The hot summer is over and now you’re ready to get serious about swimming for exercise instead of lying by the pool with a cold drink and calling it swimming.
Initially you just want to be in the pool, but an instructor is droning on and on about stroke techniques and best ways to enter the pool. You are losing interest and your mind is wandering, right?
Push your new hires into the pool!
In sales, the best sellers want to be in the pool already! Capture that enthusiasm with training techniques and new technologies to give them the information they need now. Research shows that limiting the longer onboarding presentation (sorry trainers!) and getting sellers into the pool (field) faster, simply increases sales.
Traditional onboarding starts with a huge amount of information, which will most likely be forgotten in a matter of days or weeks. Many companies still plan weeklong training sessions with new hires, which is grueling for the salespeople and not as effective as short training bursts.
The challenge is to convey a lot of information quickly and get the salesperson producing right away. We are finding that the best training is in the field, and now, with technology, this is more possible than ever. We can have prompts at every step—just like a virtual coach.
Imagine it as being paired with an experienced salesperson. Today’s technology can suggest relevant training modules alongside the reference aids in the customer relationship management (CRM) program. Learning this way is powerful because you can immediately apply it, and studies show that you can boost retention by as much as 60 to 90 percent.
Recommendations are built on best practices—such as what top performers do, as well as what the prospect is most interested in—so guided-selling applications truly act as a mentor whispering in your ear.
Reinforcement like this helps the salesperson to think beyond just pitching products and gets them articulating the value of your solution. This ultimately closes more deals faster.
Ten management tips to get your salespeople swimming and closing sales faster
1. Design seamless training. Design your overall training program with the long term in mind. You’ll want to consider initial product information that the salesperson needs right away, sales techniques to create great customer relationships, and then effective closing language, which solidifies value and creates urgency.
Although classroom face-to-face time is very valuable, you need to be aware that time away from the field means less selling time. Therefore, use the classroom time to cover things that really can’t be handled other ways, such as sharing experiences with other salespeople or role-playing.
2. Identify areas of challenge early. Typically you can break this down to three challenges:
- Do salespeople know how to position and explain key points of value?
- Are your salespeople asking the right discovery questions? Can they qualify quickly and prioritize the high probability customers? Reinforcing this behavior is part of a good coaching process.
- Consider re-introducing product and process information after 60 and 90 days. Keep in mind that almost everything presented to them in the early days could be lost. It can be a stressful time for new salespeople starting a new job with a new product.
3. Keep information and modules short. Build trust with the salesperson that they can invest five minutes or less and likely come out with a solid nugget to immediately apply and improve the situation.
4. Make information easy to get to, searchable, and fast. If information and training is part of their workflow, they will be more likely to access it. If you’re hiding it behind a private network or learning management system, or if it takes multiple clicks to find it—you might as well not even bother. Salespeople can lose hours each week finding just the right information.
5. Have your prompts include a mix of short training bursts, job aids, and sales content (positioning, messaging, and customer examples). Your salespeople need all three in the moment to be most effective.
6. Create interactive activities to increase memory. Rather than just telling salespeople something, have them think through examples and participate in providing an answer. Memory games and exercises can be entertaining and, more importantly, they work in improving recall.
7. Use quick quizzes and proficiency testing to advance to new levels. Look for products with automatic advancement for salespeople who progress and are ready for more. If pass rates aren’t adequate, the system can refer them to refresh or revisit previous training to bone up.
8. Add learning modules and prompts to the CRM. Especially effective for inside sales reps, prompts help immensely as salespeople call on accounts and move a prospect through the buying process.
9. Align training modules and virtual coaching with the sales managers. Weekly push reports (Figure 1) can give managers a snapshot of training used by salespeople along with their progress and competency. When managers can zero in on gaps and provide added examples and reinforcement, the faster the salespeople can get up to speed.
Figure 1: A weekly push report gives the sales manager a snapshot of individual needs
10. Monitor and track for continuous improvement. Correlate usage of the training modules and virtual coaching to time-to-first-opportunity, the time-to-sale, and more. If you can learn what salespeople are using and what is leading to more sales, you will soon know what they need more of.
As an example of how to use many of the tips here, here is a case study of a company that has experienced great results with this type of technological support.
An example of getting results rolling
KIC, a truck-parts supplier, had a daunting challenge: educating and establishing a top-of-mind position within their network of resellers, who often sell hundreds of other products from multiple companies.
In the past, KIC provided expensive in-person training and conference events that proved ineffective in producing sales results. Attendees soon forgot the information, and KIC needed a solution to spark interest within their resellers and increase sales across additional product lines.
By using technology and KIC’s new ability to deliver real-time information and push out product updates on the fly, product knowledge and sales competency among dealers increased by 80 percent. Reseller awareness increased more than 55 percent, leading to more effective differentiation.
“Our products can have several iterations, which means it’s imperative we deliver just-in-time product updates to our dealers so they know exactly what they’re selling. The knowledge, confidence in, and consistent messaging of KIC products have improved dramatically, and sales enablement technology tools have been instrumental—we can already see the ROI and so can our partners,” said Neil McIrvin, vice president of KIC.
By raising the bar for their salespeople, and arming them with specific product knowledge and sales skills, KIC gained a reputation as an innovative supplier who put the success of their dealers and resellers first. The result: increased loyalty and more sales success for their partners—and ultimately for KIC.There is no question that technology and sales enablement tools can help salespeople get up to speed faster and make more sales. Now—go push some people into the pool!