Established and growing companies are often committed to some form of sales training in an effort to help their sales teams more effectively engage with and convert prospects. This makes sense, since revenue is the lifeblood of every commercial enterprise; if your organization generates enough, everyone – including management, staff, customers and shareholders – is happy. If revenue falters, it may or may not be a byproduct of sales but it’s the sales team that is often charged with dramatically improving its efforts. In these and similar situations, additional sales training may be required, but regular sales training may not be enough. What is often needed is the implementation of change management principles as a foundation. Change management has been a corporate buzzword for quite some time and is often used for everything from incorporating Six Sigma practices to transitioning to a new software system. While each of those has its place, our focus here is sales and enabling sales professionals to transform how they think and how they engage prospects that result in more sales and additional revenue.
Today’s sales training requires more than simply incorporating a few techniques. It often requires a serious refinement of the way companies go to market, how their sales teams view their overall impact on the company and whether or not they have the proper tools at their disposal. Rightly or wrongly, many organizations struggle significantly with change management and the reasons are simple – no one likes change. You can count the number of people in any given organization that genuinely like change on one or two fingers.
If an organization has a sales team, then change is a regular occurrence. The key is not to avoid change. The key is to embrace it and master it rather than allowing it to master you, thereby establishing a culture that thrives on change. This is the true secret sauce associated with effective sales training.
Necessary Ingredients for Change Management
There are a number of necessary ingredients to establishing a culture that embraces change, especially within a sales organization. They include, but are not limited to:
- Hiring the right salespeople. It all begins here. Not that hiring the right salespeople in and of itself is the silver bullet. This is simply the starting point. Making sure the people you bring into your sales organization are capable, adaptable and not afraid to sometimes think differently will go a long way in any change management undertaking.
- Cultivating a culture of change. When change comes (and it always does), tension often follows. If you cultivate a culture that is comfortable with and embraces change, any refinements designed to remain ahead of industry sales curves will be not only welcome but expected.
- Communicating well, communicating often. Perhaps the most significant challenge of any change management initiative is the lack of effective communication. No organization should risk leaving significant change to interpretation. Instead, changes should be communicated and conveyed to the sales team immediately, along with explanations on how it might impact them, what is expected and the desired outcome.
- Involving the sales team in the process. Many companies issue edicts that come from on high with an expectation that all employees will follow them – with glee. In the real world, most employees appreciate collaboration. Involving staff in any change management process and truly valuing their input will pay dividends during implementation. Involving staff early in the process turns “your idea” into “our idea.”
- Stimulating salespeople with new challenges. We’re not talking about providing unproductive, busywork for members of the sales team so they waste valuable time and neglect sales. Instead, this principle refers to strategically refining those areas that need improvement and challenging your teams to exceed expectations. We all have areas of strength and weakness. Helping sales staff to strengthen those weak areas while further refining their strengths will ensure dynamic, productive sales teams.
- Ensuring customers are satisfied and revenue maximized. Incorporating change within a sales environment, when done effectively, should result in improved sales, customer engagement and customer satisfaction. It may seem obvious that change designed to benefit the sales team with no impact on revenue or customer satisfaction is counterintuitive and a waste, but it does happen. Remaining focused on the customer at all times is the primary reason for change management-based sales training.
Sales training is a very worthwhile endeavor and organizations benefit from it, when done properly. Without a true understanding of effective change management, any training initiative could fail, leading to resentment and high turnover. Your sales organization can avoid that scenario by incorporating change management principles that lead to building a dynamic team that not only is unafraid of change but welcomes it.