Lighting a Spark Blog: Making Training Stick
As a sales trainer, there are few things that cause me greater frustration than having a training “event.” I define an event as being a one-time thing that has few if any lasting results. It’s the education equivalent of a revival meeting. I leave behind an enthusiastic class of sales people with new commitment to success only to see them fall back into their old ways. They return to a world of urgent messages, putting out fires, and jumping through hoops. They return to a sales manager asking them what they can “close” this month. They return to customers they have already trained to make unreasonable requests and who expect them to try to satisfy them anyway.
During training they express their frustration at having too little time to juggle all of their responsibilities. They complain about having too little control over their opportunities and too little influence with their suppliers. In training they learn:
- How to lead with business issues and goals instead of products;
- How to discuss their products and services as capabilities, and show how they are used rather than pitching features and benefits;
- How to call above the power line and talk with the decision makers;
- How to manage the selling process to keep the focus on value;
- And how to negotiate based on knowing the value they bring.
Their energy rises and their confidence is evident. Even 30-year sales veterans tell me they feel good about their jobs (sometimes for the first time) and that they are eager to practice what they’ve learned. Some say they wish someone had invested in them earlier in their careers so they wouldn’t have had to struggle along the way to figure out why some things worked and others didn’t.
So why doesn’t training stick? I blame the managers. Yes, I risk irritating some of my clients by saying that, but without management commitment, change doesn’t happen. The manager has to make it clear from the first training class that they expect to see this learning practiced and incorporated into the culture. At performance review time, they need to assess their team’s ability to understand and to use the tools they learned. They need to plan refreshers and reinforcement activities at regular intervals, whether they do them in house, bring back the trainer, or use a webinar. Most of all, they have to embrace the pain of a new learning curve themselves and be willing to invest the time and practice it takes to understand, practice, and master the process. When they do, the results exceed expectations and produce an energized, consciously competent, team of professionals performing at their best. And my work there is done.