It takes 20 minutes a day.
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The next time you're blankly staring and flipping channels on TV late at night, check out how many commercials you see for personal improvement--weight-loss plans that promise you can lose those extra pounds before the holidays, exercise machines that promise you can have Arnold Schwarzenegger's pregovernator body, infomercial after infomercial about how to make yourself better. But if you dial that 800 number and hand over your credit card with no real plans to incorporate that diet or exercise plan into your daily life, what's the point?
During my latest postmidnight click-trance it hit me. The personal improvement market in many ways is quite similar to the sales training industry. Everyone knows that if they actually used the Bowflex, they'd get in shape. If you buy a Bowflex you're at least getting the equipment, even if you never use it. But the problem with many sales training events is that once they're over, they're over. There's no way to integrate the new techniques into the old routine, no realistic way to apply what was learned or measure its impact, and thus no change.
In other words, paying for expensive sales training that doesn't easily integrate into your sales reps' daily lives is sort of like buying a Bowflex machine that comes in a box that is sealed shut with super glue. So how should you fix this problem to get more out of your sales training investment?
The answer is simple: Make it easy for your sales reps to use the sales training content by integrating its precise look and feel into an application they already use every day. Once you've integrated the content into that application, use the power of technology to measure the direct impact sales training has on results. Salespeople live in their CRM, SFA, or contact management apps and we know that most of them can't be bothered with additional programs. So, if the sales training content isn't integrated into what they already use, then they have a terrific escape clause. Even if you say they must use the methodology, they can simply say the disconnection slows their productivity and then excuse themselves to go have a donut.
Also, it is very important that the methodology has the same look and feel as the sales training content. This will reduce confusion and inefficiency. Also make sure that the content is fully integrated and is directly connected to the team's regular territory, pipeline, forecasting, and/or deal-review processes. This will help with reinforcement of the content and adherence to the change. Remember, if it's not right there in front of them, it's just another excuse to go have that donut. Once you've integrated the content into that application, use the power of technology to measure the direct impact sales training has on results.
If you use the Bowflex every day, eventually you should see the results on your body. But if you agree to use a sales training methodology, how do you know if it's working? The answer is that technology-enabled sales training solutions now allow organizations to see the real-time impact of sales methodologies on key metrics. This lets you react quickly to opportunities and challenges with regards to forecasts. It also lets your reps see how using the methodologies directly affects their performance--and their commissions.
Once you're on board with integrating your sales training content into your sales team's application, you can approach your sales transformation initiatives in the same fashion as you would a personal improvement program. Lay out a plan, use standard change-management principles, be diligent with a process, and focus on the end goal. And remember that change is never easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it. The key is to make that change as painless as possible for your sales reps so the benefit clearly outweighs the effort.
The good news is that there are several methodology vendors that now offer excellent technology support for a variety of applications that sales reps actually use. Given that training can cost thousands of dollars per person, that's a lot of expensive knowledge down the drain if your sales team doesn't use it once the initial seminar is over. So be wise about your budget. It's no longer acceptable for vendors to simply deliver entertaining, once-a-year motivational sales events with no realistic way to integrate that content into the organization.
Like that Bowflex in your closet, your company might have tried a variety of training programs that initially seemed promising but that you were never able to integrate into your sales team's daily activities because they didn't offer the appropriate technology support. You might check back with those vendors and see what's changed. I think you'll be surprised.
About the Author
Chris Hens is the president and COO of White Springs. Please visit www.white-springs.com.
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