“Pat, how was the sales training you attended last week”? “It was the same stuff we did last year, just with different models; doesn’t anyone realize we have some really tough new challenges to deal with?”
How many times have we heard sales people complain about being disappointed by some sales training program? All too frequently. Unfortunately, sales training often comes down to a self-proclaimed expert flipping through a bundle of PowerPoint slides with a quick role-play tossed in here and there.
Today sales people are a more important strategic asset to companies than ever before. In today’s market, they must not only be able to sell a competitive advantage; they must be a competitive advantage. If you add this requirement to the fact that time out of the field is an extremely valuable commodity, then today’s sales training must be high impact. Let’s explore what such high impact training might look like.
Experienced sales people today reflect a particular type of learner who responds to a specific kind of learning:
- Fast-paced: A successful learning experience must mimic the dynamic pace of their real-world selling environment.
- Feedback-rich: The experience must give sales people the opportunity to make mistakes and get expert feedback.
- Challenging and competitive: The program must represent challenging and competitive situations that engage the sales people in the experience.
- Team-based: The best learning experiences should be team-based so sales people can share best practices, push back on ideas, and strengthen each others thinking.
- Relevant: To deliver strong results, learning activities must be based on real world situations.
- Fun: The experience must create the motivation to learn.
Driving Business Impact
Call execution skills, presentations skills, negotiation skills, strategy development and other skills programs are critical in developing a world-class sales team. However, it’s important to realize that these types of programs are intended to develop skill. As pictured below, business impact comes from mastery of these skills plus in-depth practice and feedback in the application and integration of the skills under real world conditions. This latter objective requires a different type of learning experience and a different learning environment. Sales simulations are a great answer.
Four Good Reasons to Consider a Sales Simulation
Four good reasons to consider a sales simulation are:
- They create a realistic environment to test “what if” scenarios and provide opportunity to make mistakes in a safe environment.
- They provide context, content and process which are relevant, realistic, and directly applicable on the job.
- They shorten learning cycles because of immediate feedback.
- They drive business impact through strategic application of critical selling skills.
John Steinbeck wrote: “life is a story that you write about yourself, a journey filled with failures and triumph intertwining. You can learn from both failure and triumph.” Sales simulations build on this idea because sales people experience failure and triumph in a safe environment … learning from their experiences to improve their chances of success in the field. This can happen because throughout the simulation sales people work with business scenarios written from their perspective – including the market conditions, trends, and competition they face daily.
Unfortunately, many of the sales simulations in today’s market today are generic and are thus of questionable value. Most sales people find it hard to learn from the experience if it doesn’t relate to their own business. According to the McKinsey Quarterly: “done well, simulations can bring enormous benefits. Indeed, companies using only traditional training programs may be wasting time and money by comparison.” That’s how business impact is achieved.
What Have Some Top Companies Implemented Sales Simulations?
Today most companies have a common sales language in place. But, because a number of external and internal factors, a need exists to help their sales team apply those existing skills to a new set of market conditions. Many companies choose to implement a sales simulation when faced with:
- A new strategic direction
- Market changes
- New competitive threat
- New business strategies
- New product launch
- Uncertain economic times