Training, coaching, and other forms of development are all critical components to advancing and strengthening the skills of your sales reps. However, organizations have finite resources – only so much in the budget, only so many hours in the day or week – to dedicate to this aspect of running a sales team. So how do you figure out what to focus on?
- Conduct reviews and assessments to get a baseline.
The first step is to know what the current state of your sales force is. That can involve things like performance reviews, call reviews, skill assessments, role-playing exercises, customer feedback, KPI tracking, and other means of measurement.
Out of that raw material you can ascertain the skill strengths and gaps of both individual sales reps and the team as a whole.
- Research changes in buyer behavior and trends in your markets.
While studying the internal situation (the sales team) is important, it’s also the most obvious. The other, less immediate important factor to consider is the shifts in the marketplace. You might think that’s more for the realm of products and offerings, it also impacts how sales reps relate to buyers and how they should be selling.
- Determine what items need to be improved.
Once you’ve carried out the first two steps, analyze the data you’ve collected and see what aspects should be the focus of improvement for both individual reps and the team as a whole.
For example, you might determine that Jimmy needs to better his qualifying skills, while the team as a whole has a deficit in closing effectively.
- Figure out which to coach and which to train.
So you’ve figured out the individual issues and the team problems. Then it’s on to devising a plan of action for which areas to coach and which to train. You might think it’s coaching for the individual and training for the team, but that’s not entirely accurate.
Rather, it’s based on if the real issue is that they don’t have the knowledge and skills or it’s that they have the knowledge and skills, but are having problems consistently implementing and executing what they already know.
If the problem is a knowledge/skills void, then train them – even if it’s only one or two people. If the issue stems from not correctly or consistently using their skills and knowledge, coach them – even if it’s a whole team coaching session or a series of 1-on-1 sessions all coaching to the same skills and behaviors.
- After the coaching or training event(s), reinforce and monitor.
Whether you train, coach, or both, be sure to follow up with reinforcement to make sure the focuses you’re having your sales reps emphasize is resulting in actual, long-term behavioral changes. That can involve a mix of coaching, assessments, and reviews. It’s essential that you do this, because failure to reinforce means there’s a high likelihood most or all of what you’ve coached or trained to will be forgotten. Reinforcement = Maximum ROI on coaching and training.
You’ll also want to monitor the results of your focused coaching and training efforts the same way you established a baseline, so you can see how well it’s working. Adjust as needed to help encode and maintain the changes you’re seeking.
With limited time and budget available for sales rep development, it’s important that you spotlight the areas of focus that will generate the most meaningful improvement in your reps. Using this five-step guide will help you select the right areas, use the methodology that’s most effective, and enhance the skills and behaviors of your team.