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Why Your Sales Training Falls on Deaf Ears
Proper training and coaching in a time of uncertainty is the most important strategy for maximizing the performance of the individuals on your team. Yet the pitfalls in training today are amplified due to low attention spans. The sad truth: to grab hold and keep audiences today, you must compete with your reps’ cell phones. Add to that the increased pressure from delivering over a webcam (in the event you’re training virtually), and you’d best prepare to train and entertain participants.

Here are two common reasons your sales training falls on deaf ears and what you can do to turn it around, build a high-functioning team, and crush your goals.

Pitfall 1: Focus on the training vs. the learning

Too many sales leaders focus on the training process rather than the learning process. They train the best way for them rather than how their salespeople learn. Don’t worry – it’s a common mistake! I even made it myself back in the day.

Several years ago I received a call from Maria, one of our biggest sales training clients. She asked if I would create a Train the Trainer course for her team. I was elated. Then she told me, “Before I hire you, you need to take Mike’s course on accelerated learning.”

Confused, I asked, “Well then, why don’t you just hire Mike?”

“Just go to the class, and we’ve got a deal,” Maria said. I went, and it was there that I learned a lesson I’ll never forget.

After a good day of training, I used to go home and tell my husband, “I was great today…you should have seen me…”

After Mike’s class, I realized I had it all wrong. The goal was to have the learners go home and say, “I was great today…you should have seen me!”

Pitfall 2: Noninteractive Sales Training

The most common training pitfall I’ve seen in my 30 years of experience is a complete lack of interactivity. Asking, “Do you have any questions?” or the occasional request for input just won’t cut it.  Multiply this times ten with hybrid sales training.

A few years ago I sat with a group of senior leaders who weren’t meeting their quotas. They were struggling to get salespeople to prospect correctly, and isolate objections. I met with the leadership team and asked them what they saw as the major issue.

“The salespeople just don’t listen,” they complained. “We tell them over and over again what to do and say and it goes in one ear and out the other. It just doesn’t stick.”

“Really?” I said. I was shocked. “Who’s in charge of training here?”

“Well, that would be us….” There was an awkward silence.

Many trainers blame the learners when they need to hold themselves accountable. As a trainer, I can tell them how to prospect, create a pre-call plan, and tell compelling stories, but if I don’t give them time to integrate it and practice, it won’t stick.

What people retain according to Adult Learning TheoryAccording to Adult Learning Theory (sometimes referred to as experiential learning), people retain:

  • 10% of what they hear
  • 50% of what they see and hear
  • 90% of what they say and do.

You can tell your reps what to do over and over again, but until you show them what to do and they, in turn, show you what they’ve learned, your training will fall on deaf ears.

Many trainers love the sound of their own voice (like I did) 😅. Learners need to integrate your information into how they present and interact with their clients. They need practice.

It takes preparation to build interactivity into your training events. Breakout rooms, polling, and group case studies ensure that learners will apply the material to win more deals faster.

5 Examples of Noninteractive vs. Interactive Sales Training

Most sales training includes watching online learning modules, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Sales leaders who want to ensure their reps improve their skills and outcomes ask them to take notes, write out the most important principle they learned, and explain how they will apply it to a specific customer.

Here are five more examples of noninteractive vs. interactive online sales training:

  1. Jump right into the meeting vs. start with icebreakers to loosen up team members and create community.
  2. Present a list of “to-do’s” or attributes vs. send participants into groups and ask them to discuss which items they excel at and need to practice.
  3. Tell reps the stages of your CRM or sales methodology vs. play a game and ask them to draw a pictogram in groups using symbols, pictures and icons.
  4. Show a video of your new product and call it good vs. have reps perform a skit of how they would present it to a client.
  5. Share a hypothetical scenario vs. record an actual sales call and instruct learners to collaborate online to unpack the questions the seller asked to uncover the customer’s needs.

Get creative.

We call building interactivity the Facilitation Pillar. But did you know you need Four Pillars to create an effective training and coaching program?

4 Pillars of an Effective Training and Coaching Program

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