The truth about sales success: It’s nurture over nature – Steve Shellabear of dancing lion explains
According to popular belief, there are some things that everybody hates, fears or both. The dentist, public speaking and if you’re a salesperson – sales training!
That’s the cliché anyway. If you’re a salesperson, especially a really good one, you have absolutely no time at all for sitting in a room for hours or even days, just to be told what you already know. Just have a quick flick through a few websites and you’ll see page after page of why salespeople can’t stand being trained, and what to do about it.
But with a little more research, you soon begin to realise the truth. Salespeople certainly don’t have any resistance at all to being trained. Quite the reverse.
What they don’t have any time for is bad training. Reams of training materials, a hundred PowerPoint slides and endless flipchart scribbling! I’m feeling drowsy just thinking about it.
Catch the imagination of any group of sales professionals, whether they’re young new recruits or seasoned campaigners, in any commercial sector, and they’ll be fully engaged in the process for as long as it lasts. And this is especially true of the high flyers. Successful salespeople want more! Tell them something they didn’t already know, make them see things in a new way, and they’ll be the most ardent exponents of your new way of doing things.
And this holds true for all the varieties of salespeople we’ve equipped and empowered over the years – transactional sales, key account development, sales through service in contact centres – the fundamental principles at the heart of all good selling and sales training is the same, as discussed here.
So how did it all go so wrong? Clearly it must have, because otherwise sales professionals would all love sales training!
But no, let’s instead focus on how absolutely top-notch sales training is done. There are surprisingly few elements in the recipe for the very best training programmes. We’ve boiled it down to the absolute essentials to get at the good stuff. There are four key elements:
1. Senior management buy-in and participation
The request for sales training must come from sales managers and/or sales directors. They must see the need and the potential benefits. They must also be integral in the development of the training materials, working with trainers to ensure that relevant programmes are delivered. The effectiveness part? That’s our job!
2. Presentation and content
A variety of media, plenty of participation, but most importantly, plenty of content that directly appeals to the human being in all of us. That means improved strategies for selling (and therefore making more money), time-saving techniques on admin and more effective methods for networking and developing contacts. So go low on conceptual theory, and high on practical how-to’s. Advertising the fact there’s plenty of coffee and doughnuts at the breaks definitely helps, too (seriously)!
Structure underlies all successful selling. Structure actually underlies everything anyone ever does. The fact that we may not realise it is significant, because it means in the process of achieving unconscious competence, the structure we’re employing has become internalised. That’s the objective: natural congruence, confidence and composure – all based on the learned structure of effective sales techniques. Imparting a clear, strong sales technique structure also provides the basis for what you could call the ‘fall-back position’. If you’re having an off-day when the ability to close effortlessly has somehow deserted you, then reach for structure. It was there all along, but now you know it.
4. Follow-up and documentation
You’ve heard the saying – ‘If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got’. A training programme becomes truly successful when it’s considered a mini culture-change by the managers who requested it in the first place. Simply running a programme then going back to how things were done before, tends to deliver old results. This is why Point 1 above matters so much. Sales managers must be instrumental in carrying through the new attitudes and techniques learned in the programme, and must document and report back the new sales data on an ongoing basis, in order to monitor and encourage success and development. The change has to stay changed!
It’s true that all great salespeople have something in common. Yes, they all have superb motivation, top-notch relationship-building skills and a killer instinct for closing – all the things you can easy list. But there’s one thing we may forget to add to that list, and it’s probably the most important point of all.
None of them got there alone. They were trained, developed and supported all the way. They were made to be outstanding, by companies who invested in them. That’s the great thing about success – it’s learnable!
Steve Shellabear is Managing Director at dancing lion
Dancing lion has worked extensively across industry sectors with private and public sectors organisations in the UK and abroad.
They design and deliver innovative training programmes that build front-line staff capability, develop manager’s skills, maximise the customer experience and help win and retain customers; their success is based on a combination of experience,personal attention and focus on helping our clients make measurable improvements.