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August 3, 2009

Trained To Sell | Getting the most out of your staff starts with careful evaluation

Sales training used to be “smile, be enthusiastic, talk fast, and get the customer to sign.” Not anymore.

If your business relies on telemarketing, cold-calling or going door-to-door, then you might consider teaching sales people a ‘canned’ pitch. Otherwise, by today’s standards, you need your salespeople to be noticed and be trusted.

The trouble is… that’s not something that all salespeople can learn.

Before you invest in sales training, you need to determine if you have the right people on board. Ask yourself if they’re driven, committed, and if they have the strengths and skills that are necessary to work with a sophisticated buyer. However, some may have weaknesses that you may not recognize right away, but those weaknesses will surface at precisely the wrong time with a prospective customer. Avoiding such a situation will require you to critically analyze each sales person as they are hired.

When it comes to managers, make sure each has the ability to mentor, coach, motivate and hold each sales person accountable to the company’s goals. Ask yourself if your managers can execute the company’s strategies through the salespeople in the field. Finally, ask yourself if you’ve provided your sales force with everything it needs to be effective, and double check that those tools are being put to use.

A thorough sales force evaluation can provide answers to these questions, along with a development timeline and expected ROI from training.

Immediate Results

Ask yourself if you want an immediate impact from a training and development program. If so, improvements to your sales and recruiting systems and processes, pipeline, metrics, strategies and sales management competencies will get you that. Ultimately, you want your sales manager(s) to get to a point where he or she can effectively coach, motivate and lead the salespeople while holding them accountable to agreed upon performance metrics.

Who Versus What

The training must be relevant, up-to-date, entertaining, and interactive. But the trainer is actually more important than the content of the training. The results of the training will only be as good as the trainer’s ability to keep your salespeople engaged. If they fail to change, you failed to get your money’s worth. Once change has occurred, revenue will begin rolling in like it did in the boom years.

Finally, start with the end in mind. Make sure that the goals of your training program align with the overall goals of your business. The recognized market leader in a mature industry may have different issues than a startup introducing a new technology to solve a still-to-be-crystallized need of an audience that has yet to be determined. 

Rick Roberge is the author of TheRainMakerMaker blog and a sales development expert at Kurlan & Associates in Westborough. He can be reached at

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