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Unlocking Sales Training: Four Keys to Driving Behavioral Change

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Written by Haley Katsman
Vice President of Revenue Strategy, Highspot

Most people who enter the discipline of sales training and enablement have an intrinsic motivator to help people. They are teachers, inspirers, coaches, and cheerleaders. But sometimes, even the most skilled trainers are faced with obstacles that are difficult to overcome.

Training is inherently challenging. Research on The Forgetting Curve shows that within one week, people will have forgotten an average of 90% of the information presented. What's more, training is difficult to facilitate, reinforce, and measure. This reality contributes to more than 25% of salespeople reporting that their training has little or no effect.

Statistics like this reflect a rampant problem. Sellers may be passing their quizzes, but their performance in the field tells a different story, revealing that little of the training, if any, is put into practice. As a trainer who wants to see your team succeed, how can you ensure your training makes a tangible impact and moves the needle for your company?

The answer lies in driving behavioral change. It's one thing for salespeople to comprehend new training, and another for them to apply those skills in the real world. Application of training through robust reinforcement leads to increased win rates, revenue growth, and higher retention. And it all begins with tackling the obstacles in your way of real behavioral change.

Let's examine four challenges you'll likely face and the keys to overcoming them.

  1. Challenge: Sellers aren't held accountable for putting training into practice.

    There are thousands of scenarios where the saying "better together" rings true, and the development of your training program is one of them. Many trainers make the mistake of not partnering with sales leaders at the onset of program development, leading to an onslaught of issues that halt behavioral change, from misaligned goals to low adoption.

    Together, sales trainers and managers can align on what kind of behavioral change they want to drive with the program, along with the goals, how to measure success, and who will hold sellers accountable for the behavioral change.

    The truth is that managers are the ones sellers answer to at the end of the day, not trainers. Training success starts with sales managers becoming advocates who keep their teams accountable, ensuring your training is not only adopted, but also results in action.

    The Key: Involve sales managers in the design and adoption of your program.

  2. Challenge: Tailored, relevant training is difficult to deliver at scale.

    A basketball coach wouldn't have their star point guard watch soccer games to learn new plays. So, as a trainer, why would you have your Tokyo-based account executives partake in the same training as your London-based sales development representatives?

    Generic training content delivered to an audience made up of different roles, levels, and geographies will fall on deaf ears. Your audiences have different needs, and your training needs to uniquely address them in a way that's relevant and applicable. Trainees need to know what's in it for them, how it relates to their specific goals, and how it fits into their workflows.

    While it can be costly and time-consuming to tailor every training session, it's worth the investment, or else your time and dollars will be wasted on training that goes unused. Logistics and technology can help you deliver a personalized program and the quality of training that drives behavioral change at scale. If securing a technological solution isn't an option, consider prioritizing quality over quantity, choosing to do less training that's more personalized and has a higher impact.

    The Key: Personalize your program by prioritizing quality and investing in technology.

  3. Challenge: Sellers aren't understanding or retaining new knowledge and skills.

    Salespeople are inundated with information every day. It's challenging to capture and keep their attention, let alone successfully land training. Rather than add to the noise, deliver the training in a way that will resonate and stick with your team.

    The medium is the message. Think about which format will be the most effective for each unique session. In some cases, a gamified activity will best convey the information, whereas other material would best land when delivered by an expert speaker "Ask Me Anything" session. Choosing the right format is especially important in the current virtual reality, where learners benefit from a variety of formats that stimulate their senses and enhance engagement.

    Sellers also need training served in the context of the customer conversations they're having. Don't just transfer knowledge, show them how they can use it. Teach them how they can apply your training in relation to their existing workflow, and they will connect the dots from concept to application.

    The Key: Prepare sellers with dynamic training delivered in context.

  4. Challenge: Training and coaching are treated as "one and done" and not reinforced.

    Today's buyers do their homework. With more information than ever at their fingertips, they expect sellers to go beyond traditional product and features selling. If your team isn't bringing personalized value to every conversation, you could lose that customer forever.

    As buyer expectations continue to mount, standalone training sessions will not suffice. To make every customer conversation count, your sales team needs an engaging training program coupled with ongoing sales coaching that helps them build confidence before the moment of action. This starts with creating a culture of continuous learning.

    Read: 5 Roles of High-Performing Sales Coaches

    Everyone from the sellers to the mangers need to regard training as more than a "one and one" to check a box. Rather, training and coaching are the way to practice, improve, differentiate, and ultimately deliver customer value in every unique selling scenario. Training provides the knowledge, and targeted one-on-one coaching offers sellers the personalized, ongoing support they need to reinforce learning and change their behaviors.

    The Key: Create a culture of continuous learning with training and coaching that drives impact.

No Behavioral Change, No Training Success

You could be doing everything right when it comes to teaching your team new knowledge, but knowledge alone isn't enough. How this knowledge translates to real buyer conversations is what matters. Behavioral change is the key to driving consistent performance, achieving business outcomes, and helping your sellers be their best.


Hayley Katsman is the Vice President of Revenue Strategy at Highspot, the revenue enablement platform that helps companies make every customer conversation count. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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