You might think a successful start to sales training begins with a room full of eager, well‐prepped trainees. It might be a good start for the trainer, but a successful sales training program must begin with an entirely different audience: the sales manager.
That was one of the core messages of Pivotal Advisors’ Webinar on Tuesday, November 10, and it’s a topic near and dear to our mission. As we shared with attendees during The Training Adoption through Sales Leadership Webinar offered through ASTD’s Sales Training Driver’s live Webcast series, one of the reasons we founded Pivotal Advisors was due to the lack of results we saw from sales training as executives at both large and small organizations alike. Again and again, poor sales training results could be directly linked to either limited, or a lack of, sales manager participation. If managers aren’t focused on training and its results, it’s very hard to get employees to care and put lessons learned into practice. Attendees of the Webinar backed this point up by agreeing that the main reason their sales training had failed in the past was “no accountability from the sales manager.”
Now let’s be clear, our job here is not to give sales managers a bad name. In fact, we were sales managers for several years, and work with them every day. We want them to keep their good names and see that the
$56.3 billion that businesses spend in training each year goes farther and has greater bottom‐line impact. The way to make that happen is to have sales training “follow the leader,” who should be a fervent training aficionado and supporter. How do you do it? By integrating the sales manager into every phase of the sales training life cycle and giving him/her a performance management system that drives adoption.
Drive Adoption, Get Better Results from Your Sales Reps
For those of you unable to attend our Webinar and for those attendees wanting a review, here is Pivotal Advisors’ advice for making sales managers enthusiastic and visible driving forces behind sales training success.
- Sell the Manager by Underscoring the Benefits
Before you even begin your first design planning session, you need to sell the manager on the bottom‐line benefits of the training program. The front line sales manager is the most important person in the adoption of your training programs, as he/she provides coaching and accountability for its use on a daily basis. The manager needs to see how the training will lead to better performance, more sales opportunities, more sales closed, higher margins and a more intelligent, effective sales team. The great thing about great training is that it will make the sales manager’s job easier because each team member will perform better.
- Involve the Manager from Start to Finish
If you want sales staff excited about training, make sure the boss has completely bought into it first. To ensure sales managers are promoters of the sales training system, materials and approach, involve him/her from the very start. Sales managers should be well integrated into all aspects of the sales training life cycle. From early design to training sessions to measurement, the more effort sales managers put into building and participating in the training program, the more knowledge and enthusiasm they will have for sharing it with sales teams and the more commitment they will get from their teams.
- Have the Manager Train
Sales managers have ascended to their roles because of their own sales talents. Put those skills to work for training’s benefit by designing training segments for the manager to lead. By having the sales manager take on a role in the actual training, sales teams see their leader embracing the process and are more likely to understand the importance of adopting the new knowledge into their own sales processes. The team will also see the manager’s commitment to the training and expectations of it, which should drive adoption by the team.
- Integrate Training into Existing Systems
Sales managers want and need simplicity when it comes to managing and monitoring their teams and performance. Likewise, sales reps want and need a documentation process that is streamlined with their existing practices. For this reason, sales training concepts should integrate into systems that are already in place instead of in a folder, binder or another tool. The better training works within the organization and its current sales processes and tools, the less the pushback will be from all involved.
- Create and Use a Performance Management System
To get a manager excited about sales training, show them a way to easily reinforce the training concepts and measure results. Whether the performance management system you use is a set of simple checklists or a sophisticated technology solution, measurement and accountability are the keys to driving adoption, increasing performance and showing the value of training.
If your company does not have a training performance management system in place, now is the time to implement one, be it simple or complex. Without a system for consistently reinforcing the concepts taught in training, concepts will be lost and reps will revert to their old habits. Develop a few simple tools to optimize training for greater business results.