Great athletes know they cannot perform at the highest level without great PRACTICE.
How DO they practice? Three components are always there:
- They act as if they were competing against the best opponents.
- They employ the best coaches to help them perfect every move.
- They do it over and over again until they outperform everyone.
Here's what they DON'T DO:
- Learn in a "safe environment" without competition.
- Learn without feedback from the best experts they can find.
- Learn something once and consider the task complete.
Unfortunately, most sales training programs don't follow the athletes' model. Instead, they DO the DON'Ts.
That's why they produce underwhelming results against the unique challenges of B2B software sales.
Are you doing what is EASY or what WORKS?
1. Great Practice Requires Competition
When you assess the components of your sales training program, how much of it is passive?
I'm willing to bet the majority of it is lectures with some Q&A at the end.
Do you think the greatest athletes would accept a training program like yours?
Would Michael Phelps be the most decorated Olympian of all time if he sat in a classroom, listened to a lecture, and just asked questions?
Of course not. Phelps is the best because he practices in the pool against top competition with constant feedback from the best coaches. He's the best because he repeats it almost every day.
So here's the first part of the lesson:
Great B2B software sales people PRACTICE as if they were PLAYING for real.
That means "role-playing" your sales engagements. Here's how:
- Prepare an effective sales play. Create a customer conversation that includes your insights, discovery questions, and proof points. Sales people memorize this so they can execute it without notes.
- Practice the sales play against a simulated customer. Sales people engage the trainer/coach who plays the role of the prospect. The coach throws out objections, provides details about the company environment, and reacts to the strength (or weakness) of the sales techniques.
When you do it regularly (and right) you become unbeatable.
BONUS CREDIT: Score the role-play as part of your sales certification program. Publish the scores. That will incentivize sales people to get it right.
2. Great Practice Requires Expert Coaching
Sales role-playing can quickly sharpen your team's revenue generation skills in ways passive techniques cannot. But a word of warning is in order:
If you practice incorrectly, you'll learn it wrong.
Imagine you're just learning to swim. You would want the help of a skilled, accomplished swimming coach, naturally.
What would happen if you tried to learn without expert help? Best case, you don't learn how to swim. Worst case, you drown.
That's so obvious you can't believe I even had to say it. And I would agree with you except for one thing:
Most sales training programs don't employ expert coaches focused on making their players effective.
Here are the typical leadership WEAKNESSES of the average B2B software sales training program:
- They don't use a coach that has excelled in all client-facing roles of the business (sales, marketing, and consulting).
- They don't leverage an expert that can answer any question asked of them by any person in any role (functional areas, management levels, or value chain stages).
- They don't empower the training leader to create new approaches that work for the company's specific solution, competition, and customer markets.
Go back to Michael Phelps.
Imagine Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman, can't assess how he's performing in the pool. Just picture that Bowman doesn't know all the strokes Phelps must use to win. (There are four: breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly, and freestyle.)
What happens if Bowman can't analyze, correct, and coach Phelps to perform at his best?
I'll tell you what doesn't happen: Michael Phelps doesn't grace the covers of every sports magazine ever.
Here's the second part of the lesson:
Great B2B software sales people know they will not EXCEL without EXPERT coaches.
You would not practice swimming against amateurs while preparing for the Olympics. And you wouldn't handicap yourself by relying upon a weak trainer (or none at all).
If you don't train like the best, then a better-prepared competitor is going to leave you in their wake, gulping water, with no medals for you. Figuratively, of course, but it'll still hurt.
Employ trainers/coaches that make you better in EVERY area of your game. Remember that their weaknesses become yours, so choose carefully.
3. Great Practice Never Ends
According to Phelps, "If you want to be the best you have to do things that other people aren't willing to do." That means going the extra mile - literally. In peak training phases, Phelps swims nearly 50 miles a week.
One more swimming metaphor:
Would you learn the stroke once and call yourself an expert? Would you be ready to take on the world after seeing it on paper?
No way. Not even remotely possible.
Yet MOST sales training programs treat their learners this way. They show it to them once and send them out into the world to take on all comers.
Completely ridiculous, right?
That brings us to the third part of the lesson:
Great B2B software sales people PRACTICE until their skills are instantly available and AUTOMATIC.
If you want to be great, you've got to practice all the time. When you need your skills, they've got to be front-of-mind.
The prospective customer will not wait patiently while you refer to your notes. They'll just show you the door, hang-up the phone, or stop responding to emails.
Only the Best Sales Enablement & Training Professionals Will Maximize Your Sales
You sell software to businesses. You have a multi-stage sales funnel. You employ marketing, sales, and services people that must work together as a seamless team.
Your sales training leader MUST analyze, correct, and coach all of that.
Can they do it?
Or do they just wait to share the latest "competitive battle-cards" and product marketing updates?
If you employ product-pushers as sales trainers, then you're at a severe disadvantage.
Hire sales enablement & training leaders that execute the 3 champion practices of great B2B software sales training.
You must build a customer-facing team that is prepared to win against all opposition. You can't do it without effective sales enablement & training professionals.
Sales training is a critically important investment in your business. It has to pay off... or your stock options won't.
Don't know how to identify an effective sales enablement leader for your B2B software business? Ask me for help.