TRAINING – The Biggest Miss in the Selling Game

We can be great at sales, strong at leadership and have the best of intentions. Yet if we fail to properly train and – more importantly – follow up to ensure the material sinks in and is consistently executed upon into the future, we fail as individuals, as teams and businesses.
We have seen it dozens of times: a new initiative is unleashed, we undertake continuation training on a component of our business or we embark on initial training in an organization… and the ball is dropped. This can take multiple forms: unorganized curriculum, hapless material, lack of engagement from trainer or the presentation and failure to track successes, follow up and ensure longterm success.
Let’s begin with initial training, as it is typically chronologically first in the cycle.
Always remember that training – at any stage in the game – is an investment in your people. It is necessary we take the needed time, invest the proper resources and ensure success for it – every step of the way.
When you train your workforce for the first time, they are in many ways a blank canvas. You can never assume your team knows anything about the business you want them to master, the customer base they will be satisfying and the tools needed with which to accomplish that goal. Training needs to be comprehensive and informative, but it must also be engaging, enlightening and hopefully entertaining.
There are stark contrasts in the spectrum; some training classes are arduous and strictly academic, with reading through text and mechanically going through the motions of the material. Other training sessions include games, skits and humor. Neither are completely right or wrong; finding a mix of the two is ideal to grab the attention of your audience, keep it and fill their minds with knowledge that you want them to retain.
There are also multiple schools of thought on the duration of training; do not skimp this initial investment into your team. Research and workforce surveys reveal that lack of training is often one of the largest complaints across occupations. We are certainly in a rush to get our teams out into battle, but failing to arm them with the arsenal necessary to join the front lines will not bode well.
What are the most important ingredients to your future team’s success? What must they know? Like raising children, we can never give them everything they will encounter; their best learning comes in the field. Nevertheless, it is our duty to prepare them for the experiences they will face.
Make the itinerary first. Map out your syllabus with an approach conducive to adding pieces to the arsenal in an order that makes sense and increases the likelihood of retention. Like anything, build a strong foundation.
Your team needs to know about the company they have enlisted in. They need to understand the innovation of the products and services, the target audience and why people need what you provide. They need to know the benefits of the products and services. They need to know what they will face – scenarios, examples of types of situations they will encounter, and mixing in field work with a partner already in the field can greatly enhance their learning.
We often see training curriculums that are either too long or too short; avoid those pitfalls by mapping out a learning plan which sticks to exactly what is needed. Arm your team with the essentials of knowledge about the business, the products and services, the customer base and their responsibilities. Make it fun. Give some down time to digest the information; provide breaks in the action so they can take a step away and not be overwhelmed.
Selecting the trainer is another core ingredient in this mix; finding someone conducive to deliver this message who has credibility in the field is vital to the success – especially in initial training. Companies will often bring in someone they deem to be an effective trainer because they have trained in other environments, however this can have poor results if they themselves are not properly adapted and assimilated into the new material. Training the trainer is just as important if not moreso than training the team; this is the face and general who will be prepping new recruits for battle in the weeks, months and years to come. Make that choice wisely and prepare them fully for that responsibility.
No matter what business you are in, continuation training will prove to be necessary at many times along the path. We are constantly evolving, new products are introduced to the marketplace and our consumers’ needs change. Our people are also often on different places in the learning curve and we need them adept at fielding queries and proactively promoting everything in our product line. Continuation training enhances existing knowledge with your workforce, is an investment into future results with that knowledge and also helps build longterm growth and success.
Continuation training can take many forms. It can be a one-day crash course pulse check seeing where your team’s knowledge is and apprising them of what’s new in the hot topic. It can be a week-long event that drastically shapes their knowledge on your hot topic. Or it can be a daily or weekly meeting or conference call, regular correspondence and communication with your workforce and following up to make sure you are getting the desired results.
I am a firm believer in over-communication; it goes hand-in-hand with the fact you never take for granted what your team knows, remembers or how they would approach a new situation. It is the job of a leader or trainer to prepare the team, anticipate obstacles and bestow the knowledge necessary to barrel through or jump over those hurdles. When we painstakingly communicate these things regularly, find new ways of talking about the same vital things and we inspect the results to ensure it is working, we manage to plug gaps in the knowledge and savvy of our teams.
Ladies and gentlemen: the biggest miss in effective training is tracking the results and following up to ensure the process is consistent and the knowledge is retained.
To what level are we holding our trainings and trainers accountable? On the flip side, are we putting too much on their shoulders and putting them to task for things way outside their jurisdiction?
No matter how well we prepare our teams or cover the material, things will change. Important nuggets of information will get lost in the shuffle of the daily minutiae. More new things will come to the table to further compound our mission.
Also, the needs of our workers will change; perhaps we tweak our training to make sure it is up-to-date in its quest to adequately satisfy the people it serves. Perhaps we examine the employee retention of a training class to make sure we have prepared people appropriately. We survey our trainees and teams to utilize their first-hand knowledge and experience as we reform our training curriculum. We use exit interviews to get further feedback on where training and continuation training can fit more and more into the job.
In short, we examine the needs of our people and audience and equip them with everything they need to follow the process; when it changes, we once again bring them back to the table, re-equip and regroup.
What results are our people having after leaving these training courses? How are we tracking this? Look at the results of the performers for the first quarter after leaving training. Look at the sample group’s results in the weeks following a training day or week and examine those results versus those in preceding days in the same metrics. The digital age has made it all the easier to keep account of every possible result and component of the job and our employees’ performances. Use this information to hold yourself accountable to provide the best training – and follow-up – possible.
Evaluation and holding trainers and yourself accountable to deliver the best possible training will up the accountability and results. Actually planning the curriculum, and doing so around the pressing needs of your organization and teams will keep the material relevant to the task at hand. Making sure the course is illuminating and entertaining at the same time will keep the atmosphere light yet focused on absorption. Re-convening with the team regularly to revisit the topics and study realtime results will make sure the effects of training last for a long, long time.

About cvheady007

I am a Christian, Husband, Dad, workaholic and author. Biography Carson Vincent Heady was born in Cape Girardeau, MO, graduated from Southeast Missouri State University and moved to St. Louis in 2001. He has served in sales and leadership across Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. Carson is best-selling author of the Birth of a Salesman series, the first book of which was published by World Audience Inc. in 2010. He released The Salesman Against the World in 2014, A Salesman Forever in 2016 and Salesman on Fire in 2020. He is also featured in Scott Ingram’s B2B Sales Mentors: 20 Stories from 20 Top 1% Sales Professionals. Carson is a 7-time CEO/President’s Club winner across 5 roles at AT&T and Microsoft and National Verizon Rockstar winner. He has been recognized as a top social seller at Microsoft and is consistently ranked in the top 25 sales gurus in the world on Rise Global. He is included among the Top 50 sales authors on LinkedIn. With over 330K social followers, Carson has also been interviewed on over 30 sales and leadership podcasts, by such luminaries as Jeffrey & Jennifer Gitomer, Jeb Blount, Brandon Bornancin, Sam Dunning, Larry Levine, Darrell Amy, Scott Ingram, Thierry van Herwijnen, Jim Brown, Sam Jacobs, Luigi Prestinenzi, Donald Kelly, Marylou Tyler, George Leith, Pat Helmer, Eric Nelson, Ron Tunick, Jeff Arthur, Mary Ann Samedi, Jean Oursler, Andre Harrell, Marlene Chism, Bill Crespo, Matt Tanguay, Josh Wheeler and Chad Bostick. He has also co-hosted the Smart Biz Show on EG Marketing Radio. His articles have appeared in several noteworthy publications such as SalesGravy, Smash! Sales, Salesopedia and the Baylor Sports Department S3 Report. Carson lives in St. Louis, MO, with his wife Amy and daughters Madison, Sidonia and Charlotte.
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