Develop & Build

5 steps to run trainings that stick

Training – an effective tool for change

 

To be efficient and effective as Sales Managers, there are a number of things we need to learn and become good at ourselves. One of the 6 pillars of Sales Management is building and developing your team.

Every time we ask our teams to perform something that is new to them, we need to step into the Develop & Build area to develop the new skills and behaviors.  Sometimes you have the option to bring in professional trainers, but for most daily learning you cannot bring in external resources.

In this article you will find some hints and tips for how you can plan your own trainings for your teams.

 

 

5 steps to build a training that sticks

As you are not (and we assume you do not want to become) a full-time teacher/trainer, we advise you to use this knowledge to build only short condensed and interactive sessions, rather than full day or multiday trainings.

Longer trainings are very complex to build, and difficult to run. They require a rich set of competences to achieve real learning in the team.

 

 

The 5 steps to remember when we are to build effective trainings are:

 

 

1.      ENSURE YOU KNOW THE SUBJECT

 

Gain a thorough understanding of the materials, and the messages that you want to convey. You don’t need to be black belt 5 star expert, but you need to know enough to convey the content in a credible manner, and be able to answer basic questions around the subject.

 

 

2.       UNDERSTAND THE PROCESS OF LEARNING

 

There are many pedagogical models and methods available. One model, that we have chosen in this context is called 4MAT. Dr. Bernice McCarthy (USA) developed the first basic structure of the 4MAT system in the late 1970s. Since then, the method has systematically and continuously been used, developed and linked to the newest research in the field. ( http://www.4mat.eu )

 

Basically, model stresses that people have different learning styles. This means that for ANY training we want to build, we need to accommodate for these different learning styles, and build our training block so that all phases are included. Some people are focused on:

 

 

                • WHY? – “Once I understand why we need something I’ll figure out the rest”
                • WHAT? – intellectually understand what is needed: “If you give me the book to read or present to me in a lecture, I will do it myself later”
                • HOW? – activity: “Ok, I got it, just let me try myself, let’s see here…”
                • WHAT IF?-finding and testing alternatives “And why couldn’t we do it this other way?”

 

 

3. MASTER A WIDE VARIETY OF METHODS – AND LEARN WHEN TO USE THEM

 

Try to use a wide variety of techniques in your trainings. Vary your style so you can both lead the class, and use more interactive methods.

 

Use the button to download our one page quick guide

 

 

One Page Quick Guide

4. A TRAINING SESSION HAS THREE PHASES – BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER – USE THEM

 

A common mistake is to only focus on the training session itself when we design the training. Especially since we want to build short, concentrated blocks, it will be extremely important to use before and after in a good way.

 

  1. BEFORE: Preparation by all involved
  2. DURING: A Well-designed Training Session
  3. AFTER: Structured and active follow-up

 

As you can see in the picture below, a good way to plan your training sessions is to map the content and the technique blocks you are planning to use against a “WHY?”, “WHAT?”, “HOW?” And “WHAT IF?” timeline.

 

 

 

The preparatory tasks you send out lends themselves very well for the “WHY?” And to some extent “WHAT?”, so that you can spend more time in the classroom for “WHAT?” and “HOW?”. After the session, it will be about putting the learning into practice, and therefore to the “HOW?” and experimenting with the “WHAT IF?”. The experiences are ideally captured and shared in a separate follow up session.

 

Plan the activities carefully and think through the steps, creating and writing what we call the Running Master, or Timings plan.

 

It should contain:

  • Objective – learning points
  • Preparations (for the teacher)
  • Before – Preparations for participant – timing/dates
  • During – Blocks, content and method/technique – timing minutes
  • After – how to put to practice and follow up.

 

 

 

5. MAKE WHAT YOU LEARN A PART OF DAILY WORK

Only 10% of the effect in a change effort comes from lectures, training and reading.  20% can be attributed to tools, systems and structure such as feedback supporting the training and the changed behaviour. Finally, 70% derives from on-the-job training and experiences.

 
En bild som visar text Automatiskt genererad beskrivning

Unless on-the job training, experiences and reinforcement of the tools and behaviours learnt is truly put into daily use, changed behaviours will not succeed.

If you are the manager of the team you hold the training for, you have a fantastic advantage compared to most teachers and trainers around. Most trainings fail due to lack of management support, follow up and integration of the matter into daily work. You, on the other hand, have all cards on your hand to actually make it stick!

 

Interview candidates with a purpose – template

If you are a bit new to recruiting and interviewing, and need some basic tips and tricks, continue reading. As with most things in Sales Management, putting a little structure and thought behind your recruiting will enhance your chances of selecting the right person and getting off to a great start as a manager.

 

In this article we have put together some general guidelines and tips to help you prepare for your interviews.

 

 

Who do I want to work with?

The first area to spend some time on is to define what is truly important for the role.

 

“HARD” SKILLS

 

We all understand the importance of understanding your advanced technology, or that the candidate has a great network, extremely experienced at the same time as young, hungry and full of energy. We can call these the “hard” skills. They are often tangible, more easily measurable – and 9 times of 10, are what managers I talk to mention as the most important criteria when recruiting.

 

On the concrete or “hard” competences, you will want to evaluate the candidates

  • market knowledge and network in the territory
  • product and technology understanding
  • sales skills/technique competences

 

“SOFT” TRAITS

 

Very often the “soft” abilities are passed to a second plane, they are more difficult to define and measure, or even to talk about. Yet, they are key to a successful transition into your team and to reach productivity.

 

In The LinkedIn State of Sales Report 2020: U.S. Edition, 500 buyers and 500 salesreps/managers were asked what 10 characteristics buyers desire from salespeople compared to the characteristics sales managers look for in the sales reps they hire. Buyers were ranking Active Listening, Problem solving, Confidence (Trust), Relationship Building and Communication skills as the top 5 traits. Technology understanding, Years of Experience, Industry Expertise came lower.

 

During your interviews, pay special attention to that the candidate:

  • will adapt to the context and support network you have in your company
  • learn well and can adapt to ways of working
  • is open to change
  • will fit in your culture, make it easy to work together
  • share similar values, and will subscribe to the corporate values

 

 

Recruiting the right person to the wrong place

 

There are only too many examples of great salespeople – absolute top performers who are recruited into a different context but selling something very similar to the same people, who still failed to succeed or even get close to the previous success. The “hard” competences all fit, product/technology, market/industry, contact network, and demonstrated sales methods and techniques, all “check!”, yet they fail, why?

 

What happens is that the soft abilities and cultural fit just don’t align with how your team and company works. This is everything from your internal team dynamics, culture and jargon, but also misalignment with the expected surrounding support, HR, pre/tech sales, support, services, marketing etc.

 

 

Two classical scenarios:

  • the medium sized company who decide to open a new sales office in a new country/market, and hire a top manager from the incumbent competitor for the job. This is always a bad idea, as the first person in the market need to do all the work him/herself initially, and there is no support network yet.
  • large corporation that hires people from startups often find it difficult to accommodate for the hires appetite for creativity and room for own decisions, and the employee often feels hindered and suffocating under all processes.

 

Note that we are not saying one is better than the other, but as hiring managers, we must be conscious of our own ways, culture, and values, and must be sensitive to which candidates will fit in our context.

 

 

The Process

 

DEFINE KEY EVALUATION CRITERIA

 

Make sure to complete the “hard” job descriptions with the most important “soft” characteristics you are looking for. Then design the interview template that help you evaluate the candidate in all these dimensions. You can download a simple template clicking the button below.

 

USING TESTS

The more important you deem the values, culture and other “soft” skills are for the role, you may want to consider a personality test, and make sure you prepare your interview well and focus on these areas. If you are using an agency, they can often set up a DISC test or similar for you.

If the job require technical skills, set up a test that your candidate need to solve, or ask them to prepare a convincing sales meeting if recruiting telesales.

 

MULTIPLE INTERVIEWS

Do have at least 2 people apart from yourself interview the candidate throughout the process. Let them meet with different personalities and roles, to catch possible moments where non desired behaviours come up to the surface. You will get a moch more complete picture of the candidate. After each round do set up a debrief with the interviewers, and run through the evaluation criteria.

 

 

Interview template

To help you structure the interview, we propose a simple template that you can follow. It should not be a questionnaire, but list the key competences and personal traits you will want to evaluate.

 

Use it as a support that help you formulate questions and conduct the conversation so that in the end you feel confident all areas were covered to your satisfaction. The question in all cases being:

  • “How well/badly do I think the candidate will be doing……?”
  • “Will the candidate be strong enough in ……..?”
  • “Is the candidate motivated and able to learn this ……. quickly”

 

 

Download template

 

Prepare by thinking through each area, and note what specifics you will want to know, and how to formulate the question to get the answers you need.

 

Remember to ask for relevant references, and to complete the interview with a contact to those references.

 

Onboarding for growth

The importance of a great Onboarding

 

Studies show that employees give their new companies about 6 months on average before they decide whether to go all in or not with their new employer. At the same time , other sources point to a learning curve, and time to full productivity of a year or more, at least one full sales cycle. In a culture where success often is made synonymous to revenue and sales numbers, new salespeople risk losing interest and enthusiasm long before success and hitting their numbers.

The combination of high expectations, a long ramp up/time to sales, together with short patitence of both the new employee and often the organization as well, becomes an explosive cocktail of high attrition on new hires, with stagnated growth as the most severe consequence.

 

The onboarding program helps mitigating the effect, by

  • shortening the learning curve and time to productivity, and
  • redefining and widening the term success, since activity metrics, competence development and personal growth are also considered successes along the way.
  • keeping people interested and motivated from the first day and throughout the learning process

 

A great onboarding program helps new hired individuals perceive and appreciate the company’s effort to develop and grow them, and are more likely to return the favor by staying on and being more motivated.

 

 

Defining what is important

We have prepared a template for a 12 month onboarding plan, where we have selected some standard areas for sales reps in a complex technology sales context. Use this as inspiration to create  your own plan. Consider what is truly important and if possible differente a sales rep in your company and context.

 

Some are you may want to include are:

  • Market and ecosystem understanding
  • Contact network
  • Customer understanding
  • Product and Technology
  • Personal traits
  • Values & Cultural fit
  • Sales technique
  • Sales process and strategy
  • Tools & Methods

 

A structured approach to competence management is helpful throughout all phases, from recruiting to the periodical evaluations. What you do the initial evaluation, already in the recruiting phase, and construct a initial training program to cover any weakness you discovered, we call it our Onboarding Program.

 

 

a simple onboarding plan based on competence areas helps providing structure

Onboarding program for a Sales Person

Below you find a template to use to create your own onboarding program. Fill the boxes with the training, meetings, and activities that your new hire should be planned to do within different time horizons. To help you organise your thoughts, go area by area, one by one, and fill in the boxes. You may be surprised at the end by the quantity of activities the new hire need to do to get up to speed. Keep this is mind when you set the expectations for sales and productivity for the fist couple of months!

 

Many of the activities sucha as “getting to know the company” , and walk through of practical tools and arrangements need to happen early on, and others will be more evenly spread out over the year. We suggest you stage the learning in

 

  • Immediate (< 2weeks)
  • 1st month
  • 3 months
  • 6 months
  • 12 months

 

In each area you may also want to add success criteria, or milestones that you can check off and celebrate with your hire as he/she makes each one. Click below to download our onboarding template.

 

 

Download template

Sales Call Coaching – getting the most out of every sales minute

 

Sales Call Coaching – going together to customers is a great coaching tool

Sales Calls Coaching, means visiting customers together with the purpose of receiving feedback and improve sales skills. They  are on-the-job-training for all of us, regardless of position or role. It is a vital part of the continuous development for the whole sales organisation. It is a tool for sales professionals to learn, develop and at the same time get to know each other better, sharing knowledge and experiences.

As a Sales Manager you need to sharpen your coaching skills to do this well, but when done well, it is an invaluable input for later on when you hold more global  performance evaluations. Do this live kn customer situations, and not by interviewing the sales person. Discussing and coaching on activities and quality of work  is not realistic nor trustworthy without continuously observing and studying behaviours in real live situations.

 

Sales Call Coaching is your best tool to get first hand feel for sales behaviour. You should consider doing this with all customer facing personnel, Inside sales, Product Specialists as well as Account Managers. We all need to develop a self-awareness and understanding of how our behaviours affect the outcome in customer situations.

 

 

Why should all managers Coach on Sales Calls?

 

The first line sales organization aims to provide increased customer value. To ensure Sales Reps can perform in line with this and provide this increased customer value, also Sales Management needs to change and provide added value for Reps. Sales Call Coaching is a key tool to achieve this.

 

Doing Sales Calls with reps will help managers to:

  • Continuous improvement – towards a world class sales team!
  • Benchmark successful behaviors
  • train and ensure product knowledge among Sales Reps and other customer facing team members
  • help develop sales skills in all staff
  • find out about Sales Reps spend their time
  • obtain good ideas for Benchmarking and Best practice
  • ensure Value Sales is applied professionally
  • gather information from the market
  • practice and improve yourself in difficult negotiations, meeting key customers etc
  • get to know staff better and further improve teamwork

 

Download - How To: Sales Call Coaching

 

Evaluating and giving feedback on different customer interactions in the sales process require different skillsets of the manager. Sometimes we may even need to work on multiple roles at the same time, in complex multirole meetings selling as a team.

 

Sales Directors and higher management should also make an effort to find the natural opportunities to visit customers together with their sales reps and managers in order to help them become better at what they do – for the manager, this is coaching the reps.

 

The Sales Manager should spend at least 2 working days per week in the field. Some of the visits can of course be virtual, just make sure you apply a mix of different types of meetings and situations so that you coach and support all phases of the sales process.

Sharpen your skills evaluating reps in, and coaching for all situations!

If planned and executed well this work should not take more than half our week.

 

Download - Sales Call Evaluation template

 

What to look for

 

You should pay attention to basic sales process situations, and how different tools and sales situations and parts of the meeting (see example below) are applied.

 

Different steps of the Pipeline sales process require different skills. See the evaluation template for inspiration. Adapt the template depending on what type of meeting it is that you coach. How is the Sales Rep performing in different situations? E.g. When they for instance are:

  • attempting to open new parts of the business with a focus/growth customer
  • cross selling on higher levels of the management of key accounts
  • applying Value Selling to increase share of wallet in already well established accounts

… etc. etc. –  the examples are infinite, select the situations to train and coach according to your tactical needs and go for it!