With economic turmoil in Europe and fierce competition across multiple industries, a key question for any sales management team centres around how prepared their sales teams are for an uncertain future.
Before the financial crisis, many salespeople came to resemble ‘order takers’ rather than hardened sales professionals. They could get away with basic selling skills and there was little need to create value for clients. For many, business was plentiful and the economy was enjoying steady growth. Even when business was lost to competitors, there was enough demand to replace it. An excellent set of selling skills was not needed to hit sales targets and meet sales forecasts.
Many sales management teams therefore dismissed the idea of formalised sales training. To many sales managers and sales directors, sales training was seen as an unnecessary investment as their sales teams consistently smashed targets in line with their forecasts.
Selling is much harder in today’s marketplace
Today the landscape has changed. Both the public and private sectors are cutting back on spending and competition for business has become much more aggressive. Buying decisions have become polarised. Buyers are either making purchases based on price or deals are being viewed far more strategically and at a much more senior level.
This makes the sales professional’s role more challenging in today’s climate. To win business and hit sales targets, sales people need to work much harder. They need to sell more proactively and at a more senior level while offering real business value to clients. Gone are the days that salespeople can simply sit back and watch the orders come in. They now have to fight for both existing and new business, adopting successful selling skills and sales techniques in the process.
A change in thinking towards sales training
This tough environment has encouraged many sales management teams to change their philosophy towards sales training. The heightened requirements for successful selling skills in today’s marketplace means that many sales managers and sales directors are now considering the implementation of a formalised sales training programme for their people.
While successful sales techniques may be developed through years of personal experience, today’s challenging environment requires that selling skills are acquired at a much quicker pace. Effective sales techniques, such as consultative selling, are only developed and cultivated after many years of experience and meetings with senior clients. But a formalised sales training initiative provides salespeople with immediate knowledge and insight of successful selling skills from the very first day of training.
Companies are beginning to realise that, in today’s competitive environment, their salespeople need to quickly learn these selling skills and this involves rolling out a successful sales training programme that immediately embeds the required sales techniques in their people.
Realisation of the benefits of sales training has been fuelled by increasing levels of competition. Today a much greater number of salespeople have received sales training and this means that companies must follow suit if they are to keep up with the competition.
Traditional sales training approaches no longer work
Companies are also learning that traditional approaches to sales training no longer work. Sales managers are recognising that they cannot adequately train their new people by getting them to shadow more experienced salespeople. This informal approach lacks the structure of a formalised sales training initiative. It throws people in at the deep end before they can swim.
From our experience, work shadowing is far more effective if the new sales person has already acquired sales training. This enables them to develop their newly acquired selling skills in a more confident and self-assured manner.
While in the past sales management teams could rely on their salespeople acquiring successful selling skills through personal experience and work shadowing, the new world of selling requires a more strategic approach to sales training.
Polarised buying decisions and fierce competition mean that successful selling skills must be learned much more quickly and efficiently than was once the case. To quickly embed these skills there is no better option than a formalised sales training programme that coaches, accredits and assesses people towards being more competent sales professionals.
Online sales training – a cost-effective alternative
But many companies cannot afford to roll out a formalised sales training programme. Some don’t have the budget to invest in a structured sales training initiative, while some fear that taking their people off the road will jeopardise sales revenues.
For these companies sales training is much easier and more accessible than it may seem. Online sales training programmes are now available, such as Black Belt Selling, that teach all of the selling skills required for today’s marketplace. They are a low budget solution for companies that need to quickly train their salespeople. Furthermore, they offer salespeople the opportunity to learn the sales techniques in their own time and at their own pace.
By putting their people through an online sales training programme, companies need not spend huge amounts of their budget or take their people off the road for a substantial amount of time. Online sales training offers a quick and cost-effective solution to enhancing the selling skills and performance of both individual salespeople and entire sales teams.
Written by: Steve Eungblut, Managing Director of Sterling Chase