Are You Training or Coaching Your Sales Reps?

BY Kathy Crosett
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Are you training or coaching your sales reps? Many organizations invest significantly in their sales professionals, but their efforts don’t always yield the expected outcomes. In addition, reps are well aware of what they are getting and compare your organization’s professional development programs to what competitors offer. In our Voice of the Sales Rep survey, 26% of reps say their current employer would achieve better results if they trained their sales staff. And nearly 20% of reps report they have left a company when they aren’t offered enough training or professional development.

Average Training Investment

The new State of Sales Training white paper from ATD is based on a survey about how businesses train their sales staff. The data shows the average sales organization spends $2,020 training each salesperson annually. In addition, the report reveals how sales department allocate their sales budgets.

Not surprisingly, many managers ensure that newbies, first-​year sales professionals, get up to eight days of training a year. When organizations hire new college graduates into a sales role, they’re prepared to invest heavily in training these new team members to understand the sales process. By the time a sales professional is in the fifth year of their career, they’re more likely to get three or four days of training a year.

Training Budget Allocations

For most organizations, 69% of the training budgets goes to the salaries of trainers. Businesses also spend about 26% of the training budget on suppliers. For this expense item, they are acquiring or accessing learning content. As they review content providers, they are looking for specific types of information.

For example, over 90% of surveyed businesses indicate their training curriculum covers sales process elements such as such as discovery, presentations, proposals and negotiations. Because training programs typically last for four to six weeks, sales leaders want to ensure that trainees stay engaged and retain the information they’re learning. One way to increase retention is to incorporate gamification into the program.

And while sales reps must understand the sales process, good training programs also reinforce the importance of strong teams. As reps participate in these exercises, they’ll understand how each position plays a role in leading a prospect into and through the sales funnel.

Sales Competency and Coaching

In addition to teaching the sales process, about 69% of businesses in the ATD survey use a sales competency model as part of their training. At this point, training should shift into coaching. As C. Lee Smith, president and CEO of SalesFuel says, “Training occurs in a one-​to-​many setting, while coaching takes place in a one-​to one setting.” Using coaching to help each sales team member improve sales competency will generate best results.

Each member of your sales team will need to upskill different competencies. Your expert negotiator may be weak in discovery. And your new business hunter may not have the patience to put together the detailed proposal an important prospect expects. Using a good sales skills competency assessment allows managers and reps to understand areas where improvement is needed. Underlying a good assessment result is a ranking of soft skills. When you understand a rep’s individual curiosity, resilience and ability to pay attention to detail, it’s easier to know where to focus coaching efforts. And a good coaching platform can incorporate a rep’s tendencies in a personalized coaching program.

When you ask if your organization is training or coaching your reps, make sure the answer is both. Each form of professional development will help your reps improve in specific ways. You’ll win their loyalty and see higher engagement.