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“I can’t have my people out of the field that long!”

Sales Tips: When IS a Good Time for Training?

By Frank Visgatis, President/COO, CustomerCentric Selling®

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I took my first formal sales training in 1986 as a rookie sales rep with a newspaper production automation vendor based out of Boston. To say I went willingly would be quite a stretch.

When my district sales manager informed me that I would be participating in a four-day long training program that had nothing to do with the features or functionality of my product but was actually about “sales as a process,” I balked. I had cold calls to make, demos to attend, proposals to write and business to close. How could I be expected to take four valuable days to be “trained” on something I already knew how to do?

What I learned during those four days helped me to understand something profound – how much I didn’t know. It was the first step in a journey I embarked on that continues to this day – to learn and evaluate all aspects of the profession of selling.

Over the past several decades, as I’ve interacted with the senior management of hundreds of different organizations, an oft-voiced concern is the length of time we recommend they invest in order to effect behavioral change within their sales organization. When confronted with the reality that “doing things right” often requires, at a minimum, the better part of a weeklong commitment out of the field, the heels begin to dig in:

“We have too much going on to spend that much time.”

“Reps will lose deals if they’re out of their territory too long.”

“It’s just not a good time to do training.”

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Valid concerns? Perhaps. However, have you ever wondered what the impact is of NOT taking time out of the field? Or what if we try to cram a week of learning into a day or two?

According to the results of a survey we conducted in conjunction with Sales Benchmark Index (Best Practices of World-class Sales Organizations), the organizations that qualify as “world-class” invest an average of 40 hours per year in proactively training their salespeople. That’s 25 hours MORE than their benchmark peers and a whopping 38 hours more than the bottom quartile.

But what do they get for their investment?

According to Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” So what is the “opposite reaction” to taking time out of the field to invest in training? According to Best Practices of World-class Sales Organizations, it is improved sales productivity as measured by the length of the sell cycle. Those “world-class” organizations that invest those additional 25 hours compared to their benchmark peers enjoy a sell cycle that averages 45 days LESS. When compared to the bottom quartile, the savings is 105 days.

How many more sell cycles could you fit into your quota-driven year if you had an extra 45 to 105 days per active sell cycle you’re currently managing?

When I conduct a training program, whether it be for one of my clients, or via one of the public sessions I conduct on a regular basis, I often hear the complaint directly from salespeople that they “don’t need more training” – what they need is time management. They feel they just have too many balls in the air. However, if we look at the time we spend honing our skills and improving our knowledgebase as an “investment” rather than an “expense,” we realize that those four days will typically translate to a 45 day savings on our average sell cycle. Given that the average salesperson has two to six serious sell cycles they are attempting to manage at any given point in time, they are really buying themselves one of the most precious and elusive commodities in the world – time.

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