Sales training is both a sizable expense and one of the best ways to improve the performance of your sales team. Therefore, great care and due diligence is needed in selecting the training vendor. What shape should that care and diligence take? Here are seven tips to help you find the best sales training vendor for your organization.
1. Know What You Want to Accomplish.
Before you even begin researching sales training solutions, you need to know what results you want from the experience. Challenge yourself and think beyond staples such as “increasing sales.” That goal is a given; what matters is what specifically you want to change in your organization or team. Is it better prospecting? A culture change? A shift in closing conversations? Identify the specific objectives first, because everything else flows from them.
The reason you need target areas to improve is twofold. First, without objectives, you’ll end up with generic training that won’t have the impact you expect. Having specific goals means your vendor will be able to tailor the training to the participants, your organization and the precise changes you’re trying to effect. Second, your chances of choosing the wrong vendor increase astronomically when you don’t have explicit outcomes you’re hoping to achieve.
2. Keep the End User in Mind.
You’re used to thinking of the concept of end users in terms of sales, but it’s also important to consider in sales training. Are the end users (your sales team members) more receptive to classroom training? Digital delivery? A blended approach? Knowing the answer to this and related questions will help you select the best vendor for maximum knowledge retention and ROI.
3. Find an Industry-Specific Leader or Expert in Customization.
Every vertical has its own specific terminology and nuances in the buying and selling process, so it’s important that you choose a sales training vendor who either specializes in your industry or has experience facilitating sales training for it. If you don’t choose such a vendor, or at least select one that offers customization, not only will you not get much return from the investment, but your reps will be trained in general selling principles and theory – a session they may consider a waste of time, leading to decreased morale and buy-in.
Finding a specialist involves looking at lists of each vendor’s previous clients and asking for trainer biographies. It’s important to take both of these steps, because even though the company may not have past clients in your field, they may have recently hired a trainer who is an expert in it.
The ideal vendor should also be willing to engage in pre-training consultation with decision-makers, influencers and sales leaders, so that they can develop a firm understanding of your company culture and specific training needs. You can also use this pre-training phase to create champions of and enthusiasm for the training, which will increase adoption rates and the likelihood of permanent behavioral changes.
4. Seek a Vendor That Stays Current.
There are a lot of sales training vendors who rely on outdated selling techniques that worked for them 10 or 20 years ago. They’re not going to be helpful in a marketplace that has seen dramatic, sweeping changes over the last two decades. Therefore, one of the questions you need to ask is how frequently their curriculum is updated to address today’s primary sales challenges. Be sure to delve into specifics here – if the answer they give is generic, or if they’re evasive, it’s a red flag to walk away.
5. Look for Alignment and Agreement in Selling Philosophy.
Search for a training vendor whose selling philosophy aligns with your own. Philosophy is an aspect of sales training that isn’t discussed much, and it’s one that most companies that are looking for vendors don’t often consider. But if a vendor’s philosophy of sales doesn’t match your company’s, there’s going to be incompatibility between your core beliefs and what your sales team learns from the training – setting up a culture clash that creates confusion, no matter how it plays out.
6. Set Clear Expectations on Actionable Changes and ROI Measurement.
The whole point of sales training is to effect changes in your sales team’s daily behaviors and interactions with customers. Therefore, a vendor needs to be able to speak to how the curriculum will create those changes.
Change is only consistent and long-lasting if it carries through the entire organization, so you’ll also need to find a sales training vendor that can create sales management buy-in or offer the capability to also train the sales managers. Without the influence and agreement of sales leaders, any training of the reps will be short-lived as they fall back into whatever prior habits their sales managers cultivate.
Additionally, you need to put metrics in place so that you can measure the effectiveness and permanence of the changes induced by sales training. Your vendor should be able to devise and report on ROI metrics – if it can’t, it’s another signal that it’s not the right choice for you.
7. Choose a Vendor That Offers Post-Training Reinforcement.
Your chosen sales training vendor should also reinforce the training. In fact, reinforcement is arguably one of the most important must-haves, regardless of industry or business situation. Yes, your sales managers need to provide coaching on the new knowledge and behaviors, but change will happen faster and stick more firmly if the vendor can provide methods to maintain the initial training. Otherwise, the training turns into a “here today, gone tomorrow” approach that puts permanent change at risk. If an option you’re considering doesn’t have post-training reinforcement, scratch it off the list.
By keeping these tips and guidelines in mind, you can find the right sales training vendor for your business. Whether you’re looking for a one-day, one-off intensive workshop or a relationship of training and follow-up coaching that lasts years and through several classes of reps, the perfect training vendor will bolster sales team productivity, generate high ROI, and improve the current and future outlook of your organization.