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Don't Expect Off-the-Shelf Sales Training to Drive Your Custom Sales Strategy!

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Companies are like people and snowflakes: they may look and act similarly, but each one is distinctly different from the other. Remember this comparison as your organization embarks on its next change.

You might think that I’m wrong because identical twins look, well, exactly the same. But what makes them unique is their thought processes and behaviors. In this sense, companies can look like twins yet are still very different. You could have multiple companies operating in the same industry doing the same things, yet achieving dramatically different results. This would be true from fast food (McDonald’s and Burger King) to home improvement (Home Depot and Lowe’s) to technology (Microsoft and Apple) and any other sector.

Why is this important? Because we know that when we’re looking to make a new purchase, we read reviews and opinions from buyers who have already made that purchase or from experts whose job it is to test and evaluate the products. When making a change to our business, we look to best practices within the industry from those who have already undergone such a change, and we read the advice and opinions of expert consultants and business professors who study these situations as well as case studies of those who have experienced similar change first hand.

It is important to heed the advice and experience through researching best practices — unless you’re Goodyear or Michelin, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel (I know, they make tires, not wheels, but forgive the comparison). However, do so while keeping in mind the individuality of people and snowflakes: what works for one may not work for another.

Am I saying not to follow best practices? Of course not! However, be careful of how you go about implementing changes and customizing them to your organization.

Customize Solutions for Effectiveness

You are about to embark on an important strategic initiative in your sales organization, such as a new process or value proposition. You’re doing this because you expect it to move the needle and help you take your team to the top. You may only get one shot to get it right; your credibility and your career is riding on it. Don’t settle for an off-the-shelf solution to fit your custom strategy.

A recent study by Richardson Sales Performance with showed the importance of customizing solutions to assist in making a change within your sales organization. When comparing very effective organizations to ineffective ones, respondents from very effective organizations were twice as likely to purchase products or services that are fully customized to their company’s needs (see chart below).

Customized Sales Training

Two Takeaways from Very Effective Organizations

1.    Sales training needs to be customized to support your strategic initiative.

Applying the same logic as above, unless you have an off-the-shelf” strategy, then off-the-shelf” training won’t reflect what you want your people to do and what you want them to say, and how you want your managers to coach and reinforce the expected behavior change

2.    Making the case for change is unique to each company.

Think holistically about how you’re going to drive change and make it stick. You can’t just point to a best practice and say, “It worked for them, so it’ll work for us!” The case for change needs to be tailored to your company and its needs and then threaded through the training program so that everything hangs together.

A strategic communications plan to support the announcement and implementation of the change is critical. An event-based mentality won’t work. This means that you can’t just send an e-mail or hold a meeting to unveil the change and then sit back to watch it happen. People are busy and distracted, not to mention in some cases unwilling to adapt. You need multiple messages through multiple channels that highlight what’s happening, when, and with what implications, highlighting the need to change as well as the benefits.

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