Sales people retain less than 15% of knowledge after 90 days if not reinforced. Often times, we hear Sales Managers say they are having an “adoption problem”. They say things like “my reps are not following the plan” or “why won’t they follow the process”. The misdiagnosis can often be traced back to one root cause: Understanding.
There is a natural human tendency to not ask questions when being taught a new skill. People don’t want to be perceived as slow learners. In a sales team this behavior manifests itself in the following way:
Sales Manager is covering a new skill. Rolls it out at a sales meeting using a few slides and says “does this make sense”.
The entire team nods and says “yes”
Sales Manager says “hey, this is super important to the company initiative so lets execute”.
Sales team says “yes, you bet”.
Upon the meeting adjourning two reps have a hallway conversation as both compare notes
What did they find? Each interpreted the information differently.
Jim Collins says “great leaders look in the mirror before they look out the window”. As a sales manager, the first thing you should do when diagnosing a sales training gap is focus on understanding. Often times, sales people are not doing what you have asked because they don’t understand how to do what it is you’re asking. They know the why; they need help with how. Ask yourself “have I covered the 5 steps of skills transfer with my reps.”
Tell, Show, Watch, Retrain, Manage.
Tell- Explain the skill. Everything from steps to use, things to say, and the ideology behind it.
Show– Demonstrate the skill so your team can see you do it.
Watch– Watch them do what you just showed them
Retrain– Coach them around what they did well and what gaps exist. In doing this, have them tell you what they thought went well first. People always have a tendency to downgrade their own performance. Force them to find the good. This will help inject a culture of risk taking and trying new things
Manage– Manage your sales reps to execute to the standard through positive reinforcement and consistent reminders.
There is one key with the first 4 steps above—be an active coach. Don’t just instruct in the conference room behind a powerpoint deck. Get side by side and demonstrate the skill in the field. We see some sales managers shy away from this because they don’t want to be exposed. The fastest way to improve understanding is to show someone it can be done. If it can be done once, it can be done a thousand times. If you have rolled out something at a sales training meeting, you must go execute the step with them in the field. Sales reps have so much respect for a boss who says “hey, on the next call, if the prospect/customer throws up resistance about the new contract terms, let me handle it and you give me feedback on how I did”. Not only will you have the chance to show your rep how to do it, you will endear yourself to them by being in the trenches vs. behind your desk keeping score.
Call to Action-Implement a sales training culture centered on deliberate practice. The American Psychology Association defines deliberate practice as “effortful activities designed to optimize performance”.
The way to do this is through a sales training cadence like the one below:
• At the start of each quarter, pick an area of the sales process that is of concern
• This should be a direct result of your observations in the field
• Set out 5-6 training meetings over 13 weeks
• Divide the time-25% skill review, 50% role play/practice, 25% action items
• Observe the team executing the action items in the field
• Broadcast the small and big victories of people executing the new skill between meetings
• Share success stories at the next meeting and train again
If the team is struggling to master the specific skill, do not move on. As the leader, you must have the discipline to lead the team through deliberate practice, even when they don’t want to.
Does your sales training solve for understanding?