When I was teaching martial arts there was one aspect of training that was vital for success. Consistency!
In order to become a great martial artist you have to continuously practice new and old skills or you’ll lose them or even worse, never develop them properly.
Before becoming a black belt and instructor I would consistently practice basic kicks, punches, and their corresponding techniques in order to master them. Even at ranks very close to black belt I would set aside time to practice white belt moves.
I did this because I knew there was still improvement to be made. I knew that no matter what, I could still strive to kick higher, faster, and stronger.
This principle is no different for sales training.
Too often a sales team will be sent to a skill building workshop or conference with the intention of improving their sales skills. When they get back everyone is gun hoo and excited to use those new skills in the field. The skills are fresh in their mind and they are hungry to try them out.
The next week or so things change. At this time maybe only half of the sales team is using the newly acquired skills. And by a month almost no one is using what they recently learned. How can that be?
It’s pretty simple in fact. Because there was no reinforcement. They learned the skills once and then essentially forgot about them. There was no chance for those new skills to be cemented in the sales reps’ skill set and psyche.
How much more valuable would those seminars and conferences be if the ideas stuck and your reps were able to take long term knowledge away?
Although everyone learns best in a different way, there are a few things you can do to make sales training stick.
First of all is for you as a sales manager to attend the training yourself, preferably at a higher level, with one on one instruction. This way you have a deeper understanding of the skills that will be taught to your team as well the ability to learn how to implement them with your sales team.
When you have completed the training yourself do a review of the training. Write down in detail the skills that were taught, which ones you want to focus on, and then put together a “lesson plan” for reinforcing those skills with your sales team.
This lesson plan can include weekly workshops, role plays, written tests, and any other type of training you feel is appropriate.
For the next two to three months you will work on each and everyone of those main skills that were taught. Ideally you’ll want to do these post training weekly or, at a minimum, monthly. The focus will be working on those skills to hone and better develop them.
Post training will allow you to cement new skills into your sales team’s arsenal. ~Tweet This!
Preferably weekly for the next 2-3 months you will work on each and everyone of the main skills that were taught, to hone and better develop them, in addition to cementing them in the tool kit of your sales team.
The key to sales training is consistently reinforcing new and old skills ~Tweet This!
However, if for what ever reason you are not able to be part of the sales training then have your sales team write an outline of the skills and techniques they learned. Not only will this help you create the lesson plan, it will help give them ownership over what they learned.
Break it up so that you assign each sales rep to outline, in detail, one or two skills they learned. What are the key points of using that skill correctly and how they practiced them in the training sessions.
Then you put those outlines together into a single packet and you now have the beginnings of a sales training manual for your sales team. You can call this collection of knowledge a Sales Guide, Sales Manual, or what I’m familiar with, Sales Playbook.
For the individual sales rep looking to get more out of your sales training, do the same as above but on a more specific level. For example, when you create your outline of the techniques keep the count down to 2-3 skills. And no more than 5 max!
Make outlines of the skills you want to ingrain in your tool kit and create your own lesson plans and Sales Playbook. Preferably immediately after a workshop or if it’s over multiple days, after each day. This is important because during sales training you are often flooded with information and new ideas. And if you don’t get it on paper right away the valuable points of it could disappear.
Moving forward pick ONE skill to practice a week. And use it at every opportunity. When you’re in meetings, making calls, or even convincing your significant other where to go to dinner for your date night.
The reason I say you should only focus on one sales skill at a time is because often sales reps will be eager to use everything they learned at a seminar right away. And in the process they try to do too much and end up decreasing their effectiveness and often times reducing their confidence that the new sales skills will even work.
In other ways focusing on too many sales skills at a time creates a few problems.
First of all you are trying to use multiple techniques that you are not an expert at using yet. It makes you seem clumsy and you will look like an amateur to whomever you’re meeting with. Big no no.
Second, this clumsiness will frustrate most sales reps and discourage them from using those techniques in the future. Completely negating the reason for the sales training. Because you aren’t proficient in using them, it is unlikely that you will be successful when using them the first time. And that will give the impression that they are worthless skills and you’re likely to give up and go back to what you know works.
Third, using them all at once doesn’t allow you to build upon the skills. Often times a full sales training session, with multiple techniques, will have a common theme as to how they feed off each other and interrelate.
The skills are taught in a specific order so they can showcase how they build upon one another.
So pick one skill and practice it every day for no less then a full week. Two weeks is best. At the end of each week evaluate when you used it. How it worked. And if there are any changes you can make to help the skills stick or work better for you.
And of course, be sure to let me know of any other ways you have used to make new sales skills stick better.
~ Johnny Bravo
Image courtesy of zirconicusso / FreeDigitalPhotos.net