Engaging Sales Reps to Make Selling Skills Training Stick
In the U.S. alone, companies spend $15 billion each year training sales employees. And 6 in 10 organizations will increase L&D spending over the next three years.
But only 23% of firms consider their current sales training programs to be effective.
So how can you ensure that your program will change behaviors and produce the best results?
Watch this on-demand webinar where Ray Makela, CEO at the Sales Readiness Group, and Gary Greenberger, VP Global Sales at Qstream discuss new ideas on how to maximize the effectiveness of sales training.
Watch this webinar to learn:
- The change needed in sales training design to deliver ROI
- Why many approaches to sales skills training are obsolete and how to avoid them
- The 3 C’s to shape selling skills training design to deliver better results
- How to leverage your tech stack to better engage, reinforce, and identify knowledge and skill gaps
- New approaches to enable sales managers to move from “deal reviewer” to “personal sales coach”
Sales Readiness Group
Ray Makela is an author, speaker, and business executive with 25 years of management, consulting, and sales experience. At Sales Readiness Group (SRG), Ray oversees all client engagements and the delivery of sales and sales management training programs. He has delivered programs for clients such as Alcon/Novartis, AIG, Sysco, Nielsen, Timken, Follett, Pandora, Ritchie Bros, HERE, Infor, Galderma, and Walmart.
VP Global Sales
Gary Greenberger is responsible for Qstream’s direct and channel sales strategy globally. He’s focused on accelerating the adoption of Qstream’s mobile microlearning solution. Gary is a proven sales executive with a successful track record in billion-dollar and entrepreneurial technology organizations. These include Sample6, a biotechnology firm, Vela Systems where he contributed to the company’s sale to Autodesk, CTSpace (sold to Sword Group), Constructware (sold to Autodesk), and CompuCom Systems.
START OF TRANSCRIPT
Alonso: I would like to now introduce our presenters. Today we have our CEO here at the Sales Readiness Group, Ray Makela and a special guest Gary Greenberger, who is the VP of global sales at Qstream. Ray, on the left is an author, a speaker and business executive with 25 years of management, consulting and sales experience here at Sales Readiness Group. Ray, he oversees all our client engagements and delivery of sales and sales management training programs. He has delivered programs for clients such as Alcon, AG, CISCO, Nielsen, Follet and Wal-Mart. Then on the right side of the screen we have here Gary Greenberger and he is responsible for Qstreams, direct and channel sales strategy globally.
He’s focused on accelerating the adoption of Qstream’s mobile microlearning solution. Gary has a successful track record in a billion dollar and entrepreneurial tech organization such as Sample6, a biotech firm, Vela systems where he contributed to the company’s sale to Autodesk, and CT-Space who was acquired by Sword Group, Construct-ware, who was acquired by Autodesk among some of the highlights on his experience. Ray and Gary, welcome.
Ray: Well, great. Thanks Alonso. And again, this is Ray Makela with Sales Readiness Group. Alonso, I appreciate you kicking things off and getting us started. Gary, I’d like to just extend a special welcome for you joining us today and just share how excited I am to talk through some of the content we’ve put together. We’ve partnered with Qstream over the years. We share a number of clients and I was really struck in our preparation here, Gary, how similar we see the world even though we’re coming from different areas of the solution but how the philosophy and the principles that we share are very much in align. So thank you very much, Gary, for being with us today and I really look forward to the conversation. Welcome.
Gary: Thank you, happy to participate on the webcast.
Ray: That’s great. Well, let’s go ahead and jump into it. In terms of our agenda today, we wanted to start by just laying the groundwork with a little bit of research we’ve done. Actually we’ll be sharing research both from SRG and from Qstream, but start with why sales training. And I think for this audience, not surprising that sales training is important, but we’ll take the salesperson’s perspective and talk about why it’s important and a little bit about the ROI of effective training. And then we’ll talk about what’s changing and why there are still some challenges with how we’re executing and delivering training in general, I think within the industry. And then Gary, I’m really interested to get into the three Cs and talking a little bit about how we shape selling skills to deliver better results.
I know that these are areas that Qstream is passionate about and really supports and enables with your technology. It’s also very much in alignment with our philosophy here at SRG. And then ultimately, we’ll talk about how do we enable sales managers to support that and reinforce and continue to coach after the fact. So that’s where we’re headed. It’s a great agenda, a lot to cover and let’s jump into it. We did this survey last year with training industry and we wanted to focus on what skills were most important from a salesperson’s perspective, kind of how organizations were investing in training and make a relationship or correlation between selling skills and the results that they were seeing within these organizations. We surveyed a number of different organizations across industries, so close to 300 respondents and it was really spread across organizational size as well as industry over 15 industry surveyed here.
We really wanted to ask the question how were the reps doing in their performance and how do they view training within their organizations? And so I want to go through this just from a little bit of backdrop and again, the ROI, but to talk about when training was effective, did that correlate to a difference in outcomes? When we asked the question about, were the sales people achieving quota and how long did it take them to ramp up and also ask the question about did they view training as effective or not? What’s interesting here is we see a decrease or a shortening of the time to be effective. In other words, the time to ramp or time to quota in weeks when the training was more effective than those who said it was sometimes or not effective.
Even though it may seem like a few weeks or the difference of seven weeks between not effective and almost always effective that’s a significant impact to the organization in terms of that ramp up time. Gary, I’m curious if this is something you’re seeing and I know with Qstream you’re able to enable that and actually show a correlation to quicker ramp up time. But is that something you’ve seen across some of your clients as well?
Gary: It is and I think it’s something that’s demanded in today’s global sales force and that is that you get people to hit the streets quickly. I think effective sales training is an essential part of an onboarding process.
Ray: Yes, and it’s interesting until we asked the question and had the data, it was hard to quantify what does that really mean? But just a hypothetical, if we’re looking at a million dollar quota for a rep and saying that at full ramp up, it’s a hundred percent of quota that they’re on track to meet that. That decrease in time to ramp is actually worth real dollars. We see a difference of even up to $67,000 between ineffective and effective. If we’re talking about a partial ramp up versus a full ramp up, we start to multiply that across a team and across the organization. Obviously the numbers ramp up very quickly. As Alonso mentioned at the onset, we’ll make this report available. If anybody wants it, it’s available for download on our website as well, but more of the data and background behind that. But we know there’s impact to quicker ramp up.
There was also a correlation between training effectiveness and win rates. And so this was interesting because those organizations that were struggling, if you will, actually had a lower win rate than those that share that they thought they had effective training programs in place. Even though it may seem like a smaller amount or smaller impact, if we start to look at that across the sales team and think about the difference between even a 51% win rate, which is those organizations that said they had effective training and a 41% for those that had ineffective training, that means we need to add a lot more opportunities into the pipeline. And we really need to, in this case, doing the math, but 24% more opportunities to achieve the same quota if we have even that 10% difference in win rates.
So again, we want to enable the team as effectively as possible. One of the outcomes we look for in sales training is, can we impact win rates and make that more effective? Again, I’m curious, Gary, any examples or thoughts you have on where you’ve seen that with your clients?
Gary: Yes, I mean I would just reiterate that it’s critical I think when you’re bringing on people and you’re putting them through an effective sales training program. Especially onboarding new reps, the goal here is, can they get on the board within the first 90 days? And if they can, that makes an enormous difference in getting your pipeline built earlier in the sales cycle and earlier in the process is just critical. And to me the biggest difference is can you put in place effective sales training with reinforcement of the key concepts? I could not agree more with that.
Ray: Absolutely, and we’re going to get into the nuts and bolts of how we do that and some shared suggestions we have on doing that effectively. The last area, just to finish the research and some of the background behind this is a correlation between better training and increase job satisfaction. This one is a little more subtle, but in the age of it’s really hard to find good reps these days and it’s hard to hang on to sometimes even our top performers because they’re getting pinged every day by your competitors or others in the industry. We know there’s a correlation between satisfaction and retention. What we found was there was a pretty significant impact on those organizations that rated themselves as having effective training, had higher job satisfaction than those that said it was sometimes or not effective.
To me that also equates to real dollars when we’re talking about the cost of finding, replacing, ramping up and getting that additional rep on board if we’re losing some of our top performers. So strong correlation, strong impact, obviously. I think everybody would probably nod in and agree that yes, better sales training equals better results. We should do that. Well, let’s talk about how we get there and some of the challenges and obstacles that get in the way. We’re going to get into a little bit of what’s changing and why there are some challenges, but one of the things, Gary, as we’ve talked about is we’d love to get the input from our audience. And so I’m going to go ahead and open up a poll here. What I’d like to do is just get everybody to respond if you will. We should be seeing the poll here shortly.
The idea of what factor do you think poses the greatest challenges for sales training initiatives? I see people responding here already. You should see that popping up. But the idea is it that we don’t have support from managers, that we’re not holding reps accountable for the training. Maybe we don’t have a reinforcement plan and sustainment plan in place or it’s not tailored to be relevant. Maybe there isn’t executive sponsorship to support that or there isn’t enough executive sponsorship. Gary, I’m curious as we’re getting some responses and please just go ahead and click on your top choice there for the audience there in the poll. But Gary, I’m curious, what do you think we’re going to hear and what’s your thought on some of the greatest challenges? I’m sure we see all of these in one form or another with some of our clients.
Gary: Yes, if history is accurate, what we hear from our customers is a lot of times they’re just, number one, there’s not a lot of great communications. So it needs to come from the top. Executive sponsorship, I point out as critical. I point out that we hear often that there’s great content, however, it’s not reinforced post traditional training. I hear that quite a bit from our customers and I think holding people accountable, I would just say is the training providing coaching actions? Is it providing data rich metrics that can allow managers to focus on some of the areas where the sales reps are struggling? Those are things that we hear from our customers every day.
Ray: Yes, absolutely. I think we’ve got most of the respondents coming in here. We’ve had it open for a few minutes. I’m going to go ahead and close that and broadcast the results. I think Gary, to your point and we’ll share this should pop up here. Are you seeing the results there on the screen?
Gary: I am.
Ray: Okay. It’s interesting that there’s a cross section because I think it’s hard to choose. The top response here is we’re not getting support from managers, but also that we’re not holding reps accountable. The training isn’t tailored and then followed by little or lack of sponsorship. So I think we see all of those across the organization, but if we’re thinking about the manager’s role, and this is very consistent with what we’ll talk about for coaching later, we’ve got to get the managers involved. We’ve got to have them involved in the reinforcement. And then almost 60% of our responses are either no support from managers or not held accountable, which I think speaks to the ability to have that plan in place after the training to make sure we’re really getting the results. Any comments or thoughts on those results we’re seeing?
Gary: No comments from me other than it’s very consistent and I think my heart is always been with a sales rep since that’s where I started. And I think if we’re going to hold them accountable, we got to provide them with tools and the technology that can help them. I think that’s what we’re trying to do at Qstream and I think the data that’s presented here seems to be spot on in my opinion.
Ray: Well, and again, I appreciate everybody responding here. It’s always good to get their input. We’ll pull that back and refer back to this as we go along, based on the input from the audience. Let’s talk about, we know that it’s challenging what’s going on in the industry and what are some of the things that maybe getting in the way. The most recent data, this was from a LinkedIn state of the sales report that I’ve seen. Companies in the US are spending about $15 billion on sales training. That continues to grow year over year. And also, and I think this was from some of your research as well Gary, that six out of 10 organizations anticipate increasing their spend on sales training, but as we see sales leaders as we survey and just anecdotally talking to them, still feel like they’re not getting the ROI that they’d like to see, and that we’re spending literally billions of dollars and not getting the results that they’re looking for.
That’s really what we’re trying to address and what we hear is behaviors aren’t changing, the training didn’t stick. Maybe there isn’t a measurable way to see if there’s an increase in sales and those are some of the things specifically that I think we can address both with better training and reinforcement and leveraging technology and tools like Qstream as we’ll get to. Any general comments or thoughts on the trends and what you’re seeing from organizations as well?
Gary: What I would say specifically is not only do I agree with the information delivered here; it is about changing behavior. And I would say most importantly people need to focus on proficiency. I think it’s a really underrated metric. When I talk proficiency, what I mean is changing behavior and improving skills. I think proficiency leads to performance and productivity. I think we tend to front end a lot of our training tools with measurements in the area of proficiency. I think if you focus on that, the end result is you’re going to see the performance that you want and that sales performance correlates into the ROI.
Ray: Well, I love that perspective Gary, because I think often times, we don’t know what proficient looks like or it’s really hard to say has the behavior changed or not. But if we’re able to measure and challenge and maybe have a diagnostic or a way of actually assessing whether they’re using that skill or whether they understand that skill, now we can start to build a path to them using it in the field and performing, simulations and some of the things that you’re doing I think play nicely into that. Some of the challenges we’ve heard from sales reps are that they don’t really think training is hitting the mark or there are some things getting in the way and Gary, I know these were some of your thoughts as you put them together, can you speak to that in terms of the sales reps perspective and what some of the complaints are that you’re hearing?
Gary: Yes, I love to, and I spent about 30 years, my background was selling on the streets in New York City, actually at the beginning and being a manager and a general manager and running as a regional vice president of a billion dollar quota and recently working in start-ups and I want to come from a perspective of the sales rep, which I think is an important point of view. So just to comment on a couple of these, time is a valuable commodity. I think reps don’t have unlimited time to train; this is what I hear from them, and managers don’t have unlimited time to coach. We have to be very sensitive to that.
I hear often from most of our customers, the standalone one-off training events just are not effective, and I agree with that. It can’t be a one and done process. I think it’s got to be a continuous process even for the most tenured reps. We tend to look at things as an annual program just like you would annually budget or annually set quotas. I think training has to be looked at in a 12-month increment. Not being engaged in advance, huge problem that we hear from reps. It needs to be a cross functional process, a team sport. It’s not an individual sport. You really have to collaborate with your key people and you really have to communicate, I think to that point in the poll, it has to start coming from the executive down.
When that initiative is important to the executive team, it’s important to the reps. The generic content not being valued, just a very, very important point. It has to be specific. The training that I think is the most valuable from the sales rep’s perspectives is the training that’s specific to the business objectives, specific to the goals and ties an ROI into it. I think reps are tenants to that. And then finally, I think the traditional types of training without reinforcement, just not effective.
I might add, this is not a rep problem; this is a science problem, brain science; that people just are going to forget 80% of what they learn in 30 days and we power-hose these reps with information. I think we have to be sensitive with the fact that there has to be some level of reinforcement that follows up this training and the reinforcement has to focus on the gaps. It has to provide managers with areas to coach too. So, I think it’s a joint issue and I think there are solutions out there that can be effective.
Ray: No, I think extremely well said and I think we’re seeing that in different ways manifest itself. I think even with whether it’s millennial’s or new people, new individuals entering the workforce, there’s less tolerance for sitting for two days in a classroom. And for better or worse it’s like, okay, being force fed or as you said that the power hose approach isn’t going to be effective. Well, as a facilitator, I still love being in the classroom and I think it’s a great way to kick off and really practice key skills. But that by itself isn’t enough and it needs to be followed by micro-learning and other ways of chunking up the content and having it available just in time. When we think about how is learning changing, I think people want it to be accessible.
They want to be able to follow up over time. Just like they would go to YouTube and look at a video on how to do something in their personal life, they want to be able to have access to that and continue to practice the proficiency. I think we’re hearing it loud and clear and the goal is how do we address that and let’s get into that, because I know you have a framework and it’s very consistent to how we think about an implementation plan and really a complete training system broken down into the three Cs, as you characterize that, at a very high level that idea of collaboration at the front end, customization and tailoring the content and then continuous learning as an ongoing process and reinforcement. So, Gary, maybe you could speak to that as well as some of the research you’ve done around emerging trends and the background from Qstream perspective.
Gary: Yes, I’d love to. It’s near and dear to us. Qstream and Association, SMA; Sales Management Association, we commissioned a study just recently to analyze trends and we surveyed quite a few people and came back and produced a white paper that will be available to all the participants in June of 2019. It was really a polling people who are key stakeholders in the selling process, the sales reps, managers, senior management. These three takeaways or categories came top of mind. And I think of what I’m going to share with you as fairly obvious. Yes, that’s very valuable insight, and what I like to tell people is that often it’s some of the simplest things are overlooked in the haste to get training programs delivered. What I’m going to do is go into each one of these categories, share a data point, talk about some solutions and a little commentary, and then give you an example.
Let’s start with collaboration. When we go to the data, here’s what we find. I think it’s important just to look at the data. Firms that developed training objectives through manager and salesperson collaboration, they all perform. We see training effectiveness, 9% higher; we see objective achievement, sales objective achievement is 16% higher. We know it works and what are the solutions if we go on that we can bring to the table on the next slide, you’ll see that, here’s a few examples of how I would address this and how we like to look at addressing this. And I mentioned this earlier. Cross functional collaboration is a must to support the sales process, often overlooked, shockingly.
You’ve got to demonstrate cross by showing sales reps that their voices are heard. And the third point is collaborative learning helps engagement and engagement is critical. Just a little commentary on this; you want to engage the top sales performers. It’s critical too once you get their buy-in. I’ve been doing a lot of, I run a lot of sales training programs for my own team and I’m guilty of a lot of the issues that we’re talking about. But when you get your key performers involved, everybody falls in place and it becomes very relevant and very effective. Training ought to be focused on the team goals that directly support the sales revenue goals. So, another thing about collaborating, is make sure that we’re focused on the goals that are being delivered at the beginning of the year and that the training is helping people achieve those goals.
We’re real big about making the learning process active. When I say active, I mean active versus passive, that we want to encourage comments, we want to encourage competition. We want to encourage feedback. We see all these things and let me just tie it all together with an example. If you were in a position where you wanted to release some training on some new product functionality, we do that all the time in our company. I think the important thing is that you’re selecting a sales marketing and a product cross-section. Vet the content, don’t be so quick to get it out. Vet the content; makes sure you get a reality check that’s validating that in fact this training is going to hit the hotspots before you bring the team in. Any comments on that, Ray?
Ray: No, I think it’s very consistent with what we see and I think having that up front process to align it both with the business objectives as well as to get the context of the sales team so that we can make it more relevant. And whether that’s the facilitator being able to use the language, whether that comes out in role plays and case studies that are being incorporated into the training. As a training organization, we know we’ve met the mark where they look at this and go, “Well, I just had this situation last week. I’m struggling with this right now. Or oh, I thought you were one of us. I thought you were an employee. You understand our sales process so well.” That’s the bar we strive for, but it comes out in all sorts of different ways, whether it’s in the materials, whether it’s in the engagement and it is a bit about change management as well that if they’re involved, if key reps and managers are involved, they will be more likely to support and sponsor the program.
I think getting that involvement up front is really critical to creating that wave that we’re looking for to be able to actually make the change. We had a couple of questions that came in about designing a program. One, what does that upfront engagement look like? And I think we shared some examples, but for us that typically is interviews, understanding the stakeholder initiatives; we have a pre-training questionnaire that we go through as well as potentially riding along or at least understanding what a typical day in the life looks like. I always like to understand what are the top performers doing right that we want to replicate and reinforce and where are people struggling? What are people not doing and what are we really looking to change as a result of the training?
Those are some of the things we do in advance. And then there was a question that came in about how do we engage new reps as well as more advanced reps? I think there can be value in having them together because they share best practices and engage. But again, as a facilitator, I really want to know who those senior people are in the room and leverage them for their expertise and acknowledge the experience that they bring and really bring them into that environment. So, they’re not hostages, if you will, sitting in the back of the room with their arms crossed.
I think there are definitely techniques that we can use. But let’s keep going on because I think some of that’ll come out in the other components we’re talking about. Great points though, Gary. Let’s talk a little bit about customization. That came up as a critical component in your survey and I think it’s something that we feel very passionate about as well that generic programs really don’t meet the mark. Maybe you can talk more specifically about the research and what we do about that.
Gary: When we’re referring to customization, I think it’s obvious we’re talking about the content. The data point I wanted to bring up is customized training versus generic has an overall sales training effectiveness of 40% higher. So no, great surprise here. This isn’t a break news flash, but customized training works and it’s quite important. Let me give you a few solutions and talk to you a little bit more about that with a little bit of a narrative. So if we go to the next slide, it has to be focused on current business objectives and outcomes. I’m going to talk a little bit more about that. It has to be relevant to the salesperson’s job responsibility or they’re going to tune out quickly and it has to be aligned to the customer problem and needs that you’re trying to solve.
People ask me all the time and I think at Qstream, we’re pretty consistent that what percentage needs to be customized? All of it, practically all of it is my opinion. When we talk about relevance, it’s got to be aligned to the problem you’re trying to solve, really important. You’ve got to find technology solutions that engage the participants and the managers. So you want to customize this content and you want to make sure you’re getting a high engagement, with tools like ours, we’re seeing over 90% engagement.
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. Say you’re trying to roll out a new product line to a small and medium size business. That’s the targeted market. Resist the temptation to try to leverage enterprise sales content. I see this all the time where you try to fit maybe a square in a round hole. You’ve got to start to ask yourself, and I’m speaking now to people that are in training and I’ve a tremendous amount of respect.
I think it’s a big challenge and you’re getting pushed and pulled in a lot of different areas, but you got to ask yourself, is this content that we’re going to deliver, is it applicable to the targeted customer? Is it focused on the appropriate dollar value of the product that we’re going to sell? Is the sales process aligned with a targeted customer audience? These are the mistakes that I see when you attempt to use generic content to try to solve a very specific company problem. And every company has their own unique way. So Ray, those are my comments. I didn’t know if you wanted to add a little color to that.
Ray: Well, it’s very consistent with how we approach that customization process. And I think I just wanted to clarify, it doesn’t mean starting from scratch to build a custom program with every component because frankly the time and the cost associated with that becomes prohibitive. But what it does mean is taking those core foundational concepts and then making them very relevant based on the outcomes, the objectives, and the sales person’s perspective.
We also try to have all of our programs focus on real opportunities and have the participants, whether it’s a salesperson or a manager, apply it to a real life situation, apply it to their own team or apply it to an account and an opportunity. They’re applying those skills, not just in a case study or role play, but also to their real day job, because nothing’s going to make it more relevant than saying, “Okay, now how am I going to apply this on Monday? How do I prepare for this next meeting I have and put it into that context? I think we can reinforce that as we go along.
So absolutely, I think it’s critical to getting that adoption and acceptance of the change that you’re trying to target. Let’s continue on here. The last piece, the last C, if you will, is that continuous learning. We know that one and done does not work, is not successful. I guess the challenge is we’ve known that for a while, but yet it still keeps happening or we haven’t necessarily solved that as an industry. I’d love to get your perspective both on some of the research as well as some of the key takeaways on how we address that.
Gary: No, thank you. And I think I’m as guilty as anyone. I stand here and raise my hand and say, at times putting my sales organization through one in gun type training and expecting fantastic results and continuous learning, it’s a long process and it’s a journey, as I say. The firms that continuously deliver training and development content; they outperform other firms. I think the statistics speak for themselves, 21% greater objective achievement, 45% higher sales effectiveness. So a little narrative around this, and this is again, 30 years versus 30 years of my experiences. You got to embrace this as a long journey. If you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it. There’s just no question about it.
You’ve got to have this constant reinforcement of selling skills, constantly forcing the message out. It will not happen in one session. I know people know that. We tend to like to look at reinforcement that follows up on post-training knowledge reinforcement as a continuous annualized event but we’re also trying to make it a little bit fun, be very respectful of people’s time, make it competitive. You see on the right side there’s a graphic of a leaderboard. We don’t go with over gamification. I know gamification is a very hot term today. We like to view it in the context of game mechanics, make it competitive. Sales reps by their very nature are competitive. They like to compete against each other. They also like to compete against other regions and we try to incorporate that into our product and I think that helps build continuous learning and it’s a program versus a project.
We tend to look at training as a program and again, I think it’s got to be looked at as an annualized calendar of that. It’s really important. I want to make just a few more points that I find very interesting and intriguing is, we look at knowledge reinforcement platform, so that’s what we do at Qstream. We look at this as sitting down at the beginning of the year and beginning to lay out with our customers in a very consultative way, a quarterly program and try to take advantage of what– we measure proficiency and look at some of those gaps where the reps are really struggling with and build on that sequentially for the next training. When you’re getting data rich metrics like proficiency and again, it’s skill, and its behavior change. You can tell where people are really good at things and you can also tell through the data where they’re not.
One training program can lead to the next training program and it should be very easy to begin to look at this on an annualized basis versus the one and done approach. The example that I might give and then I’ll wind this down would be onboarding a rep. And part of the study that we did was with SMA, the clear data that came back was a nine to 12 months process to ramp up a new rep. Ray talked earlier about the expense involved in bringing on a new employee into an organization.
Attrition is a metric that everyone should stay focused on. It’s expensive, but it’s not a 90 day event. It’s a nine to 12 month process. When you are onboarding as the example, are you doing the quarterly checkups? Are you providing additional training in the second and third quarter?
Are they getting the close win rate that you’re expecting and are you bringing them back in or are you putting them through additional reinforcements on these areas? The one thing I’m very sensitive to with managers is they can’t be on every drive-by, every appointment as I call it. They cannot be with the reps as much as they would like. So what they’re looking for is data that can point them to what the weaknesses are so that they can help these people get out. Sometimes it’s a very fine line between a rep being a superstar and a rep who just doesn’t get it. It’s not as big a gap as some people might think. Ray, thoughts on that or any additional color that you want to bring to that?
Ray: Yeah. Well I think this really ties all three Cs together because it needs to be relevant, right? We need to collaborate, we need to customize and then have that ongoing learning tied to what outcomes you’re looking to achieve. It’s interesting because I just want to call attention to a question that came in from Alicia about building a training program. I think it’s really insightful because you said, well, in some cases you’re not as me.
If the training organization or sales enablement is not as me on a particular process or the product and how do you go about that and tailor it to be specific. I think that actually speaks to all of these were what we would like to do is understand what outcome we’re trying to achieve. This goes back to the initial collaboration with the sales leaders, the managers and the reps to say six months from now, what do you hope that they’re doing differently? Is that that they’re doing discovery at another level? Are they quantifying the problem, the impact of the problem and the benefit of the solution? Are they handling objections more effectively? Are they negotiating and discounting less?
What are those things we’re looking to achieve? Now let’s incorporate that into the key learning objectives, and from your point about continuous learning, let’s make sure we’re challenging them. We’re reinforcing those skills on an ongoing basis, which then you can look at, are they performing at that level? How are they doing competing with each other? And what’s really nice about that is you then provide metrics that you can go back to leadership and say, “Well, we’re really nailing these areas and here’s some areas they’re still struggling” Those are good opportunities for coaching and follow-up. But I thought that was a nice question tying together all the components and really speaks to why we need to do that upfront work and then build that into the continuous learning as well.
Let’s continue on because I think it also leads to this final area about the manager’s involvement and really this could be a fourth C if you will, around coaching. But enabling the managers to go from just being a deal review or maybe an opportunity coach to really being a skills coach and a personal coach. I know there’s a lot of research around better managers equal better results, but maybe you could speak to that as well, Gary, around how do you help the managers diagnose and what’s the benefit of them being able to diagnose and address those skill gaps?
Gary: Yes, great point. How we would address it and how I would specifically address it is it’s not easy being a sales manager with all the pressure on a day-to-day to always understand what the gaps are. It’s not easy. You have to have good objective data that can lead you to that on your people. We try to provide with a training program and with us it’s knowledge reinforcement, post-training series of scenario-based questions that measure proficiencies. We try to provide the manager with a specific quantifiable dataset that tells him this is where you’re not strong, your people aren’t strong. This is where there’s an area for improvement.
I guess the overarching theme that I have is that managers are very open to this information. It’s just that a lot of training is very passive versus active. And what I mean by that is they’re just pushing information, but you’re not able to measure whether people are actually retaining that information and you need tools that can provide you with that data. We’re going to show you in a couple of slides, some examples where you can go very specific into a particular topic that they might not be getting like negotiating skills or something like that. I think the theme is managers need tools, technology, data to be able to help them get reps, get their regions up and running more effectively.
Ray: Absolutely, and I think that’s a combination of having the skills and then as you mentioned, having the data and analytics to know where to focus. We think about sales coaching as creating that coaching culture, the mindset of a coach asking questions, actively listening, assuming best intentions. Instead of a telling and yelling, it is more of a collaborative or coaching approach at least to focus on those skills. I think that’s a foundation. And then having an opportunity to observe, to provide those coaching, the coaching feedback as you said, whether it’s a ride along or a field visit, listening in on calls and then incorporate that into the personal development plan. But that all requires that they have some skills to be able to do that and also they have information about where to start.
What we do know from our research is that better managers tend to outperform, their teams tend to outperform others. And this was from another survey that we did with selling power where we tried to equate what are managers doing differently in high performing sales organizations. Those are achieving a high percentage of the quota. And not surprisingly, those that were spending more time coaching tended to outperform the others and they were more likely to spend time investing, the organizations were investing in their managers as coaches. So they were twice as likely to participate in some type of sales coaching program. We understand the benefit of doing it, and I think the question is why does that get in the way or what are the challenges there? We’ll have one more interaction from our audience here before we wrap up, Gary.
What I’d like to do is have people use that question area in their window to just chat in a response to this. What do you think are the most common reasons managers don’t provide their reps with enough coaching? If you of accept the premise that we could do more or we could do better job of coaching, why isn’t that happening? If you could, please type in your thoughts. Why, doesn’t that happen? And I’ll just read some of these as we go through. Alice, I love your response because it tends to come up in every single workshop we do, which is managers don’t feel like they have time to coach, because it’s a little bit like boiling the ocean. They don’t know where to start. That’s really, really a great input and we’ll address that.
Tilda said they don’t know how to coach. So they don’t have the skills. Alice mentioned that as well. Tilda also mentioned they’re working as producers, so we see that they’re a player coach, but they’re spending more time playing than coaching. Maybe they don’t feel comfortable. That’s Vinja, sorry. Even though they might have the expertise but they’re not comfortable doing it, more comments about don’t know how from Deborah and Samuel. They’re interested in providing feedback as they travel, but they don’t follow up later. I think we see that pretty consistently. Some really great responses coming in from the group here. I guess, Gary, any thoughts or common themes here that you’re seeing or does that resonate with what you would expect?
Gary: Yes, it completely resonates and it’s consistent with things I’ve heard over the years. It’s consistent with when I was a manager. I think a lot of times maybe the question is, if you do have someone in management where do I focus my time coaching? And to me it’s, you got to point people to specific areas. I always use the line, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. But if we can help put some of these managers in a position where they have specific data points on a rep, I think it will help them.
Now there are going to be managers that struggle with coaching and if they’re being utilized as a player coach, that’s a whole other challenge. But the one thing that we try to do at Qstream and the one thing I encourage managers to do is get very specific in the areas where people need help. If we can provide a set of data that helps pinpoint that, you can be much more effective.
Ray: Absolutely, and I think that really speaks to how can we prioritize our time. I always say if coaching is one of the most valuable commodities you have, how do you allocate that commodity, that resource across your team and how do you know even where to start? I think oftentimes, especially for new managers, it’s a bit overwhelming and they often spend time with those who are struggling the most, which ironically isn’t going to give them the best return on that coaching time. They may need to retrain that person.
They may need a performance improvement plan. Maybe that person should be working in a different position, but we can coach them till we’re blue in the face and we may not get there, where if we can move the middle and also focus on our top performers, making them even better, that’s going to be a great impact.
Oftentimes we don’t really know where to start or we don’t have the data to help us there, which is something we’ll touch on briefly. So great responses. There’s just a really good input from the audience. I appreciate that. These are common things we’ve heard, they don’t know how to coach. They’re not spending time with the coaching the right reps that are going to give us the biggest return.
They don’t have that coaching process as we heard from a number of people or even coaching is seen as remedial or it’s only done when they’re on a performance improvement plan as opposed to something that’s sought after that’s seen as valuable and positive in the organization. I think we heard from a number of people overlying all of these as they don’t have time because they haven’t made it a priority.
As Stephen Covey talks about, it’s important but not urgent and things in those categories like coaching and training and strategy, we need to make time and carve time out and put it on our calendar and protect it because the urgent is always going to come into play but we need to have that booked on our calendar in advance. Or we need to have the discipline to say we’re going to spend X amount of time doing it or it’s not likely to happen.
So I think we see a lot of those challenges come up, and helping them thinking about, well, where can a manager get insights and how do they prioritize the time they’re coaching? I know Qstream then can provide a lot of input and analytics around that. Gary, maybe you could speak to the heat map here and some of the tools that a coach can use then to better prioritize the coaching that they’re doing.
Gary: Yes, perfect. So in this just to hammer some earlier points that, think about this, you have a wonderful training session. Maybe it’s on site for a couple of days. You follow up with knowledge reinforcement, focus on proficiency in the particular area of what we call a Qstream challenge. And then you get these beautiful dashboards. We tagged these dashboards by topic and by region.
Maybe in this particular case we were doing a deep dive and really asking a lot of questions around discovery and qualifying, et cetera. And what we do is we take a look at their initial proficiency, their skills, and then when they finish this knowledge reinforcement program that we put out, where are they at today? And what this helps, and I think this goes specifically to the manager and we can drive this down.
This is looking at it from a regional perspective. We can drive this down to a rep perspective. What we can do for example is say overall not great in the qualifying area of the selling process, not good. Now we’re better. We went from 50% on average to 64 but it’s still an area that we need to focus on. And in particular, we can look at the dataset and say that South America in particular is at 51%. This is an area that we need to address or we will never solve the problem.
Now the closing skills seem to be pretty good, but it’s the qualifying that builds the pipeline that gets you to the close. We try to provide very specific data that tells you where to focus. And behind this state is a manager dashboard that looks at individuals and how they perform through this knowledge reinforcement challenge we put them through and then it actually looks at it and breaks it down by question specifically. I think there’s help on the way. And I think the help is providing dashboards to managers to help them know where to coach the particular employees on their team that are struggling. That’s how we go about it and it’s an objective, quantifiable data rich way of going to market. I hope that helps.
Ray: Yes, I think it’s extremely valuable. I just wanted to clarify, we got a question Alice asked, is this feedback on the reps or from managers? And we didn’t want to turn this into a product demo, but I can share just at a layman’s perspective a little bit about what’s going on here. So based on these challenge scenarios that we’re providing after training, and it may be a simple question that has them maybe take a scenario and they’re applying a skill or choosing a response based on that scenario.
Now we’re able to see how the individual reps are doing, Gary, as you mentioned, as well as roll that up. This is a team view. So looking for that team across Europe or APAC, et cetera, how are they doing on each phase of that sales process? Clarify if you will, if I’ve captured that appropriately, but just to give the idea, it’s really at the rep level, at the manager level, and you can roll it up by region or slice it any way you’d like to.
Gary: Exactly, you’re absolutely right. It starts with the participant who is the rep answering a series of scenario based questions and how they’re scoring on that. And again, it’s not used to be punitive. I want to be really clear here. It’s being used to help guide managers to the problem so that they can solve it with the rep. I want to make sure that people realize we view the world and we see it in light of we want to help people. They’re dying to be helped. I was a rep, I know how reps react. They want help, many of them. And it’s just getting the manager to connect the dots with the rep. It starts, as Ray said, by gathering data from an individual participant that happens to be a rep and rolling it up and being able to provide insight. And that’s all we’re trying to do is provide valuable dashboards and insights. So that was right on, Ray.
Ray: No, absolutely. And I think what’s really interesting is the science behind just that reinforcement process actually helps them learn and helps them apply those skills and change behaviors. So it’s not like just doing a knowledge check or a quiz at the end. It’s an ongoing process where they’re getting the questions multiple times in different order. They’re responding to that and just through that process they’re able to reinforce those skills. I think that’s really innovative. So just in the interest of time–
Gary: The only thing, real quick, I know we’re running out of time, but we’ve studied the science of it and it improves retention by over 170%. We know that as a fact.
Ray: Yes, that’s extremely compelling. I think the participant satisfaction is very high as well because of the way the scenarios are built. Just as a few key takeaways and we’ll turn it back to Alonso and see if we have any other questions. We’re happy to take questions offline as well. But what we tried to do was just talk a little bit about training and how to make it effective and specifically around collaborating, customizing and having that continuous learning built in, and some of the things we can do both from a training and a technology standpoint to reinforce that.
Ultimately from a coaching standpoint, how do we enable the managers to be better coaches and teachers, if you will, to be able to continue to focus because the training organization is never going to have a broad enough span or large enough reach to be able to ongoing touch all the participants. We need the managers involvement there. I think that’s critical and giving them the data to be able to leverage and show the results. So, any other parting thoughts, Gary, wrap up or key takeaways that you’d like to share with the audience?
Gary: No, no, I’d just like to thank you very much for inviting me onto the webcast. My comments, if anything made sense, resonated, take a look at Qstream. We’re here to help.
Ray: Absolutely. Well, Gary, I’d very much like to thank you for your participation. I always enjoy collaborating with you and with Qstream. As we said, we definitely share a lot of the same philosophy and principles and it’s great to collaborate and come at that from a little different direction but with the same outcome in mind. So thank you very much. With that, Alonso, I’ll go ahead and turn it back to you. I know you have the questions, they can also talk about how they can get the slides or follow-up materials and we’ll go ahead and wrap up and thanks to the audience for your participation. Great input today, thank you very much.
Alonso: Thank you Ray and Gary. Yes, we have one question but we’re almost at the top of the hour. So if we can keep the answer as concise as possible, that’d be great. Mohammed is asking how do you measure training ROI linked to organizational performance?
Ray: Yes, Gary, I’d love to get your thoughts on this. I know showing proficiency and then being able to correlate that with how the team is doing is a really compelling combination, right? To show, yes, they’ve mastered it and those teams that are mastering it are actually performing at a different level. It takes a bit of organizational maturity to be able to understand those metrics and tie together, but maybe you could share just briefly if you’ve seen examples of that.
Gary: You nailed it, Ray. And that’s what we try to do is we try to take proficiency, quantify it, and then correlate that proficiency to sales performance, which is usually information kept in the CRM. We take our data and try to correlate it to how they’re actually performing from a quota perspective. If you tie that together, it’s very easy to come up with an ROI. I think that is the last mile as they say, that needs to be connected. And if you do that, then you can easily go back to senior management and make the case that sales training, knowledge reinforcement is leading to the end results and higher performance.
Ray: That’s exciting. Like you said, that is the end game and that’s an exciting development. So Alonso back to you.
Alonso: Yes, fantastic. So with that, we’re going to go close the Q&A. Anybody who wants to follow-up with us or has any questions, our contact information is in the slide that you’re seeing right now. A couple of announcements before you leave, to learn more on this topic, again, don’t hesitate to contact us. Finally, there is going to be a short survey showing up as soon as I close this webinar. We appreciate any feedback that you may have for us. We’re always continually trying to improve this program for you and deliver the most value that we can. Finally, thank you so much, Ray and Gary and everyone who has joined us and participated today.
Ray: Thanks everyone. Have a great day.
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