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Want the Best Sales Training? Focus on These 9 Outcomes

Written by John Doerr
President, RAIN Group

When you're considering sales training, it's important to know what results you want to drive. Before any initiative, you need to answer one simple question:

What do we want to achieve?

There are many possible targeted outcomes of sales training from growing revenue and improving margins to increasing the average size of sale and growing accounts. Make sure whatever sales training initiatives you choose match up with your desired outcomes.

As you think about your own sales training efforts, consider these possible results and how to achieve them.

The Goal of the Best Sales Training

Most sales training boils down to one overarching desired result: Increase revenue and/or improve margins.

The question is how, specifically, do you want to grow revenue and improve margins. There are many ways to get you there, all of which require different sales skills and focus.

Here are the core buckets of ways you can grow revenue and improve results. Within each bucket, there are various sales skills and processes on which you need to focus. But before you can pick a skill to develop or a sales training program in which to invest, it's important to know in which of these 9 areas you're looking to improve:

  1. Grow existing accounts: Often one of the fastest and most profitable ways to grow revenue is through growing existing accounts. Whether they are strategic or key accounts, it is unlikely that your clients are buying as much as they could or should from you. Tapping into those accounts is a huge opportunity for most organizations.
  2. Increase average size of sale: This involves targeting larger accounts, selling a larger solution set, and discounting less. A major skill gap among many sales teams is in the needs-discovery phase of the selling process. Conducting a thorough and rigorous needs discovery is a major step in crafting the right solution and winning larger sales.
  3. Increase win rate on proposed business: Winning more of the sales you propose is a huge leverage point for increasing revenue. When sellers know what to do to drive and win their most important sales opportunities, not only does revenue increase, but cost of selling decreases because the sales force is more efficient with their time and energy.
  4. Win more new business with new accounts: This includes generating more new leads, adding prospects to your pipeline, and improving lead quality. Your sales team needs to consistently bring in new leads if you want to grow sales.
  5. Speed up the sales cycle: With a faster sales cycle, you bring in more business faster and free up your selling resources to work on other opportunities. This increased sales productivity allows you to do more with your current sales team.
  6. Win sales at favorable terms: Your sellers need to be able to sell with value, overcome objections, and negotiate the best deals to win sales with strong profit margins and at favorable agreement terms. When sellers know how to negotiate, not only are revenue and margins on sales wins better, but win rate tends to increase as sellers lose fewer sales to last-minute mistakes.
  7. Improve hiring success rate and ramp up time: The inability to hire successful salespeople and sales leaders is a gating factor in many a companies' growth. Increasing your hiring success rate and decreasing your hiring failures has a huge impact on your success.

    Once a salesperson is hired, you need them to go from "new hire" to "really successful" faster. Often it can take new hires the better part of a year to get to full sales productivity. Shortening this timeframe has huge revenue growth returns.

Leading and Lagging Measures of Success

The 7 areas covered above are the common lagging indicators of success. They're how you know if your sales training and change management initiatives have worked. However, these measures are rear-view-mirror in nature, meaning they only indicate what has happened, not what will happen.

Leading indicators are those that indicate whether you are tracking in the right or wrong direction towards your ultimate results.

From picking the best change management and sales training initiatives, setting up the right sales enablement system with technologies, tools and resources, and improving the effectiveness of sales management and leadership, there are a lot of specific leading indicators that can signal heading in the right direction.

Here are two big-picture leading indicators that almost always lead to better ultimate results:

  1. Increase effectiveness of sales leadership, management, and process: The leverage point between current sales results and possible sales results is often the effectiveness of sales management. You need your sales managers to maximize sales motivation, hold sellers accountable, and coach them to Top Performance.

    At the same time, you need the right systems and processes to ensure that sellers can (and will) sell with maximum effectiveness and efficiency.

  2. Build a culture of sales achievement: You need your sellers bringing their A-game day in and day out. You need a culture of motivation and support to keep sellers on track and excelling. A Top-Performing sales culture can have game-changing effects on sales results.

As you develop your sales training program, focus first on your desired outcomes and which metrics you need to be driving. There is a long list of sales metrics you can and should track—win rate, number of qualified meetings, number of proposals submitted, average deal size, gross margin, discounts, account growth percentage, ramp up time, sales cycle time, and the list goes on (click here for the essential sales metrics you should track).

For the greatest sales training success, architect your program knowing the outcome(s) you want to achieve and make sure you have measurement in place to track your progress.

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Topics: Sales Training Sales Performance Improvement