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B2B Sales

Sales Training’ is a waste of money and time (Part 2)

We must stop teaching sales people how to ‘push’ buyers, and instead start training and coaching them on how to become highly specialised teachers.

If we keep training sales people the same way we did back in the 20th century then we shouldn’t be surprised when we keep getting the same result – continued sales under-performance and increasing sales staff turnover. Sound familiar? 

Sales training is supposed to create sales performance improvement and yet it rarely does in my experience. Part 1 of this article asserts that sales training is ineffective because it teaches sales people how to outmanoeuvre their opponent (the buyer) and buyers will no longer accept that old school nonsense. Furthermore, the event-based training model fails to drive behavioural chance because we humans acquire skills and knowledge in increments, not through a 2-day rah rah session with some self-proclaimed sales guru.

So, what’s needed in place of sales training? 

To answer the above question, let’s begin exactly where we should – with the buyer. To recap (from Part 1): Today's’ empowered buyers now expect sales people to: truly KNOW them, PERSONALISE every engagement, TEACH them and ANTICIPATE their needs. If you agree with these 4 buyer expectations then the profile of a modern seller is now the polar opposite of the charismatic quota crushers from yesteryear. CSO Insights recently published a report on what now constitutes the new sales persons profile and the research highlights the way that sales people are now morphing into teachers. 

Put simply, sales people must be trained to become educators. If you are unable to teach your buyer something, then why would they waste their precious time with you? At its core, this means becoming a specialist in the customers industry, and having an acute understanding of their business challenges and offering suggestions (and proof) on how you can make their business more effective.

“When you sell you break rapport, but when you teach you build rapport”.

However, before your sales person will ever get the chance to do any ‘teaching’ they first need to work out how to get ENGAGED with their target buyer, and that’s increasingly difficult because most sales people are still be trained in those pathetic 20th century tactics such as cold outreach with a blanket/generic message. Seriously, if your trusty ‘sales trainer’ has any component of his/her course-ware that is dedicated to ‘prospecting’ that resembles simply churning through the numbers then get another trainer. These old methods of generating leads simply do NOT work and increasing regulatory requirements such as GDPR will soon make those annoying forms of outreach illegal. Hooray. 

Given that today’s buyers begin the buying journey online, the challenge for all vendors is now harnessing the digital tools and platforms that can engage your buyers where they now reside (on social media platforms), and in the way that they want to be engaged. Thus, in order to create analytical teachers that can truly advise their buyers beyond Features, Advantages and Benefits, the modern seller profile must be trained in the following: 

  • The importance of social voice, and how to establish it.
  • How to leverage social listening to properly research buyers.
  • How to ensure that you are visible to your buyers - visibility creates opportunity.
  • Getting your buyers attention and cutting through the noise.
  • Developing a personal brand that garners instant ‘credibility’ with your target audience.
  • Networking and peer-to-peer influence - leveraging the real power of an ‘open network’.
  • Curating educational content to help drive inbound leads and attract buyers.
  • Leveraging the power of LinkedIn Sales Navigator to nurture & grow target accounts. 
  • Using social to expand your footprint inside existing accounts (ABS & ABM).
  • Leveraging the vast amount of sales-tech to nurture and grow relationships over time.

All of the above is exactly what we offer at SalesTribe, all under the guise of Digital Sales Transformation.

It’s no longer good enough for sales people to simply be on social media – they now have to be really good at leveraging the relevant social / digital platforms.

This means that sales training is now fatally flawed if it fails to include educating your sales personnel on how to curate content. Modern sellers must become highly adept at creating, cultivating and distributing educational content, because the successful sales people in most industries are already using content to get attention, establish credibility and to drive buyer engagement. Content remains king, and this is now table stakes!

Likewise, the successful sales people of today are already leveraging social media and analytics platforms, along the exploding assortment of buyer intent data tools, and this is undeniably the best way for a sales person to engage a buyer. Social selling (when done correctly) combined with analytics will get you a seat at the table much faster than any other form of customer engagement outside of referrals, and I’m personally living and breathing this everyday at SalesTribe

Sack your trainer, and engage a coach:

As discussed, the traditional sales training model is no longer representative of the needs of the modern seller. Modern sellers now require an omnipresent coach that has an acute understanding of modern buyer preferences and can coach sales people on how to engage the buyer throughout the entire buyer life cycle. Ideally, this coach is accessible via an “always on’ platform that can provide information and feedback to the sales person in real time whenever it’s required. Platforms like SalesHood helps to get your teams sharing best practices, accessing proven content and learning from each other in real time whilst Incenteev is a brilliant new digital sales coaching platform the enables you to train, track, challenge and share best practices with sales people in real time….and these are just a couple of the many sales enablement platforms that you should be investing in now instead of throwing more money at ‘sales training’. 

In summary, we must stop teaching sales people how to ‘push’ buyers, and instead start teaching them how to become highly specialised teachers that truly KNOW their buyers, and can EDUCATE them with value that is PERSONALISED at every step of the engagement. Teaching sales people how to become real ‘thought leaders’ that can ANTICIPATE the buyers future needs is now critical.

The foundation for all of this is to teach sale people about engaging buyers the way that buyers want to be engaged, and that means removing the hard sell, and engaging buyers where they now reside - online. We must teach sales people the fine art of ‘attracting’buyers and not ‘chasing’ buyers…..learning how to get ATTENTION in this global, digital, connected business environment is now the single biggest challenge that all businesses face, because if you can’t get your target buyers attention then you have no business.

So, drop the sales training, and start the 'teacher training'. and whilst you are at it, you had better begin to change how you measure, manage and reward sales people, but that’s a discussion for another time….lets just get the training right for now.

By Graham Hawkins