6 Common Mistakes That Could Tank Your Customized Sales Training

August 15, 2014
6 Common Mistakes That Could Tank Your Customized Sales Training

To paraphrase from Anna Karenina:“Happy sales teams are all alike; every unhappy sales team is unhappy in its own way.”

When working to fix an unhappy sales team, it can seem like the challenges you’re facing are completely unique to your company, situation, and industry. Many sales managers and CEOs set out to find customized sales training solutions that suit their particular type of “unhappy.” Customized sales training is seen as the perfect solution – it will be tailored to my unique circumstances and thus will get the best results.

However, not every type of customization is created equal. It is indeed possible to customize too far and get away from the best practices common to all those “happy sales teams.”

Here are six common pitfalls when designing or signing on for a customized sales training solution.

1. Customized Sales Training that Reinvents the Wheel

As unique as your sales team’s problems might seem, another organization has likely faced them before. It’s easy to give into the temptation to reinvent the wheel in customized sales training – after all, it should be fully customized to your sales process, team, systems, and company culture, right?

Think of it like building a house. While many features you choose will be “custom,” there are certain characteristics common to houses you’d definitely want to include. Walls, floors, ceiling, those kinds of things. If you stray too far into “custom” territory, you start ending up with something that’s not quite a house anymore. There are certain things all houses have – and there are also things all great homes have. High-quality materials, logical floorplans, a solid foundation and sturdy construction, in addition to bare-minimum house requirements.

Sales skills are the same way – some behaviors are common to all successful salespeople, and a customized sales training should be sure to contain those. You would also want your customized sales training to include best practices of really great salespeople.

Customization should focus on the specific strengths and weaknesses of your team – maybe you spend 2 hours on cold-calling but just 15 minutes on handling objections – without ignoring existing best practices.

2. Ignoring Your Star Performers

When designing your customized sales training program, are you ignoring the top performing salespeople in your organization? You might be – after all, they’re top performers. They don’t need training, right?

In fact, your top performers are your most valuable assets when designing a customized sales training program. These individuals have deep knowledge and best practices that could help the rest of your team improve, if only they were shared. An ideal sales training program will be customized via the expertise of your own top performers – they know best how to sell your products and services. Lean on them!

3. Addressing Only the “How” and Ignoring the “Why”

Sales greatness is not just about performing the right set of actions. Great salespeople also understand the why underpinning their actions and approach their day with the right attitude or philosophy toward selling. Many sales training programs focus on building specific selling skills or advocating a strict sales methodology. While developing hard skills is an important part of becoming a great salesperson, incorporating a philosophical approach to training builds greater flexibility into the program and assures long-term, sustainable success.

A philosophical approach is also key to getting the most out of customized sales training – you’ll combine your organization’s unique philosophy and culture with best practice sales methodologies and get the most out of training.

4. Leaving Marketing and Operations in the Dust

A well-functioning sales organization does not operate in a vacuum. Salespeople need support from marketing and operations to be successful. A customized sales training program is a great time to achieve and reinforce alignment between these different groups – but many focus solely on sales and ignore the other moving parts.

5. Failing to Document

One of the biggest pitfalls of any training program is failing to document the lessons learned and best practices established in training. Before setting out on a customized sales training program, make sure you have a plan in place to document the training itself and continue to capture best selling practices in the future.

In fact, an Aberdeen Research report found that 73% of Best-in-Class organizations deploy a central repository of sales best practices and tools, which arm “front-line sellers with a treasure trove of collective wisdom.” The more information your salespeople can share with each other about what works and doesn’t work with your customers, the more successful they’ll be.

6. “One and Done” Sales Training

That same Aberdeen Research report also found “Best-in-Class firms are 22% more likely than all others to refresh their teams’ training at least on a quarterly basis.” The most successful companies know something the others don’t – quick-hit sales training is not as effective as multi-stage, reinforced training. This goes hand-in-hand with documenting your sales training (above): If you set up a system to document best practices learned in training and beyond, you have a built-in tool to reinforce sales training down the line.

Don’t Tank Your Customized Sales Training

There you have it – six pitfalls to watch out for when considering customized sales training. While you want your sales training to address your organization’s specific needs, keep industry best practices in mind – and the best practices of your own top performers. Take a holistic view and include both the philosophy and mechanics of great selling, as well as other parts of your organization that interface with sales. Don’t forget to write things down and don’t sign up for a one-and-done motivation session.

Where have you found success with customized sales training? Have you run into one or more of these pitfalls in your organization? Let us know in the comments!

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