10 questions to consider when choosing a sales training provider
Looking for a good sales trainer? These tips from Mike Schultz should help.
Reading time: 5 minutes.
Anyone who’s been in leadership for a while has decided to buy from a company that, at the time, seemed like a great idea. Then, months later, it turns out to be a disaster. I've seen numerous companies make costly mistakes when it comes to picking a sales training company to work with.
The sad part is that bad partnerships can often be predicted in advance because you see the same mistakes happen time and again. If you're considering partnering with a sales training company, ask yourself the following questions. They may save you some time, money and heartache.
Does their methodology align with your culture and clients? Will the method work?
Sometimes you hear, 'All sales methods are the same. As long as you implement them, they’ll work.'
Not true. If the training method is too pushy, too lax, too gimmicky, too academic, not academic enough, etc. and it doesn't align with your sales culture - or how your clients like to buy - it won't work. Your sellers won't embrace it and the odds of failure are high.
Trainers need to know their own content, but they also need to know how sellers should apply it in their industry.
Also, sales has changed a lot. Buyers buy differently. Buyers' expectations have changed. From prospecting to selling and account management to sales management, what might have worked even five years ago might not work today.
Make sure the method is current and dynamic.
How is the training reinforced?
Sales training doesn't work unless sellers do something differently. If you want different results, seller behaviours need to change. For this to happen, sellers need to A) remember the training, and B) apply it on the job.
Some companies have a culture where learning technology is already used and adopted, and employees will easily embrace online training and mobile reinforcement. Other companies couldn't get its sellers to take an online course if their jobs depended on it (and sometimes they do!).
Luckily, there are a mix of ways in which training can be reinforced, such as one-on-one and group coaching, online and mobile learning, and simulations and games. You can make each option work, but you need to know:
- How they work
- When they work
- How to get the most out of each
It's important to know the offerings of each sales training company you're considering and understand how they'll apply the reinforcement to work best for your sales team.
Do they have the portfolio of offerings that make sense over time?
Sometimes people think of sales training as an event or this year's initiative. If, however, you're determined to make sure your sales force is firing on all thrusters, you'll get more impact with a multi-component engagement over time.
Perhaps the team learns to lead masterful sales conversations this year. Next year, they'll drive ideas and increase their executive-level persuasion. One group the year after might focus on driving growth in accounts, while another on increasing the win rate with their most important opportunities.
With topics like prospecting, negotiation, sales management and coaching, the opportunities for skills improvement abound.
How is sales leadership and sales management involved?
Sales training must have leadership support. When considering a training provider, ask how training for sales managers and sales leaders fits in. How will they make sure sales management and leadership are brought in? That management knows as well as sellers what they're supposed to do differently? That they know how to apply new skills?
Sales managers and leaders need to lead by example. If they don't use the language of the new sales training or integrate it into their ongoing coaching, or if they can't help sellers apply new skills immediately, the training will fail.
If the training isn't integrated with sales management and their rhythm of working with sellers, it's much less likely to succeed.
Does the provider have experience in your industry? Can they speak your language?
Sellers have to trust that trainers know what they're talking about. Trainers need to know their own content, but they also need to know how sellers should apply it in their industry. If sellers can't relate to the examples or case studies, the training is unlikely to resonate.
Is the sales training company flexible?
Many sales training providers offer "off-the-shelf" programs and tools that they won't tailor for your company. Take it as-is or leave it. Others won't work with the assets you've already developed. They need any customisation or sales tools to be in their format and their format only.
What's the sales process like for you as the buyer? Would you want your sellers to sell like this?
Buying sales training is unique in that you get to experience how the company sells to you. Is it a good experience? How well do they run meetings? Does the seller bring insight and advice? Do they ask great questions? Do they push you to think differently?
If you feel that it's a good buying experience - one you'd want your customers to have - you're headed down the right path. However, if you're unhappy with the buying process and it's not the customer experience you want to promote, look elsewhere.
What do their references say?
When you speak to references, ask what it's like to work with the provider. Inquire about results the provider helped them to achieve and how flexible the company has been in the process. Ask to speak with references in similar industries or of similar size to you.
Can they grow with you?
Maybe you're small right now but have designs on opening global offices. You could be starting small but want to offer sales training across various topics in the future. Or maybe you need a sales training company to deliver all the programs but expect to hire sales trainers in-house and eventually want to train them to deliver core sales training to your team.
Can you use the training for years to come?
Sometimes training works great but then fades away. Clients who get the most out of sales training ask if the provider has an effective system for helping them to onboard new hires, train new teams as they join, and to allow sellers and sales managers to access the training and content three months, 12 months, even two years after their participation.
If sales managers and enablement teams have access to the content, learning modules, and reinforcement over time and the sales training company helps them continue to get the most out of it, the training will truly become a permanent part of the culture.
About the author
Mike Schultz is president of RAIN Group
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