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Customized Sales Training: Why It’s Important and How We Do It

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About a year ago, we published the results of a survey that found that customization increases the odds of a sales training initiative being effective.  This reconfirmed what we’ve believed for years and how we work with clients.

But, some buyers push back on customization, hoping to take a cheaper and easier path to success.  With this in mind, here’s a primer on why customized sales training is so important and how we do it.

Why does customization make for a better sales training program?

Clients often come to us with a particular business objective that they want to achieve, such as accelerating organic growth or growing market share.  Changing behavior is one of the paths to achieving that business objective.  To change behavior requires people to break old habits and learn the behavior.

We find that in order to really learn new behaviors and change old behaviors, you have to practice.  It is best to practice in as real-world a situation as possible so that sales reps see clearly how the training is directly applicable to them.  The training must be relevant and challenging, and this is why customization is so important.

Think about learning a new skill.  It is a leap to learn a new skill and apply it back to the real world.  You have to build that bridge for your sales reps by customizing your training and helping them to learn that new skill in an environment that is like the real world.  They do not have to make the leap on their own back in the real world.

How we customize sales training for clients

One of the best ways to customize sales training is to talk to the people who do the job day in and day out.  We like to really work with top performers in particular.  Certainly, we want to talk to sales leaders and learning leaders to get the overarching objectives of what they are really trying to achieve, but when it comes down to actually customizing a sales program training content, you really want to work with the people who are doing it in the field and doing it well.

You want to gather from them real stories that you can use to teach concepts to other participants.  You don’t want the outliers.  You want real stories that are challenging to participants but are also going to be something that they see in their everyday world.  It is not an outlier that they would say, “This does not feel real to me.”

Finesse is required in working with top sales reps to really find that right balance of a challenging scenario that you can apply and that is also something that they would see in the course of doing their business every day.

Developing customized sales training is hard work that requires instructional designers with some serious expertise.  Our instructional designers will typically interview clients to first learn all their overarching objectives.  What is it that they are trying to achieve?  What are the business outcomes?  What current behaviors and skills do they want their people to capitalize on?  What new behaviors and skills do they want them to acquire?  Then, our designers will craft and design a program.

It could be a classroom training program.  It could be a full solution starting from before the classroom, to classroom training, and then to some sustainment pieces, all linked to those business objectives that client is trying to achieve.  Then, once the designers start to lay out what the design is going to be for each component, they will start building them.  That is when they are work with top-performing line leaders and sales reps to gather real stories.

The designers start to build in custom activities, such as role plays, case studies, group discussions, and learning activities, that help sales reps to gain those new skills.  Through observations, interviewing, and sometimes ride-alongs,, we learn from our clients what it is they are doing well.  The designers will incorporate the best practices from the client organization that they want replicated across their sales force, along with best practices and models that we continually research and refine across our client base.

Finally, the program is reviewed by the client to ensure that it meets their requirements and expectations.  The entire process takes six to eight weeks.  Although we do most of the heavy lifting, we need our clients to help us line up interviews with the right stakeholders so that we can incorporate their perspective into the solution.  It is also important to have commitment from the executive team and sales management to sustain the impact of the training and drive true behavior change.  It is a bit more work and commitment upfront, but it really makes a difference in the success of the initiative.

If you are planning a sales training initiative, we encourage you to contact us to learn how we can create a customized solution that will help you achieve your objectives.

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