With many years’ experience in sales, both doing the selling and managing sales teams of varying size, experience and calibre before moving into the field of Learning and Development, it’s no surprise that I am often asked to carry out sales training by my clients. What may be a surprise it that this is rarely for sales teams.
I have found myself discussing the need for sales training for teams of party planners (OK these may be considered sales people, although they may not see themselves that way), business owners large and small, software development teams, warehouse operatives and staff within district councils. So why do they / their managers feel they need sales training?
First of all, the core values and beliefs of a good sales person should be about providing good customer service. I would argue that the difference between sales as a discipline and customer service as one is that sales is proactive whereas customer service as a role is often reactive. Therefore training your staff in sales allows them to be good at customer service BEFORE they are asked by the customer. Good sales people will put themselves in the client’s shoes and good sales training will enable anybody in your organisation to do that.
Sales is about building relationships and everyone in business needs to build strong, respectful relationships with the people to whom they provide a service; these could be paying clients but are often internal clients. Empowering your staff to deal with internal clients in the way that you would want your external sales people to deal with paying clients fosters respect and good relationships throughout the organisation.
Sales is also about meeting commercial targets. From my experience, unless you are working at director level, only sales roles come with a constant measurement of your performance against ongoing commercial goals (normally financial targets); other roles may have key performance indicators that you are expected to achieve over a given timeframe (often 6 months to a year) but only in sales is your manager looking on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis at your sales performance against your targets. The net result of this is that sales people are often under pressure but are also probably more aware than most of the commercial expectations of the business. Good sales training will focus, where relevant, on understanding the need for and ways to construct pipelines and targets and will explain why the bottom line must be achieved. Helping all your staff to understand the impact that figures have on the business enables all of them to become more commercially focussed and often helps them to support previously misunderstood management initiatives.
I could go on….there are many forms of sales training; from the process side of things (Managing a Sales Pipeline for example), to relationship building (strategic account management and account planning for example) and core selling skills (closing a sale, consultative selling). Some topics can be covered in a couple of hours or looked at in depth for a week.
Whatever your role though I firmly believe that there is a place for sales oriented training for everyone in business.