Creating Sales Training Experiences

ISE Season 3 - Enablement History with Erich Starrett

In today’s “Do more with less” economy, senior executives are taking a step back and looking at many of their programs and asking their teams, “what’s the business impact?” From sales kickoff activities to enablement programs, and new hire training programs, they’re looking for justification on why they should fund such programs.
Sales Training is under the microscope.
Sales leaders are looking at their training, enablement, and HR colleagues to help improve new hire sales training execution. A significant catalyst for this push is the need for more globally consistent programs that:

  • Get new hires up-to-speed more quickly
  • Drive costs out of fragmented global execution
  • Create a more consistent output of skilled new hires
  • Provide a higher quality mechanism that helps reps overcome complexity

Last month we had a conversation with a sales enablement leader in a large financial services company. Her company asked her to rebuild and re-launch its global new hire training program. She had done much work to identify the work already going on across the globe and identified what appeared to be working or not working. But she admitted they were stuck on how to move forward.
The challenge as she defined it?“Get everyone on the same page so they could all move forward”A clear challenge exists, but unified action doesn’t. Creating unified action across a variety of different groups, and moving forward together is a challenge. When sales training and enablement leaders look at new hire sales training, there are many people with a vested interest.
For example:

  • product groups want to make sure product knowledge is covered,
  • marketing wants to make sure the brand is covered,
  • HR wants to make sure engagement happens,
  • sales operations want to make sure compliance happens,
  • sales management want processes followed, and
  • sales enablement wants to make sure reps have the right skills.

That’s a lot of perspective coming into one program. This new reality is one that many sales enablement professionals have to learn to deal with. In the case of this most recent conversation about new hire training, the concept of improving new hire sales training wasn’t foreign to any leaders in those groups.
What was foreign, however, was the idea of coming up with specific actions to take, priorities to tackle, and content to create. These tactical elements were hard to wrangle in.
So, it’s essential to take a step back and take some time to think things through.
To help, start by looking at the sales training content, including the participant contents, facilitator contents, the knowledge management and tools, and the detailed agenda (including the sequence)
And then ask a simple question:
“So, at what point will new hires be learning about their customers and the conversations they need to have?”
Be honest. How much of the training content is about the company, when it was found, and what products it has? Does it include the CEO’s vision for the way products need to be used, the innovations the company is looking to bring to the market, the processes that reps need to follow, and the technology they’re supposed to use?
There is a crucial lesson to be learned in how to balance more with less when it comes to enabling reps to sell more successfully.

  • What salespeople need MORE of are services from internal groups designed to help them embrace their reality and help them have more valuable conversations with clients.
  • What they need LESS is a random activity designed to “help them sell” that puts more burden on their backs and requires them to figure out what to do on their own.

In other words, if a new hire program is all about the company and its products, how exactly is that program helping reps have conversations with senior-level buyers?
Sales training new hires are more than the product, process, or program training to cram information into their heads. It’s about enabling new hire reps to have the right sales conversations with their buyers as fast as possible.
Here are some tips to get in front of the sales new hire training challenge:

  1. Define the interlock between employee onboarding and new hire training. While HR typically handles onboarding, what’s the focus and business reason for investing in new hire training? Clarify that design point and get sales leadership buy-in on what the program is designed to accomplish.
  2. Determine if new hire training is tactical or strategic. If sales leaders are asking you to revamp sales training, why are they asking? For example, do they want to talk about all the tasks involved, or do they want to talk about the role of new hire training in achieving the sales strategy?
  3. Move new hire training from an event to experience. Too many sales new hire training programs are built as siloed activities instead of an end-to-end enablement service designed to help reps get critical traction in the first 90-120 days on the job. If everyone in marketing, sales, training, and management takes that approach, the design point and objective of the program become fragmented, and the program becomes more about your company than the client’s reality.

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