When your organization makes the decision to prioritize sales performance and implement sales training, you want to give the initiative the best chance to succeed. A sales training program will have the most traction and ROI when it’s followed by a well-executed coaching and reinforcement plan. Here are five coaching and reinforcement strategies that top-performing sales organizations implement to solidify sales training and achieve maximum impact.
1. Train Sales Managers to Deliver Ongoing Coaching
Working with an outsourced training provider will help your organization objectively assess strength and gap areas and focus your training efforts where you need them the most.
Many organizations realize that their sellers will benefit from skills training but fail to recognize the importance of training sales managers to coach on a consistent and ongoing basis. When selecting a partner to design and deliver training, be sure that there is a sales management training component involved.
Sales managers are force multipliers, and their coaching effectiveness will ultimately determine whether or not reps use their new selling skills are after they complete the training. According to research from ATD, offering sales coaching on an ongoing basis with no end date is linked to better sales performance.
What does quality sales coaching look like? It is tailored to each seller’s individual behavior and communication style, delivered around a standardized sales process, and executed on a consistent, ongoing basis.
2. Establish a Consistent Coaching Cadence
On average, it takes 66 days (approximately two months) for a new skill to become a habit. To avoid knowledge loss after your sales training program, it’s critical to reinforce the selling skills consistently for six to eight weeks at a cadence that’s appropriate for the material and your sales team’s existing capabilities and knowledge.
Introduce a dedicated coaching and reinforcement program to sales training participants as mandatory, not optional. At the same time, design the program to fit into their schedules and so that it feels valuable to them instead of distracting or overwhelming.
Gain buy-in for the coaching program by explaining the benefits and incorporating the following best practices:
- Hold coaching sessions on the same day and time each week to improve attendance and accountability.
- Keep session length to one hour or less to prevent information overload and loss of interest.
- Keep the structure of the session consistent so sales reps know what to expect and what’s expected of them.
If you’re working with a training provider to deliver the reinforcement, be sure that your sales managers schedule regular team and one-to-one coaching sessions with their sellers once the program is complete.
Coaching that’s implemented regularly becomes part of the sales culture and something sellers expect — and even look forward to.
3. Deliver Microlearning to Reinforce New Skills
The ultimate goal of sales training is for participants to put into action the new skills they’ve learned. Delivering reinforcement in small, digestible increments, spaced out over time, reduces the level of scrap learning, and allows salespeople to master one skill fully before moving on to the next.
The most effective coaching and reinforcement programs incorporate an element of microlearning. Research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology reportedly found that microlearning makes the transfer of knowledge from the classroom to the job 17% more efficient. If the microlearning platform is accessible on mobile devices, it’s especially helpful for busy salespeople who are often on the road and need to fit in learning between sales calls.
It’s an added bonus if the platform can track each rep’s strength and challenge areas. Sales managers can use the data collected from microlearning reinforcement technology to be more granular on each rep’s performance levels and drill down with targeted coaching on the areas that need it the most.
4. Incorporate Game-based Learning and Reinforcement
Salespeople tend to be motivated by competition. For this reason, incorporating game-based learning components into training reinforcement is an effective strategy to increase engagement and knowledge retention. When designing your coaching and reinforcement programs, try to include game-based learning platforms with visible leaderboards that keep reps engaged and excited.
You can also encourage sales managers to reinforce the sales process and new skills in creative ways throughout the year. For example, have them use a free online tool to create Jeopardy-style questions that reinforce specific activities within each step of the sales process. Sales reps will have fun and boost team comradery, while mastering the techniques they need to be successful with buyers.
5. Make Use of Just-in-Time Learning
Today’s learners expect training and job-related assistance to be easily available the moment they need it. If you want your sales force to learn and adopt new selling skills, your reinforcement should give them ample opportunity to test those skills — and give them access to an expert sales coach who can guide them through sales situations.
Work with a sales training provider to design reinforcement that focuses on a new concept each week and encourages salespeople to put the concept into action with their current accounts. When they need guidance, your reps should have access to relevant job aids as well as a coach to advise them.
Sales training gives your sales reps the skills they need to be successful. Quality coaching and reinforcement solidifies those skills and enables sales professionals to feel confident and capable of flying on their own. When choosing a sales training provider, look for one that incorporates these elements into a reinforcement program so you can achieve sustainable sales performance lift and maximize your ROI.