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What Your Frontline Sales Managers Must Do Prior to Launching a Major Sales Training or Change Initiative

front line manager as change agent

richardsonsalestraining24 October 2012Blog

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Sales Training Without Sustainment Is a Wasted Investment - When sales training is treated as a one-time event, participants have been shown to lose up to 87% of skill and knowledge within four weeks. This “brain drain” needs to be dramatically reduced and significantly reversed in order for companies to optimise their investment in behaviour change.

One of the key components in reducing and reversing the brain drain is a salesperson’s frontline sales manager. The sales manager has a crucial role to play before, during, and after training. A sales manager’s active involvement increases the likelihood of salespeople initiating, engaging, and sustaining new selling behaviours over time.

This blog post is the first in a series of three that will outline what sales leaders and managers should do before, during, and after sales training programmes in order to increase their effectiveness and maximise long-term benefit.

Before Sales Training: Increase Awareness

Salespeople need to understand why the training is important and how the new skills and knowledge will benefit their performance back on the job. Sales managers should:

  • Attend the training prior to their salespeople
  • By exposing themselves to the skills that their salespeople will learn, sales managers can better identify the key skills that they will need to coach to back on the job. This will also provide an opportunity for sales managers to refine the training (if necessary), as well as the messaging to promote it.
  • Schedule a 60-minute overview meeting with their salespeople one month before the training will take place
  • You don’t want to wait until the moment before the training to get your people thinking about it. Introduce the subject and prepare them for what’s to come. If you treat the training as a last-minute afterthought, your sales team will likely do the same.
  • Explain the case for change at the overview meeting
  • We talk frequently about the importance of avoiding an “event” mentality. Rather, work within a thoughtful strategic communications programme that highlights key messages and activities along a timeline that coincides with the implementation. As a preview for the training, sales managers should address:

(1) What is happening in the business that is driving the need for training on new skills and knowledge?

(2) Why this training is happening at this time?

(3) What happens if they don’t develop new knowledge and skills now?

(4) What skills and knowledge the participants will gain from the training?

(5) How these skills and knowledge will benefit the participant back on the job?

(6) How performance on the job ties back to key corporate goals and go-to-market strategy?

  • One week before the training, ensure that salespeople are in the process of completing any prework required for the training.
  • Your salespeople are (hopefully) busy and focused on working with prospects and clients. However, help them avoid embarrassment and holding up the class by being prepared before they show up to the training session. No one wants to be “that guy” who ruins it for everyone else.
  • Three days before the training, send an e-mail reminding the learners to actively participate in the training, expand their network of contacts, and complete the prework. In addition, the sales manager sets expectations for applying the learning on the job and immediate next steps after the training.
  • This is your last opportunity to coach your people toward getting the most benefit from the programme before they’re on their own. It reminds me of saying a few parting words to my kids before they leave for school or of a coach reminding his players what to do once they get onto the field.

Learning and Development Support

In many cases, the changes and new expectations will be as much of an adjustment for sales managers as the sales teams. Help sales managers prepare by arming them with the following:

  • A “managers only” version of the training programme in order to accelerate managers’ understanding of the new skills and knowledge
  • Speaking points for the overview meeting
  • An e-mail with the prework and average time it takes to complete
  • An e-mail template for recap and expectation setting prior to the training
With careful preparation, your sales managers and reps will get the most out of this training in support of your strategic change initiative.
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