In-House or Outsourced Sales Training?
When considering in-house or outsourced sales training, the question is not, “which method is better?” The better question is, “which method is right for your company’s current circumstances?” This question requires leadership to determine which sales problem they are trying to solve. Not every company is a good fit for partnering with a sales training organization. For example, a startup may rely on the entrepreneur handling all the selling. In this scenario, they might have minimal leads, and the founder can handle and close accounts, while they perfect their Go-to-Market strategy.
Alternatively, not every company is an ideal candidate for 100% in-house sales training. For example, a hyper-growth organization may not have the time to delay 30, 60, or 90 days while their sales trainers come on board and up to speed. In this scenario, companies may prefer to hit the ground running, without losing sales momentum. However, not every company is a startup or a hyper-growth enterprise. Sales training, like life, is not either black or white. It’s all about the shades of grey where the difficult decisions have to be made. In this article, we’ll explore those shades of grey and try to bring some clarity into the sales training sector.
Start With the End in Mind
Sales training for the sake of training is a bad habit. Bad habits need to be broken. Bad sales training cycles can frustrate everyone involved and are a waste of valuable resources. Too often, organizations launch a sales training initiative without the end in mind. Sometimes they may have broad, generic sales goals, such as improving revenue performance, increasing sales competency, or sales efficacy. But every sales organization should be as specific as possible about their sales training goals. For example, it may be to reduce a new hire sales rep’s onboarding time by 50%, increase revenue per rep by 10% next quarter, or increase win rates by 15% by the end of the year.
The In-House Sales Training Model
Most companies that rely on in-house sales trainers like the control it provides. You have the flexibility to schedule the time and location of the sales training at your convenience. You can also design your own sales curriculum based on your own best practices. Another benefit of in-house sales trainers is that they are employees who may have deeper relationships with others within the company.
When every aspect of sales training is done in-house, the first issue that growing sales organizations face is scalability. The challenge specifically is talent acquisition. While you are busy searching for your next sales trainer, the sales team is not being trained. For hyper-growth organizations this can be an expensive problem.
Hiring an in-house sales trainer is a resource-intensive process. From creating the job post, reviewing resumes, scheduling and conducting interviews, and negotiating salaries, finding the proper sales training can be a substantial investment in both time and cost.
Myth #1: The best sales trainers can fix a bad sales hire. The best salespeople have internal drive, self-discipline, and motivation. These are not qualities a sales trainer can solve. The idea that a miracle worker will come in, wave a magic wand, and turn a frog into prince charming is flawed logic.
Myth #2: Promoting a high-performing sales rep into a sales training role is viewed as a promotion. Often, sales trainers can earn less than high-performing sales reps, so when a company decides to promote an in-house sales rep to a sales trainer, the role can be viewed as a financial demotion. This leads to another hidden challenge: promoting a below-average sales rep to a sales trainer role. Here’s the conundrum with sales trainers. Most organizations want a sales trainer with a demonstrated history of high-sales performance, yet few organizations are willing to invest enough to recruit that type of sales talent.
Myth #3: Just because someone is a high-performing sales rep or sales manager, they will be a successful sales trainer. Having the ability to design and instruct an effective sales course curriculum is not the same as being an effective presenter. A highly impactful sales trainer is focused on the learning experience, not simply presenting the sales training material.
The Outsourced Sales Training Model
The most obvious reason companies partner with a sales training company is because it reduces their headcount and payroll. The second most obvious reason is because it’s far more scalable than doing everything in-house.
Another common reason for companies to partner with a sales training organization is because they can build their training methodology off the experience of a sales training expert. This streamlines the process with an expert who has iterated sales training for years. This allows a company to gain access to the knowledge, skill, and experience while they are building their internal capabilities.
As discussed, scalability is a key reason to partner with a professional sales training company. They have the methodology, the experts, and the experience. This means they likely have a variety of sales training modalities, like workbooks, videos, lectures, worksheets, to name a few.
Another key benefit of partnering with a sales training company that is often overlooked is that they have an adult learning strategist. This person takes a high-level approach to constructing, designing, and implementing the course curriculum behind the scenes. They are part researcher, part designer, and part teacher, but they might not be the actual sales trainer.
The first challenge is selecting the right sales training company. There’s no shortage of sales trainers, who vary from one-person operations to enterprise-ready organizations and everything in between.
The second challenge sales organizations face when partnering with a sales training company is to avoid a cookie-cutter sales training solution. A sales training curriculum that was developed 10 years ago has minimal value in today’s competitive business landscape.
Finding the right balance of cost and customization can be a challenge.
Myth #1: We don’t have time to work with a sales training company. This is a very subtle sales training myth because no sales leader will come out and say “we don’t have time for sales training.” So, we trick ourselves into believing the limited sales training we are currently conducting is “good enough” because that’s all we have time for. The logic is, we need to keep our reps on the phone or in the field selling and can’t afford to have them stop selling for a more intensive sales training program.
Why is this a myth? Because a recent study by Forbes found that sales reps only spend about 36% of their time actually selling. This means, the majority of a sales rep’s time is spent on non-revenue generating activities. Classroom time does not cost you selling time if it improves time management. Sales training done right is a revenue generating activity.
Myth #2: Another common myth is that formal sales training was tried in the past and it was ineffective. Even sales reps can think, ”Here we go again, another distraction to keep me from making my numbers.” Formal sales training can be a waste of time and a distraction only when there’s…
No follow-up, no reinforcement, and no coaching.
In other words, the sales leader sends the sales team to formal sales training but then pulls the plug and says something like, “Okay, we’ve spent enough time playing around with training, time to get back to real work.”
To avoid the initial sales uptick and then fall right back into old sales behaviors with old sales results, implementing a follow-up strategy with reinforcement and coaching is a requirement. The fact, which is obvious but often ignored, is that the impact of all formal sales training diminishes over time. To reverse the diminishing effects of time, reinforcement and coaching are required, not optional.
Companies invest billions of dollars annually in training for their sales force. The two most popular options are in-house sales training or outsourced sales training. Both sales training methods can play a key role in short-term performance gains, but without sales training follow-up, reinforcement, and coaching, the impact of both sales training methods diminishes over time.
Regardless whether you decide to provide in-house sales training or partner with a professional sales training vendor (or adopt a hybrid approach), what is most important is to make sales training part of your continuous learning culture. The worst thing you can do is not do either. I think Muhammad Ali summed it up perfectly when he said, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” Sales training develops champions. Do it now or suffer the consequences.
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