Time to Rethink Sales “Training”

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In recent weeks, I’ve found myself homebound like many other business professionals, more by choice than by circumstance because I’m trying to run my business from home and not travel all over the country like I used to do. With the Internet and modern software tools, I can work with multiple clients, thousands of miles apart in a single day.

Even though I choose to run my business from home, most of my customers and prospects are too busy reacting to the COVID-19 crisis to talk to me, let alone make a buying decision. So their down-time is down-time for me also. So, I’m doing what I advise my clients to do, now that you have some time on your hands, invest in yourself, and prepare for the future, whatever it brings.

I came across the book, Managing in a Time of Great Change by Peter F. Drucker. The title alone caught my attention, so I picked it up and turned to Chapter 2, Planning for Uncertainty. The first paragraph states,

“Uncertainty, in the economy, society, politics has become so great as to render futile, if not counterproductive, the kind of planning most companies still practice: forecasting based on probabilities.”

Peter F. Drucker, Managing in a Time of Great Change, Truman Talley Books 1995, p. 39.

Drucker published his book in 1995!

Even when business decisions involve massive amounts of money, time, and effort, the choice is often made based on an assumption of what is going to happen in the future. Drucker says that “Planning for uncertainty asks, instead, What has already happened that will create the future.”
I want to ask you, “What are you doing today to create your future?” Making decisions to act today on the critical performance issues within your business will help you get through these difficult times and position you to perform better in the future. If you delay your decisions or fail to take decisive action, you will lose market share and suffer predictable consequences.

Making decisions to reduce staffing levels or to shut down altogether may be inevitable, and that would be unfortunate. Still, if you want to have any chance of holding on to or growing your market share in the future, you must find a financial way to retain those key employees that help you make your company what it is and what it does.

The IBM Smarter Workforce Study found that 71% of CEOs cited human capital, ahead of products, customer relationships, and brands as the leading source of sustained economic value. Also, those same CEOs ranked “People Skills” in the top four, external forces impacting the enterprise.

Great! You decide to keep your sales team employed during the COVID-19 crisis. That’s a step in the right direction to protect your current customer base from the competition. What do you have your sales team do during the day? How do you know what they are doing if they are working from home? Even if you have a sound reporting system, your salespeople are still having a difficult time talking to customers and making sales.

In the IBM Smarter Workforce Study, 84% of the employees in the Best Performing Organizations say they were receiving the learning they needed, compared to only 16% in the worst-performing companies.

You’ll notice, I don’t use the word training. You train your dog to do the trick or to obey a command. Instead, I educate, I teach salespeople. Recognizing the difference between training and teaching is the first step to improving your team’s skill set and knowledge base.

I use a teaching system called Competency-Based Education (CBE). CBE is an approach to teaching and learning more often used in learning concrete skills than abstract knowledge. It differs from other non-related methods in that the unit of learning is exceptionally fine-grained. The salesperson must learn the basic skills in order. They must demonstrate one competency before they can advance to the next.

There is an old joke about the CFO in a company that questioned the CEO’s investment in the company’s sales training program. The CFO asked, “What if we spend the money to train the sales department, and then they leave?” The CEO responded by asking, “What if we don’t spend the money to train them and they decide to stay?”

The concern over the cost of any investment weighs heavily in the decision process. That’s why I built my program on a foundation of accountability so that I could demonstrate a clear Return On Investment.

  1. Are the salespeople engaged with the learning?
  2. Do the salespeople retain the learning content?
  3. Are the salespeople using the new knowledge in their daily sales efforts?
  4. Are the salespeople selling enough to reach goals?
  5. Are they outperforming sellers who didn’t receive the education?

Now is the perfect time to bring your sales team together and focus on improving their skill set and knowledge base. You need to maximize your human capital by providing the right skills at the right time for the right people. Embracing the right level of teaching, enablement, and engagement can dramatically reduce attrition and safeguard your investment in your people.

If you would like to learn more, just let me know.

Spike SanteeTime to Rethink Sales “Training”

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