A question that I often hear when speaking with CEOs is where should they invest in training? When I ask what they have done in the past, typically I hear a range of training activities primarily related to product training, service certifications, or other information related to what they sell.
While obviously it is important for sales people to have a solid understanding of the products and services they offer, is this really the best use of your precious training dollars? In our experience, too often this training dives way deeper than it needs to as far as what a sales person actually needs to know to effectively sell. When companies put too much emphasis on product and service training, it tends to lead sales people to have conversations that focus on the features and benefits of the product, rather than the problems their product solves.
If it were my money, I would rather invest in establishing good consultative selling skills. What are good consultative selling skills? To me, it's all about asking the right questions. Asking questions that engage the prospect about their current situation. Asking questions about issues and challenges the prospect is experiencing. Asking questions about the problems you solve, rather than how you solve them.
From there really work on listening. Your sales people should be able to ask the right opening questions and then know what to listen for and what questions to use as follow-up. In our experience, salespeople who have had too much product training listen more narrowly (they wait for key trigger words that tie back to a product feature or benefit).
It's really about having an intelligent conversation, asking good questions, listening carefully, asking more good questions, and repeating. Your salespeople need to keep repeating this process until they get to the real issues. They repeat until they uncover 6-8 compelling reasons to buy. They repeat until they get to a good understanding of the consequences of what the prospect is experiencing.
When your salespeople can help a business owner or a buyer understand the gap between where they are and where they could be if they partner with your company, that's when they really start to have the right kind of consultative sales conversations. There should be questions that elicit an emotion that the buyer or the business line manager or the owner should be frustrated by if it doesn't get resolved. Your salespeople should be able to answer the question “What happens if this prospect does nothing?”
Your salespeople should also be able to quantify the impact of these issues. Quantify both in terms of time and money. When you can get your sales team to take a consultative approach when they talk about the problem they solve, rather than the solution they have to sell, that's where you really get into effective, authentic, conversations. That’s what gets you to the real issues that will drive stronger results through your sales organization.
In my opinion that’s where you should invest your training dollars.
As I’ve written in this space previously, there is a whole set of questions a CEO should be able to answer before investing a single dime in training their salespeople:
Which of my salespeople are trainable?
Where do they need help?
How long will it take?
Will it be worth it? In other words, will I get a return on my training investment?
For information on how to do a comprehensive Sales Effectiveness and Improvement Analysis to answer these and many more questions, contact me directly. Do this before you invest in training your salespeople – it will save you a lot of time and money.