Reinventing the Wheel for Sales Training (Part 2)

Last week, I went on a bit of a rant on the odd width between U.S. rail tracks—as a metaphor for the “that’s-how-it’s-always-been-done” approach to sales training. This week, I’ll offer a modest proposal. Instead of repeating a dry litany of sales goals and metrics, what if we “flooded the zone” with truly great sales performances?

There’s an old saying: “practice makes perfect.” It’s absolute nonsense. Practice makes permanent. It’s the practice of perfection that makes us more perfect. And that requires a demonstration of what perfect is. This seemingly obvious element is nearly always missing in the practice and improvement efforts by sales teams.

Let’s assume for a moment that you have a 10-year-old daughter who shows promise as a gymnast. With the right training and coach, maybe she could make it to the Olympics. Given a choice, should she watch videos of Simone Biles, Mary Lou Retton and Nadia Comaneci—or would you rather she watch performances of gymnasts that cracked under pressure, fell on their landings, or never made it to the final round? Think about it.

If you were teaching a teenager how to play golf and develop a great golf swing, would you rather he watched demonstration videos of players like Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus—or would it be OK to have him watch 20+ handicappers swinging at the ball and repeatedly point out their mistakes?

You get the idea, I’m sure. Great movie actors learn from other great actors—either in person or by watching them in great films by the likes of Hitchcock. They don’t waste their time with Z-list pretenders in movies by Ed Wood.

I am astounded by how many sales executives ignore this obvious learning fundamental. It’s simple. If you want people to become fantastic, bombard them with demonstrations and examples of what fantastic is. That’s obvious, but it simply doesn’t happen. To be honest, it doesn’t even happen in most sales training classes.

There is a solution. If you’re part of a sales organization with some A-list performers, start recording them in action! If you can record actual sales calls (with permission), then do so! If it has to be sales role play, then have at it. Video and audio recordings don’t have to be studio quality; they just need to capture the right moves. Record your top performers explaining answers to questions like the following:

  • What makes your company better than your competitors?
  • Why is your product or service so expensive?
  • What differentiates you from your competition?
  • Why should I switch from my current supplier to your company?
  • A 60 second elevator speech
  • Responses to frequently encountered objections

How do the best people on your team verbalize their responses to these questions?   Allowing the entire team to hear how they respond repeatedly will help to impact the way they communicate in a positive way.  All too often, sales managers give vague instructions on how to approach these questions. Then salespeople go out on live calls and try to figure it out in the heat of battle. That makes no sense.

Instead, record the best of the best, play those recordings repeatedly, practice with the team until they start sounding closer to the top performers, then practice some more.

Building a great sales team is about building an organization that learns fast and inexpensively so they don’t make the same mistakes over and over and over. It’s about rapidly getting everyone to a base level of competency.

The key to doing this is to literally bombard the team with demonstrations and examples of excellence.  We’re going to call this, FLOODING THE ZONE WITH EXCELLENCE.

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