Let’s say that your sales reps have just completed their Initial Sales Training or your more tenured sales reps have just gone through a refresher sales training…now what? As their sales manager, what is your role now?
It has been said a sales manager could go to work every day with absolutely nothing on their agenda and still stay completely busy all day long. In fact, many sales managers describe their job as part-time accountant (watching their sales numbers and trying to figure out their projections) and part-time fireman (dealing with dozens of problems and issues that come up every day).
But what about continuing to develop their sales reps’ skills after they’ve gone through sales training? Even though they have just gone through training, does this mean they are now “Robo-Reps” and no longer need further development.
It has been said that 87% of all sales training fails. The main reason is lack of follow-through and reinforcement of the training by the sales manager. So what should the sales managers do after their sales reps have been trained? The answer is keep it going. Sales training should be the foundation that allows the sales manager the opportunity to continue the process of developing their sales team.
However, in order to make this happen there needs to be a culture of continuous improvement established within a sales organization. That means that the people at the executive leadership level encourage and expect their front-line sales managers to be hands-on with their sales reps…and to inspect what they expect. It also means the sales managers know what to look for before, during, and after the sales interaction and how to properly provide effective coaching and feedback.
In many sales organizations, sales managers are sometimes uncomfortable providing the necessary coaching and help the sales reps need because they themselves have not been given the necessary training. Ironically in many cases, the sales managers are not even asked to participate in the sales training sessions. When this happens, it’s easy to see how the sales manger can settle comfortably into being just an accountant and fireman.
The greatest opportunity for improvement for any sales organization when it comes to reinforcing sales training is to make sure:
1. The sales managers know the sales call process first
This may mean taking the sales managers through the sales training as sales reps first. Give them the opportunity to understand, practice and role-play the same specific sales scenarios that the sales reps will go through. When coaching anybody on anything, the coach must completely understand the process first…and know what to look for. One way to make sure the sales manager knows what to look for is to make them practice it. If this is done with the sales managers on their own, it gives them the opportunity to try and fail and learn without the fear of having their sales reps present and risk the chance that their credibility will be damaged. However, once they do have the opportunity to practice and perform well, they will be much more confident in their ability to help their sales reps improve their performance. Also, when it’s time for the sales reps to be trained…the sales managers should attend that training as well. This allows the sales managers to go through it again (and repetition is the key to learning) and also shows the sales reps that they are taking the training seriously.
2. The sales managers must know how to coach to the process
Have your sales managers gone through any training on how to deliver effective coaching and feedback? Unfortunately, in many sales organizations sales managers are thrown into the job and asked to manage a group of sales reps with little or no direction on how to effectively help their employees perform at a better level. Each sales rep has different coaching needs based on ability and style. The sales managers need to be able to effectively assess each sales rep’s individual coaching needs. Their ability to give effective advice that helps the sales rep improve is one of the most important skills a sales manager can possess. Without knowing how to accurately identify each sales rep’s strengths and weaknesses and knowing how to help them improve those skills…it’s virtually impossible to achieve improved long-term sales results. This requires the sales managers going through professional coaching and feedback training.
3. The sales managers must schedule time to coach to the process
As soon as the sales reps have gone through any type of specific sales training the reinforcement of that training must begin immediately. Every day that goes by after the training where the sales reps are left completely on their own, it becomes more difficult to stop the sales rep from going back to their old behavior. The sales managers must schedule a specific and significant amount of time every week to work with their sales reps individually. This may include some pre-call checks with individual sales reps to brainstorm ideas before sales interactions, observing live sales calls with individual sales reps, and/or conducting post-call debriefs with individual sales reps to follow-up on agreed upon sales approaches to discuss the outcomes. It should also include establishing where each sales rep needs help based on those observations and gaining agreement with those reps on specific approaches to improve skills. This is even more effective when upper management takes part in this process by following up with the sales managers bi-monthly to discuss individual sales rep skill improvement.
Final thought: If a sales rep has the ability and the desire to work hard enough to be successful, then it is the responsibility of the sales manager and the sales organization to make sure that they succeed. One way to do this is to make sure that the sales rep’s training is kept going by reinforcing it on a regular basis. It’s the only way to successfully create a sales team that will perform well in the long run.