit them, put them through the company induction plan, teach them the tools they will use (configurators, CRM systems), give them the product training, maybe allocate them a patch or an account list, then push them out the door and wait for them to deliver.

However, more often than not, they don’t deliver, or they take a long time, way longer than we want.

Then we wonder why. Aren’t they that good?

Maybe it’s a bit like giving a sprinter a pole and expecting them to learn how to pole vault.

So what should we be doing?

The Sales Rep

Out of that induction process was one significant omission. We didn’t teach them our sales process and the conversations we expect them to be having at each stage. Because that’s how we make sales – by having conversations – qualification, objection handling, proposal presentations and the like. Maybe we buddy-ed them up. But what if that buddy/peer doesn’t really follow or even know the model themselves – and who says they do it the best way? They may be a relationship person when we really need a challenger type.

The company (and this is another one of the sales manager’s jobs), should have developed a sales model with defined content or conversations – conversations that have been built out and documented (ideally able to be role played and video recorded for further training use). Now the newbie can be told “here is how we go about making sales or managing accounts, these are the types of conversations we expect you to have” (at these stages) , “these are the best formats and content for the meetings (we have found), now go and learn these and use them when you start selling.”

Also, who do they target? Have they got a clear and defined description of their target prospect? Who is worth hunting? More importantly - who isn’t. These are the companies or the people that you should be talking to, this is what our current and future clients look like, and this is how we should be engaging them.

The Manager

How can they gain training?

Firstly, it needs to be recognised that training and development for a sales manager is important, and the onus should be on both the individual and the company to step forward. As they say, people go to a company for the brand, and stay for the manager. If your manager is learning and developing, they will in turn develop their team. This has a much bigger impact on results and culture than developing an individual sales person.

Too often we have seen very little support for the manager to develop.

There are some courses they could attend, either online or face to face, but these can cover a lot of topics very quickly and retention and re-enforcement can be a problem. Where do you start? What do you concentrate on?

You may try and find a mentor. That can be a good model if you can find the right person.

You could contract a consultancy. Again, you need to find the right person, but it can be costly.

All these options can add value to the manager.

At Indicator we believe in an ongoing development approach and providing an opportunity to learn from experts, but also from others in a similar position.

Some of the important areas for sales leaders to keep improving on are as follows: what is the role of the manager? How to recruit? How to train their teams to get better results, how to motivate, how to compensate, how to fire, how to keep up with new technology, how to manage with metrics, review, forecast better and of course, how to run effective sales meetings – these are the roles and tasks of the sales manager.

Quite different to having an individual sales target!