5 Steps to Developing a World Class Sales Training Program

The following is an exclusive excerpt from Sales Enablement: A Master Framework to Engage, Equip and Empower a World-Class Sales Force. Tamara Schenk and I co-authored this book to explore the exploding business function of sales enablement.

Sales enablement has gone from being used by 19% of companies in 2013 to 59% in 2017. And for good reason — there’s a direct correlation between sales enablement disciplines and attaining sales quotas. Companies that implement enablement programs reach revenue goals at a rate more than 8% higher than those that do not.

Historically, leaders believed that successful sales practitioners were more art than science. Today, those successful sales teams will combine sales methodology, robust content, training and coaching services, and technology to meet the needs of current and future data-driven businesses.

Effective content services also result in an 8% improvement in quota attainment, while effective training services improve quota attainment between 18% and 22%.

To succeed the enablement team must collaborate closely with HR, L&D and other supporting departments. To dive deeper, we’d like to share the below book excerpt:

Orchestrating your training

These days, many organizations, especially larger ones and those selling more complex products and solutions, have L&D teams that are responsible for all training curriculum. When sales force enablement orchestrates the creation and delivery of training services for sales enablement, it isn’t replacing the role of L&D; it is simply ensuring that training services meet the needs of the sales force.

The process you’ll follow involves these five steps:

1. Take stock of what you have

You need to first create an inventory of all the training services that are available to the sales force today. If training wasn’t previously considered to be part of the enablement function, you may need to search around a bit to see what’s available. Get in touch with other departments, such as HR, L&D, marketing and sales operations, to see what, if anything, they offer. Official training sessions, such as product classes are easy to identify, but as with content, there may also be unofficial services you should include. For example, one of the product managers might have recorded an informal five-minute product demo and made it available to a handful of salespeople looking for more information. You’ll need to dig down a layer or two to find these types of services, but ask around when talking to salespeople or other potential contributors.

2. Gather feedback and data

Salespeople and managers usually have plenty of feedback on which sessions are valuable and which sessions aren’t — and why. This data, combined with course evaluations, gives you a baseline for assessing the perceived value of training services, but it doesn’t always give a clear picture of actual value.

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If you can correlate a training service to performance improvements, such as decreased cycle times, so much the better, but this may not be easy if you’re just starting to develop your sales force enablement discipline. You often won’t have systems to collect the granular data needed for a full analysis. However, you can compare data points like training assessments to overall performance levels. Focus on the extremes, such as those with high assessments and high performance or low assessments and low performance, to gather insights into how training affects performance.

In the case of the informal training services you uncovered in step one, seek to understand why someone thought that training service was necessary. If product management thought it might be helpful, but sales never used it, that gives you a pretty good indication of its worth. On the other hand, if the request originated from sales, chances are it was intended to fill a sales need. Ask questions to learn more about that need.

Training is one of the ways forward-thinking employers attract and retain top talent. Successful salespeople look for companies that help them develop deeper, marketable skill sets. Training is one of the ways forward-thinking employers attract and retain top talent. Successful salespeople look for companies that help them develop deeper, marketable skill sets. Lack of training is also one of the reasons successful salespeople leave the company. Exit interviews are an excellent time to gather feedback on the perceived effectiveness of your training programs. In fact, assessing why salespeople leave (voluntarily or involuntarily) is one of the top 12 world-class best practices in our 2017 World Class Sales Practices Study.

3. Assess your assets

Next, delete all assets from your list that are obsolete and cannot be easily refreshed. Since there are many types of training, you might also need to delete a few from your list that have nothing to do with sales enablement, such as many of the HR-mandated courses. Be careful about being too overzealous though. Some courses, such as ones on active listening skills, fit very well into sales force enablement and can be relatively easily adapted to make them even more impactful for customer-facing professionals.

4. Identify the gaps

Now, use the customer’s path, your charter and the data and feedback you gathered to identify gaps in your training services. Here are some questions you might consider:

  • Which sales roles have we overlooked when creating training services? For example, if all your training is designed for your territory managers, you may need to create (or modify) services for those who sell into named accounts.
  • Which stages of the customer’s path require additional training services? For example, during the implementation and adoption phase, are salespeople effectively selling the value delivered? If not, what training services can help them learn this best practice?
  • Which important skills are not being addressed with training? Newer skills, like social selling, are obvious examples, but it could also be a traditional skill such as negotiation.
  • Which important skills need additional reinforcement? Even though you might offer training services for a particular skill, if the sales force isn’t applying that skill, additional training services may be needed.

5. Prioritize

Just as with content, you’re likely to be bombarded with constant requests for training services, both large and small. This is especially true in organizations that see training as synonymous — or nearly so — with enablement. If the organization still has a product-oriented mindset, many of these requests are likely to be geared toward products. Use what you’ve learned in this chapter and the charter you’ve created to carefully prioritize your efforts.

Byron Matthews, President and CEO, leads Miller Heiman Group’s commitment to championing customer-management excellence throughout the customer life cycle and across the enterprise from one source. Byron brings to bear in his role a firm grasp of providing organizations worldwide with an expanded, holistic approach for developing and managing, and sustaining, long-term customer relationships.

Byron’s depth and breadth of prior experiences include serving as Senior Vice President of Sales at Aflac, where he led over 30,000 sales professionals across multiple channels, and over five years at Mercer as Global Sales Leader and Global Head of the Sales Performance Practice, where he grew revenue over 30%. Purchase his new book on sales enablement, here.

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