Providing regular and quality training and coaching can prove to be a challenge for SMBs. Finding the time to take your sales team out of the field to train them, getting access to quality, customised training content and quality trainers at an affordable price is problematic.
Too many ‘off the shelf’ sales programs aren’t usually flexible enough to meet most sales teams’ requirements and are often limited to simple transactional sales interactions or motivational ‘rah rah’ sessions. However, for many SMB sales teams to compete head-to-head with the skills of larger businesses they need to be trained in more complex selling skills and processes which include:
- Sales and account planning.
- Prospecting skills and strategies.
- Consultative/diagnostics selling skills.
- Negotiation skills.
- Interpersonal communication skills.
- Public speaking, pitching and presentation skills.
- Account management and development.
- Business acumen.
- Deal making and proposal/tender writing.
- Self or time management.
- Self awareness, resilience and insight.
So how can SMBs continue to develop the skills, knowledge and mindset of their sales teams even though they do not have the resources of a major corporate? We need to be clever about creating a continuous learning environment in SMEs. Here are a few tips:
- Think about what standard you need your sales and customer service people to be operating at. This will help you determine the type of training you need to provide them with.
- Assess what you feel confident delivering in-house and what you need to access from qualified, external providers. Research your external providers and make sure they deliver practical, competency based training that can be taught and transferred to others.
- Map out a 12 month learning plan which provides regular learning sessions and has clear learning outcomes so you can check progress and skills and knowledge development. Not all of your training need be full day workshops. The best value is gained from ‘mini’ sessions of 30 minutes to 1 hour run regularly (fortnightly or at least every 4 weeks) interspersed with more formal classroom learning i.e. between 1-4 days per year on key topics where you need formal instruction.
- The mini learning sessions can focus on specific topics. A great way to include everyone and create accountability for learning, is to allocate topics to your sales and customer service people and have each of them select a topic they will research and present to the team. This helps you spread the learning load whilst giving your people the chance to practice their presentation skills. Rotate these sessions amongst your sales team. Make sure the environment is supportive and constructive to encourage rather than discourage participation.
- Reading material is in abundance. Giving your people access to free sales articles, can be used to assist further learning. Many of our clients’ sales managers use these sales articles to aid their sales team development. Whether they send it out as a topic to read or use the topic as a point for discussion in their sales meeting, they are creating a continuous learning environment.
- If you are going to invest in external development, a critical area is sales management and coaching. This can have the greatest return on investment for you and your sales team in terms of their professional development. Between 60-70 percent of a sales managers time should be devoted to people development.
SMEs don’t need to be left behind when it comes to having high performing sales and customer service teams.
Continuous learning is a conscious choice and does not happen by accident. Whether you have access to large sums of money or not you can create a viable learning environment and continue to enhance the capabilities of your sales and service teams.
Start with the end in mind – sales mastery is a way of life not a fad.
Remember everybody lives by selling something.