There are three common causes of poor selling performance. Too often, we don’t spend enough time speaking with high-capacity buyers/customers. Also, we’re unable to verbalize the most important sales communication in a convincing and credible way. We can also demonstrate poor skills when executing the fundamental consultative sales process. Since the goal of sales enablement programs is to remedy this, why do they so often fail?
Most sales training programs do not have nearly enough practice and repetition—with increasingly rigorous coaching—to break bad habits and reinforce new ones. In a study cited in Scott Edinger’s Forbes piece, How Great Sales Leaders Coach, if there was no coaching or reinforcement activity after sales training, there was a drop-off of 87% of the knowledge acquired.
One or two practice sessions on a new sales skill is simply not enough. Think about how many times a golfer will practice the exact same shot in order to master it (Farewell, #ArnoldPalmer). So many programs are built to cover a lot of material quickly. However, this ignores the realities of the consultative sales process. It’s hard to acquire skills that involve verbalizing information and facilitating an interactive, back-and-forth conversation.
Show Me, Don’t Tell Me
Salespeople fail because they are not trained and coached to succeed. When they learn how to verbalize the key skills used by top performers, and are coached to develop the right habits, they either improve or leave. Too often, mediocre salespeople spread bad habits and dilute the power of a sales culture. However, this can’t be countered by lecturing. To instill good habits and break bad ones, you need a coaching approach.
Sales training teams must have the skills and follow-up ability to teach—and demonstrate—the best practices of top performers. Sales managers also need to start coaching in an effective and consistent way. By doing so, they will start managing performance-improving practice interactions as well as they manage metrics, pipelines, and data.
Here are some of the sales skills that are best learned through practice and repetition—not through endless lectures and PowerPoints:
- Knowing who has the capacity to buy a lot of your product/service and knowing what to say to schedule a meeting or phone appointment with that person
- Getting a sales conversation off to a good start with an effective agenda
- Answering the question of “what you and your company do?”
- Explaining a product or service the company is offering in a convincing and interesting way
- Communicating the three most important competitive advantages of the company
- Communicating a concise and compelling success story of a customer/client of using a popular product/service
- Responding effectively to the most common objections
- Explaining what it is that makes your company a better choice than your two strongest competitors
- Knowing how to respond when a sales process gets stalled
Real Sales Enablement
It takes long-term commitment to implement a coaching-based sales enablement process. Typical sales training doesn’t even come close—especially if it neglects ongoing practice and reinforcement. To succeed, a program must work simultaneously with the four key elements of a sales team:
- Salespeople who interact with buyers/clients/customers—and are willing to hone their skills like a professional golfer does, with LOTS of practice
- Sales managers who are willing and able to coach—with real-world interactive sales training practice
- Sales executives who hold sales managers accountable for coaching
- Sales trainers with the potential to deliver training and follow-up coaching (using online video training and other continued learning strategies)
In 2014, Progress Coaching’s Tim Hagen pointed out that 46% of recent survey respondents rated “coaching by the sales manager” as one of the most effective ways for reinforcing new sales skills. They also said that 55% of respondents listed “lack of post training implementation” as one of the top weaknesses of sales training.
It’s high time that training companies took this seriously—and made coaching and practice reinforcement a requirement for sales enablement.