by Viswanathan Sivasubramaniam

For many years, I have been asked by companies to change their sales force. A training program conducted by anyone outside of your company will have only a temporary impact, unless the management team within that company commits itself to reinforcing the lessons taught during the training.

As a matter of fact, a recent survey showed that the mind space of knowledge delivered in a non-reinforced sales training program is approximately five weeks! If you think it is worth your time, money and energy to take your salespeople out of the field, fly in an instructor and have the trainer work with your team for a day or two in order to get new behaviours that last for only five weeks, then go ahead and do it.

On the other hand, sales training that is reinforced by management has a permanent impact on the organisation. This same study showed that, when reinforced, the skills learned through a sales training exercise produce a 15% permanent increase in the production of the sales force.

I recently had an opportunity to work with an old client. During my first engagement with that client, I wrote a custom sales training manual for their company. I trained all the salespeople, trained all the managers, and worked with them weekly over a period of about four or five months. It was approximately three years later, when I was asked to come in and “brush up” the sales force in a one half-day session.

I was disappointed to see that the manual their management team and I had worked on had never been opened since the conclusion of our engagement. Even more disappointing was the fact that no one in the management chain of command, including the CEO, had done any reinforcement training since the conclusion of the project. Even worse, the CEO did not attend this “brush-up” session.

Candidly, this is not uncommon. If you want your sales team to change its behaviour, then you must be the starting point of this change. If you continue to believe that an outsider will permanently impact the productivity of your team and you do not attend the training nor reinforce it, then you are clearly planning to waste money on your training project. In order to make sales training work, you must adhere to the following rules.

1. You should ensure that a senior member of your management team sits through all of the training sessions. This senior manager should be responsible for inspecting the reinforcement activities conducted by sales managers and the sales team after the conclusion of the training. As you know, one of my mottos is “inspect what you expect”. To that end, you should make sure that you participate (at least as an observer) in all sales training activities.

2. You should also embrace the philosophy that sales training, sales coaching and sales team development are the primary responsibilities of your management staff. If sales training does not occur regularly, then it will not be reinforced and you will lose money. I advocate a very strong, ongoing and rigorous program of continuous practice. When you have regular sales practice, you and your team will learn best practices shared by your team members as well as have an opportunity to develop next practices that will be the foundation for your future success.

Get involved and stay involved, and your team will produce the results you desire. Remain a spectator, and you will be perpetually disappointed.

‘Siva’ is one our Pawlik trainers located in India. He supportsĀ us in international projects.

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