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12 Business Needs for Customised Sales Training

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In my role, I spend a lot of time surveying the sales effectiveness market, interviewing buyers, and examining and articulating the need for organisations to customise sales training.

We believe that customised sales training that leverages a company’s unique strengths combined with leadership that is ready, able, and willing to support and sustain change are the essential elements for improving sales performance.

This is our core business, and we want to continue to excel at it for our clients and partners. Consider our approach:

  • In 2012, we trained over 75,000 people and rolled out nearly 600 new customised programmes to approximately 200 companies around the world.
  • In the same year, we interviewed over 1,000 senior-level business leaders in our client organisations to understand their business objectives, culture, and strategy, as well as to gain their perspective on how they envision their solution will come to life.
Through our experience, rigour, research, and collaboration, we continually refine our intellectual property and methods to develop and deliver solutions that will help our clients compete and achieve the results they expect. It also gives us a very upfront and personal view of the challenges they face, as well as their thoughts on how the sales force should be prepared to rise to these challenges. We see, and we’ve seen it all.

When you look at the situations our clients face when they hire us, it is obvious that they need highly customised training. Very rarely are they investing in training for the sake of training. Rather, they are either driving or responding to a change in the business environment that creates both opportunities and threats to their business.

12 Common Business Needs that Lead to a Need to Train a Sales Force

  1. A company hires or promotes new leadership with a new strategy that requires the sales team to have a different conversation with customers to leverage competitive differentiators.
  2. A company hires McKinsey to create a new growth strategy and now must train the sales team to execute that new strategy in the market.
  3. A company retains a brand strategy firm to reposition itself in the marketplace and create a new corporate image and now must train its sales team to articulate this new positioning for customers.
  4. A technology company launches a new product and must ensure that its sales team can position the product in the market as part of an overall solution, provoke needs through sharing insights, and sell against the competition.
  5. A large bank implements a new CRM system and must now formalise its sales process and train its commercial bankers to execute new sales processes to get an ROI on the CRM investment.
  6. A company promotes a rising star into its top sales role who recognises the need to move the sales organisation beyond the current product-focused, transactional sales model to a more consultative, strategic partner approach.
  7. A savvy sales leader reads a popular sales book (or thought-provoking in-flight magazine article). He is intrigued with the concepts but realises that they simply won’t work as cleanly in real life and that he needs a more tailored sales training solution for his team.
  8. A company restructures its sales team to better align its people with segmented tiers of clients, and creates specialised sales roles to serve customers in a more efficient and effective manner. It trains these new roles with the knowledge and skills to serve these segments most effectively.
  9. Two companies form a new joint venture, creating a new sales force that must sell a full solution instead of focusing on individual products and build strong relationships with their partners, who are critical in supplying leads.
  10. A global accounting firm implements a new strategy to better coordinate partner-level relationship managers with technical and subject-matter experts. It trains its professionals in a new team selling process to present unified messaging to clients that is compelling and reflects its unique values.
  11. A large health insurance company faces a dramatic change in their business as a result of new “Health Care for America”legislation (i.e., ObamaCare) and must train its agents to sell differently in order to remain competitive.
  12. A company is owned by private equity shareholders who want to ensure the company continues to perform well as they sell the company to a new group. As an insurance policy, they bulk up the sales force and create a tight onboarding process to ensure the new reps succeed.
I could go on and on, but by now, you probably get the point.

As I mentioned earlier, customised sales training is only one of the important factors required for a successful sales improvement, change, or transformation initiative. Other factors include a robust model or process, an effective sales management process, tools, technology, metrics, supporting infrastructure, and (perhaps most importantly) strong leadership support. Every organisation is unique and constantly changing. Even within an industry, the differences (e.g., cultural or competitive) between companies can be striking. Having the industry experience to understand those nuances and ensure they are captured and reinforced in sales training is crucial to the training being accepted in the company.

CEOs, line of business leaders, and sales leaders have strategies they want executed to be more competitive and achieve their goals. They need to realise that, at some point, these strategies need to cascade down to reps and client-facing professionals, who are expected to have different conversations and exhibit different behaviors with customers, and front-line managers, who need to support and hold them accountable. Then, everyone needs to execute. When the stakes are this high (i.e., a leader is putting their job on the line), the job needs to get done right — the investment to customise is minuscule in the grand scheme of what they are trying to accomplish.

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