Through the years, a variety of executives and managers have asked me, “How do you buy sales training?”
In early 2000, a very savvy HR Executive, Sheila Ireland, asked me this very question. At that time, I was working for Dale Carnegie Training in Philadelphia. I had all of my training models, like the Kirkpatrick model which measures ROI (Return on Investment), and I was ready to share my 4-step behavior model.
As I prepared to answer, Sheila put her index finger over her lips and said, “Shhh. I purchase millions of dollars of training each year. Let me show you how I buy.”
Sheila then explained to me that she considered three main factors when she purchased any type of training:
Sales Training Content is Available everywhere.
You can google anything and find what you’re looking for. You can find videos on YouTube, and even presentations on Slideshare, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good thing. All content should be supported and validated by other sources.
You need to consider these questions:
- Is the content one man or company’s opinion?
- Has the content been tested or vetted?
- Are you a guinea pig for the content?
- Are they delivering a second hand version of someone else’s original material?
- Or have you hired someone to show up, throw up and deliver?
In order for the information you’re gathering to be valid, all content should be supported by a process.
Validating the Sales Training Process
Here are some thing to consider when you’re validating the process. Look at the number of steps included in the sales process or the negotiation process. Review the number of steps to close? If the trainer can’t support the content with this level of detail, then you’re working with a firm that is teaching how THEY sell, not teaching how TO sell. This type of approach is based on opinion and is style-based, and not based on a solid foundation.
Buying sales training is about predictability. A predictable process yields predictable results!
The key is to know whether the process is easy to implement and re-create eternally.
You need to know the difference between whether the person you are bringing in is going to educate your team, which would be to teach something new, or whether you’re bringing in someone to train your team, which would be to enhance and take action. These two processes are vastly different and knowing this is crucial to your team.
Sales Training Methodology is a More Complex Issue.
Methodology requires the buyer to ask the right questions of the trainer. It’s how the trainer is going to deliver the content to the participants.
I recently spoke to an existing customer who chose to use a new vendor. Obviously this is the last thing you want to hear from a customer. So, I responded that I was respectful of their decision as to how they needed to spend their budget. Now, just to be clear, we call this type of response a cushion. A cushion isn’t an agreement or a disagreement. It’s simply a buffer acknowledging that you heard them.
Then I asked if they could tell me a little more about how they arrived at their decision. That’s when he told me one of our competitors was offering more of a one-on-one coaching process. I thought he gave a fair response. So I asked if there was anything else and to my surprise that was it. Never deter from finding out why a client is considering a new vendor, you never know how you can sweeten that same offer. I asked him if we offered the same level of coaching would he re-consider looking back in our direction. His response, “Tell me more!” Bazinga! I had him.
However, I still needed to dig a little deeper. So, I asked, “If you want more coaching, what is the real issue?” He took a moment, and then replied that his team needed more one-on-one time. That’s when I asked him whether this was a training issue or a sales management issue. Because ultimately, coaching isn’t training, it’s a critical part of sales management. After some reflection, we both agreed that, in addition to training, he needed to adjust his sales management strategy. And that’s exactly what we did.
Questions to Ask When Determining Methodology
So, how do you determine if the proposed methodology is right for your organization? Consider the following:
- What is the training company’s process for assessing your team?
- Will they customize or tailor the content to your needs, or will they use off-the-shelf delivery methods? The right solution for the wrong problem is worse than the wrong solutions for the right problem.
- Most adult learning experts agree that there are 21 ways to train an adult and change a behavior. Which methods will they use? Make them explain their approach in detail.
- Ask for the training outline.
Once you understand the content, process, and methodology, it’s time to talk pricing.
- Are they the lowest option?
- What are their terms?
- How do they resolve your objections?
- Do you really want the lowest price provider training your people?
- Hammer them on price and see how they respond and resolve the objection.
The final consideration should be their approach. Review how they sold you. How did they present and communicate to you? In the end, that is the example of what you are purchasing for your people.
President & CEO