Should You Postpone Sales Training?
There are many valid reasons to delay or postpone sales training.  The value and timing of business sales training, like every other sales investment, must be compared to and aligned with shifting business priorities and initiatives.  Given the speed of change today and the constant pressure of competition, what timing makes the most sense in terms of the value and business impact of the training?

The Impetus to Improve Sales Performance
The majority of our clients are being pressed by investors to deliver higher growth at the same time as their clients are demanding more value at better price points.  To make matters more challenging, there are fewer barriers to entry causing competition to increase.  This perfect storm means many companies are:

  • Trying to design and introduce more new products and solutions faster than ever before
  • Launching major shifts in their go-to-market sales strategies in terms of solution sets, target clients, value propositions, portfolio mix and geographic reach
  • Struggling to hire sales reps fast enough who can sell complex solutions to different types of buyers

The #1 Priority – Profitable Revenue Growth
When we talk to sales leaders, there is one priority that never seems to change – profitable revenue growth.  If this is true, then the question becomes, is sales training important to ensuring profitable revenue growth?  Because sales training develops new sales skills and techniques gradually over time, the impact of training can be difficult for some companies to quantify.

The Impact of Sales Training
The good news is that we have measured over 800 sales training projects and know that profitable revenue growth is possible.  Sales teams that do training right, grow revenue 58% faster and are 72% more profitable than their peers.  To ensure your sales training hits the mark, follow these three research-backed best practices:

  • Sales Strategy – start with a clear, believable and implementable sales strategy about where you are going to play and how you are going to win.  Sales training without a clear sales strategy is just wishful thinking.
  • Sales Culture – once your sales strategy is clear enough, your next step is to ensure that your sales culture (the way things get done) is healthy enough, high performing enough and aligned enough with your sales strategy to help, not hinder, progress.
  • Sales Talent – once your sales strategy and culture are aligned toward profitable growth, it is then time to attract, develop, engage and retain the top sales talent you need to execute your sales strategy.  This is where sales training comes in.

The Top Five Reasons to Postpone Sales Training
Because sales training is just one avenue to improve profitable revenue growth, there are certainly situations where it makes sense to postpone sales training.  Here are the top five reasons from our clients:

1.  Lack of Strategic Sales Clarity
You should postpone sales training if your go-to-market sales strategy is not clear enough, believable enough or implementable enough in the eyes of your leadership or sales team.  It is hard enough to change sales skills and behaviors.  It is almost impossible if everyone is not on the same page in terms of target clients, value proposition and the critical few strategies to meet you objectives.


RELATED: ASSESS YOUR LEVEL OF STRATEGIC SALES CLARITY NOW


2.  Unhealthy or Misaligned Sales Culture
Think of your sales culture as how sales-related things really get done… the way sales people think, behave and act.  And sales culture matters.

Before you embark on sales training, make sure that your sales team is engaged enough to want to take their performance to the next level.  Then make sure that the way your sales team treats customers, makes decisions, views risk, creates loyalty, goes to market and gets results matches your growth strategy.  Do not let culture gaps provide excuses for missed sales targets.

3.  No Solution to Sell
Oddly enough, too many companies who want to teach their sales reps to sell value-added solutions do not actually have a solution to sell.  Here is how we define product versus solution selling.

  • Product sales is about the features and benefits – what your product does, how it’s built and how it compares to alternatives in the marketplace
  • Solution sales is about how your organization’s capabilities solve a pressing customer problem or achieve an important customer strategic objective

You should postpone sales training, at least the solution selling approach, if you are only selling features and benefits, regardless of how complex the product may appear.

4.  Not Ready to Reinforce the New Sales Skills and Behaviors
Sales training without the proper reinforcement only changes the behavior of 1-in-5 sales reps.  To ensure that new sales knowledge, skills, and attitudes transfer to the job, you must invest in:

  • Sales Support Resources – Make sure your sales teams have the necessary time, information, tools, technology, supporting sales processes, and structures to drive increased revenue the “new way”
  • Sales Reinforcement – Make sure you provide and align sales success metrics, incentives, consequences and recognition with the newly desired sales skills and behaviors
  • Sales Coaching – Our research shows that sales reps who receive frequent sales coaching outperform their peers 4-to-1.  Invest in sales coaching if you do not want your sales training investment to waste away.

You should postpone sales training if you are not willing to hold people accountable to the new way of doing things while providing the consistent and frequent sales coaching and support required to succeed.

5.  Different Capability Levels on Your Sales Team
While no one can excel at everything, we do believe that anyone can improve in almost any field.  We absolutely know sales people can change and improve their sales performance.  With that being said, if you are convinced that some on your sales team will never have the right attitude or aptitude to succeed in the “new way,” it may makes sense to let those people go before you begin sales training.

Can You Afford to Postpone Your Sales Training?
While the five reasons above should be addressed before moving forward, do not postpone sales training until everything is perfectly aligned.  Otherwise you will never provide your sales team with the sales skills they need to be successful in today’s marketplace.  There will always be change and uncertainty.  Remember the fundamental solution sales skills required to be successful do not change much and take time to develop.  You can always take the skills to the next level as things progress.

The Bottom Line
To get the most from your sales training investment, make sure that your sales strategy is clear enough, your sales culture is aligned enough, your sales team has enough of the right people and that you are willing to reinforce the new skills and behaviors.  And remember, the longer you wait, the longer it will take for your reps to execute your new sales strategy.

Is your value proposition unclear?  Your Unique Value Proposition and Differentiation – What Sets You Apart?

Aligning Call Center Change
When you ask your Call Center Reps to change their behavior in order to deliver on your brand promise, increase revenue and manage margins, be sure that you are fully aligning call center change to support any desired changes in behavior and performance.

What Motivates Call Center Reps
Remember, not all Call Center Reps respond to monetary incentives and commissions the way that successful telesales people do. Inbound reps often cringe at words like “up-selling,” “promotion,” and “cross-selling” because these terms indicate to them a primary goal of pushing product rather than helping a customer solve their most pressing problems.

7 Steps to Aligning Call Center Change
To ensure leaders are aligning call center change with your desired new direction, make sure you update and align:

  1. Objectives.  Call center performance objectives for all employees impacted by change.
  2. Compensation.  Rewards, recognition and compensation plans for those impacted by the change and their leaders to help institutionalize new behaviors.
  3. Job Profiles.  Job descriptions for any role involved in work that has changed.
  4. Hiring profiles.  Behavior-based competencies and skills for new hires to align with the new behaviors and changes..
  5. Onboarding.  New hire onboarding and orientation programs to match new job responsibilities.
  6. Messaging.  Internal and external communications to highlight change success and the associated costs and benefits of change.
  7. Development.   Call center training to regularly assess, practice, reinforce and measure the new skills, knowledge and behaviors.

The Bottom Line
Contact centers must change with the company’s go-to-market strategy to stay relevant and perform at its peak.  If you seek to make changes to strategies, processes, structures or people in your call center, follow these seven tips to ensure you are aligning call center change.

To learn more about high performing contact centers, download How To Get Serious About a Customer Centric Strategy and Culture

One-on-One Employee Meetings Can Increase Employee Engagement
One-on-one employee meetings with direct reports can be a powerful tool to increase employee engagement and productivity.

What is Wrong with One-on-One Employee Meetings
Unfortunately, most employees and managers feel one-on-one employee meetings are often:

  • Disorganized – too many one-on-one employee meetings have unclear goals, agendas and next steps
  • Rushed – too many one-on-one employee meetings are skipped or short-changed by the urgent priority of the day
  • Tactical – too many one-on-one employee meetings focus on urgent activities and issues versus strategies, relationships, processes and growth.
  • Unilateral – too many leaders control decision making, veto solutions that diverge from their preferences and limit their direct report’s discretion in one-on-one employee meetings.
  • Unaccountable – for one-on-one employee meetings to change behavior, performance and engagement, each meeting should be should be a positive, transparent and customized investment in the employee’s growth and chances for success.

Why One-on-One Employee Meetings Matter
Most leaders know it is wise to hold regular check-ins with their employees, but how can you ensure the meetings are  productive and collaborative enough that they are worth the time and effort it takes to get them right?

One-on-One’s Should Improve Employee Engagement
When it comes to increasing employee engagement, managers have a lot of influence.

  • 85.7% of highly engaged organizations conduct regular manager-employee one-on-one meetings.
  • Highly engaged employees even rate one-on-one meetings as their #1 communication strategy, ranking above all-company meetings and emails from leadership.
  • 85% of hostile employees say they don’t receive frequent enough feedback and coaching from their manager.

One-on-One’s Should Improve Accountability
High performing organizations consistently clarify, monitor, expose and reward performance.  Every employee should have clear success metrics that are perceived as relevant, meaningful, fair, consistent, accurate, trusted, timely, transparent and just possible.  A long but important list to get performance measures right.

How To Design One-on-One Employee Meetings that Work
So how do managers leverage their interactions to keep employees engaged? How can they create an environment of open feedback and show they care? How do they make sure effective, ongoing employee coaching doesn’t slip through the cracks and lead to disengagement or a lack of accountability?

We recommend you hold a manager-employee meeting monthly or quarterly — if managers can’t meet with each team member at least four times a year, the team might be too big. In each meeting, managers and employees discuss goals, obstacles, opportunities, and decisions (GOOD). Here’s the breakdown:

GOALS: What Do You Want to Achieve? 
Discuss the status of goals since your last one-on-one meeting, analyze the progress made on current goals, and plan for new and upcoming goals.

  • What long-term goals have we agreed to?
  • How have things gone since we last spoke?
  • What are our plans until next time?

OBSTACLES: What’s Standing In The Way of Your Success?
Talk through the obstacles that are standing in the way of goal completion and overall employee success. This can be anything from lack of resources to conflict with a coworker to unproductive work environment.

  • What’s standing in your way?
  • What have I noticed getting in your way?
  • What can I do to help? What can you do?

OPPORTUNITIES: Where Do You Want to Go from Here?
Discuss employee opportunities for recognition of work, personal and professional growth, and increased job satisfaction.

  • What are you proud of that people don’t know about?
  • Do you feel you’re growing toward where you want to be?
  • What could we do to make this your dream job?

DECISIONS: What Will be Done Before Our Next One-on-one Meeting?
Make decisions on what will be accomplished before your next meeting. Decide who will tackle which tasks and recap any new or updated goals.

  • What actions will you take before next time?
  • What actions will I take before next time?
  • What other big decisions did we make?

The Bottom Line
Effective one-on-one employee meetings include feedback that is always specific, frequent, outcome-focused, positive, and sometimes conversational. Make sure your one-on-one meetings are GOOD.

To learn more about increasing employee engagement, download The Top 10 Ways to Boost Employee Engagement

Jenny Dearborn Data Driven: How Performance Analytics Delivers Extraordinary Sales Results
Congratulations to LSA Client, Jenny Dearborn, the Executive Vice President, Human Resources at SAP, for publishing her book: Data Driven: How Performance Analytics Delivers Extraordinary Sales Results.

Data Can Be Your Most Valuable Asset as a Leader
Jenny thoughtfully discusses how data can be your most valuable asset as a leader. She shares how most organizations capture and report data, but data is useless without analysis that leads to action. The Data Driven Leader shows you how to use this tremendous asset to lead your organization higher.

Realistic and Actionable
This book tells the story of a successful sales executive who, after leading an analytics-driven turnaround (in Data Driven, this book’s predecessor), faces a new turnaround challenge as chief human resources officer.

LSA Global’s CEO, Tristam Brown
LSA Global’s CEO, Tristam Brown, is quoted in the book discussing the dangers of trying to solve the wrong problems.

Data-driven Decision-making and Strategies
This book is for you if you want to learn about Jenny’s take on data-driven decision-making and strategies and how to:

  •  Understand essential data science principles and corporate analytics models
  • Identify and execute effective data analytics initiatives
  • Boost HR and company productivity and performance with metrics that matter
  • Shape an analytics-centric culture that generates data driven leaders

To learn more about making better decisions, read How to Avoid Making Bad Decisions When Change Is Needed

The Art of Effective Sales Questions
The best sales people typically ask the most effective sales questions.  Being able to ask good questions is an art. Asking effective questions is a necessary skill for journalists, a developmental skill for salespeople and a desirable skill for conversationalists.

Insightful Sales Questions = Insightful Customer Conversations
As far as sales is concerned, good questioning skills are essential, value selling training experts say, for success. It is the basis for learning (and teaching) just exactly what your customers want and need.  Unfortunately, too many buyers report that sales professionals ask them a canned list of questions trying to close the deal.

Poor Sales Questions = Poor Customer Conversations
Anyone who has ever been on the other end of a high pressured sales conversation can attest that the “poor-questions approach” does not build trust, credibility or revenue.  In fact, poor sales questions typically lead to unqualified leads, missed opportunities and wasted effort.

Four Steps to Help Master the Art of Effective Sales Questions
If you want to have meaningful and insightful sales conversations with your target buyers:

1.  Start with Open-Ended Questions
The most effective sales questions are open-ended.  Open-ended questions are those that cannot be answered with a simple (and unhelpful) “yes” or “no.” They require a more thoughtful answer.  Try to always begin with the big six open-ended questions:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • How?
  • And our favorite – Why?

The best solution sellers are curious about how they can truly help their clients to succeed.   Open-ended questions promote a meaningful and client-centered conversation.  Without them, it is difficult to uncover customer goals, problems, needs, objections, risks and next steps in a way that makes sense.

2.  Be Clear and Concise
Get right to the point. Don’t ramble. You will lose focus and your target will be confused.

3.  Actively Listen and Embrace Silence
Do not interrupt.  Actively listen.  And be patient with silence by accepting the pause.

Sometimes counting to 10 before speaking again can help you become more comfortable.  Your listener will soon fill it…hopefully with the answer you were looking for.

4.  Be Authentic and Client-Centered
First, have your client’s best interests at heart.  Second, ask follow-up or clarifying questions if you do not understand what they are talking about…especially if it gives them a chance to be the expert and keep talking.

The Bottom Line
The better you become at listening and the art of effective sales questions, the more you help your customers to succeed.  The more you help your customers to succeed, the more you will sell.

Want to learn more? Download 30 Effective Sales Questions More Important than Budget When Selling Solutions

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