Ed. – Dr. Richard Ruff holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology and has spent the last thirty years designing and managing large-scale sales training projects for Fortune 1000 companies. He is the co-author of three books and developed a new generation of sales training programs called Sales Momentum. In 2011 he launched a new company – Sales Horizons – to create sales training programs for mid-size and small companies. We welcome Dick to The HUB.
Each year companies spend a lot of time, money, and effort implementing sales training and sales coaching efforts to help their sales team learn new sales methodologies and processes. There is some good news and some bad news.
The good news is we know that adoption of a well-designed sales methodology positively impacts results. A recent analysis report by Accenture of the 2012 Sales Performance Optimization Study by CSO Insights documents that correlation.
In their analysis – Sales reps achieved 70% of their sales targets when they used their company’s sales methodology 90% of the time.
On the other hand, the percentage of time the sales targets were reached dropped to 55% for sales reps that used their company’s sales methodology only 75% of the time. Regardless of the specific productivity metric used – that difference is a big deal.
So if you use it – the world is a better place. The bad news is most sales reps don’t use it. The researchers point out – “sales representatives are not consistently using their organization’s sales methodology.” A lot of sales people are not using the adopted sales methodology a lot of the time.
Let’s take a look at this paradox. First, let’s explore why sales reps might not adopt a new sales methodology and than examine some ideas that could help improve the adoption numbers.
For the first quest, let’s suspend disbelief for a moment and assume we have the technology to tap into the thought patterns of sales reps that are not adopting the methodologies. Here are some of the things we might hear:
◆ “I tried some of the ideas – but my approach works fine – easier to stay with the Ghost You Know.”
◆ “This is just the Flavor of the Month –we’ll forget all about this stuff in 6 months.”
◆ “I didn’t try the stuff but it looks hard – plus it is different.”
◆ “I’ll Pick and Chose – take some of this stuff, add some of the ideas from my last company that worked and then add some of the thoughts from that book I got when I first started selling.”
◆ “I like this stuff but my manager is not into coaching so I think it’s going to be difficult to get really good at this all by myself.”
◆ “I think I’ll wait and see what others do.”
Now, the moral of the story is some version of these types of reasons will exist in most adoption efforts. So one has to get a handle on what they are and do something about it when it comes to designing the implementation process.
When it comes to implementing a sales methodology via training, one of the neglected truisms is – most sales training adoption would be twice as effective if twice the time was spent on what you do before and after the training. There are all kinds of payoffs to taking this proposition seriously. Here, let’s focus on specific before and after ideas that might help sales people actually use stuff.
Before the Program.
There needs to be a well-thought out communication plan for positioning and promoting the upcoming sales training. Some of the questions that need to be addressed are: Why are we introducing a new sales methodology now? Why did we select this particular methodology? What are we expecting to accomplish? What is the long-term implementation and coaching plan for the adoption?
Communications must be forthcoming more than once and must be from a variety of key players in the sales organization. One e-mail from the Sales Training Director will not carry the day. Ideally influential members of the sales team were involved in the initial planning. If so, they should serve as ambassadors for the training.
In every organization there are some unique things that can be done to facilitate adoption. In addition there are some steps that are universally helpful:
◆ Coaching. A specific sales coaching plan needs to be developed before the sales training is rolled out. The top sales leadership should communicate the plan so there are some common expectations about coaching across the front-line sales managers and the sales team.
◆ Updating. No sales methodology works perfectly – particularly when first implemented. What is and is not working needs to be identified – some of the ideas need to be leveraged and some need to be fine-tuned.
◆ Success Stories. Success stories need to be compiled and promoted – sales reps that are doing a particularly successful job utilizing the methodology should be publicly recognized.
◆ Promoting. On an ongoing basis, top sales management needs to talk about the adoption and promote the effort that the sales team is doing – praise helps.
We know that the adoption of a well-designed sales methodology can improve sales productivity. We also know that in many implementations a significant number of sales reps will not consistently use the methodology.
Now, the saddest telling point about this paradox is – there are people in most organizations that know what needs to be done before and after the training to address the problem. But in the frenzy of launching a major adoption effort – things get deleted or watered down due to lack of funding, or competing priorities, or conflicts between departments – to mention but a few. These obstacles are not immutable and this paradox need not be paralyzing.