Hey, let’s get the sales team all on the same page!
‘Big Bang’ sales training is a common approach for getting the sales team on the same page. Corral everyone in one place for the sales kickoff, roll-out a new product, talk about the competition, share some customer wins, educate on industry trends – you know the drill.
And, if you’re like a lot of companies, you’ve noticed your sales messaging is uneven across the sales team.
You have the idea “Hey, let’s certify everyone on the sales deck at the sales kickoff!”
This approach seems to make sense for a lot of reasons:
- You’ve got to do something – win rates are going down
- The sales deck is comprehensive – it includes all the important stories: Who you are, what you do, why your customers care, how you help, what to do next etc.
- The sales training team is good at this kind of (and hopefully has enough clout to keep the CEO from showing up and firing the bottom third of the sales team at the conclusion of the exercise).
- It’s what you know. You did it when you were a rep, in your last sales management job and it’s what your peers are doing now.
I know, I did it with my teams when I ran sales. They know the deck – check!
There are two big problems with this approach to getting your sales messaging up-leveled:
- the big bang training approach doesn’t work
- customers want conversations, not presentations.
‘Big bang’ training doesn’t work
Good things come out of sales kickoffs: creating new professional relationships and strengthening existing ones are great examples.
But markets are so dynamic and memories of kickoff presentations so short that the few things the sales reps do remember three months after the kickoff are often no longer relevant.
Learning Theory is pretty clear on this one – big bang training does not drive behavior change. Behavior change is best done incrementally, over time and with the learner in control.
Customers and Prospects don’t want presentations
Executives want sales reps to show up with ideas to help them run their businesses better.
A 20-minute canned pitch is not typically the best way to accomplish this. In fact, Forrester found 90% of executives prefer conversations to presentations.
Having a good business conversation means asking good questions, listening well and delivering relevant and compelling information / anecdotes / observations / trends / analogies /stories at the right time.
But I gotta do something!
If we take away your big bang sales deck certification, how do you get your reps on-message and improve the quality of their sales conversations?
Two approaches that have worked well for our customers are:
- teaching their sales team one bite-sized piece of the messaging at a time, each of which can each be coached, rated and certified
- focusing their messaging training on conversations vs. presentations.
Sixty+ minutes to nail a 2-minute story
The 20-minute sales deck is usually a launching pad for 10+ different stories. Rather than have the reps learn all those stories at one time in ‘presentation mode’, it is more effective for the reps to master those stories one at a time and in a conversational format.
From years of moderating story programs, we have seen that it takes about an hour or two of focused work leveraging a role-play automation system for a sales person to make a new 2 – 3 minute story their own and ‘conversation ready’.
The learner is in control of the process. At a convenient time, they will typically review a video or two of what ‘good looks like’, read the story bullet points, perhaps review some background material or a watch a context video. If they choose to, they can also write up their own bullet points so they can practice the story for an upcoming customer call. These activities can take 10 – 30 minutes.
Then they practice the story with their webcams or screencasters 2 – 10 times. That can take 10 – 60 minutes.
Finally, they meet with their sales team for a 30-minute story workshop to watch what the best versions from their peer group look like and discuss the different approaches as a group.
By the end of the story workshop, the reps really know the story and how to tell it, the context around the story and variations on the theme. When they are in the heat of their next sales conversation and need to add some value, this story will flow.
Training for conversations vs. presentations
It is not unusual for reps first using a role-play automation system to incorporate presentation best practices into their stories. A projected voice, no ‘uhms’ or ‘ahs’, exaggerated hand gestures (I’m touching my heart now, I really mean it!) and dramatized statements (which is why you should . . . buy . . .. OUR . . . . STUFF!).
These presentation practices don’t make for good conversations. Authentic business conversations are interactive, have normal volume levels, don’t sound canned, include ‘umhs’ and ‘ahhs’ and usually incorporate less theater than a presentation.
Training for business conversations is best done by modeling what a good conversation sounds like – one learnable, bite-sized piece at a time – and giving the rep the tools to practice the sound bites privately until it becomes second nature. Add in some coaching feedback and your team will have strong, conversational ‘nuggets’ ready for use at the appropriate time.
A story program
It may be time to change your approach to training your sales messages because a big bang sales deck certification drill adds lots of stress to a sales organization and doesn’t deliver on lasting learning goals.
Our customers have found that breaking up the sales deck and training on bite-sized pieces in a conversational way prepares sales reps for winning conversations.
Learning these bite sized stories in a regular cadence (weekly, bi-weekly or monthly) is a great way to continually reinforce the right message. These ongoing story workshops are often the backbone of a good story program and give the reps the right insights and stories to have great conversations and increase their win rates.