Solution Selling Training – 6 Ways It Can Go Wrong

A cartoon character must navigate past metal animal traps to get to the goal

Are you thinking about putting your sales force through solution selling training to boost their skill level and increase your revenues? Beware of the obstacles on the way to your goal.

Investing in sales training by itself can be a huge disappointment and a waste of your resources. We have learned a lot over our almost two decades of implementing hundreds of solution selling training initiatives. Here is our summary of the most common mistakes organizations make as they roll out a sales training program. There are 6 traps to avoid if you want your training initiative to succeed…and why wouldn’t you?

1. Unprepared participants
All training is ultimately designed to change specific behaviors to increase desired performance. We know that people typically resist change unless there is a strong willingness and need to change. Make sure that you spend adequate time in preparing participants and gaining their understanding that behavior change is needed and why it is in their best interest. Share specifically how the training will benefit them:

• Achieve their personal and professional goals.
• Learn proven principles for more effective selling, i.e., building relationships, uncovering customer needs, articulating value, overcoming resistance, negotiating effectively, etc.
• Practice and become proficient at the critical few sales scenarios that matter most for their success.

2. Unprepared sales managers
What happens after the sales workshop is as (if not more) important as what happens before and during the workshop. During the sales program participants observe, absorb and practice the critical few sales skills that will best help them to increase revenues, margins and win-rates. But, unless they are held accountable for and coached through the new behaviors, they will quickly slip back into the old ways of doing things. Sales managers are the front-line leaders who need to be role-models and skilled coaches for the new behaviors and desired competencies. Ongoing reinforcement is the only way the individuals will reach new performance levels.

3. Ineffective success metrics
Measurement is critical to sustaining both training and business results. Start with defining the two to three business metrics that you want to improve. Typical business sales success metrics to move include revenue, margin, win rate, portfolio mix, deal size, and sales cycle. Once you know where you are headed from a business perspective, it is time to identify performance and learning success metrics linked to your business metrics. At the end of the day, make sure that you can measure if people are using the new skills and behaviors and if they are making a difference.

4. Inadequate top-level support
Senior leaders need to be on board with the program not only to model and encourage the behavior changes but also to hold people accountable while providing the support and resources to ensure long-term adoption. Make sure you have leadership “buy-in” for each and every change. You will need top-down commitment for the training to succeed in transforming the sales team and in building the business.

5. Lack of focus
Beware of trying to do too much at once. You don’t want to overwhelm participants with too many processes, practices, skills or knowledge. From an instructional design perspective, if there is more content than practice and skill building, participants are unlikely to become more proficient. Make sure that you rigorously focus only on what matters most to the participants, their boss and the company as a whole.

6. Insufficient customization
Too many sales managers plug in their “pet” sales training program or sales methodology without fully appreciating the root cause of underperformance or without creating full alignment with the overall sales strategy or sales culture. No sales training program should be delivered until you are sure that you will develop the solution selling skills required for your company, your solutions, your customers, your team and their sales roles.

Ensure your solution selling training program is a success by avoiding the six ways it can go wrong and transform your organization in a way that will bring you the desired results.

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