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How to Drive Sales in a Tight Economy: Avoid These 12 Training Missteps That Lower Results

By Casey Cunningham, CEO and Founder, XINNIX: The Academy of Excellence
Sales is written in capital letters at the start of a road that ends in an arrow pointing upwards.

For beach lovers, a walk along the shore is an experience to savor – no matter whether the tide is pouring in or receding. Unlike these sand-and-surf aficionados, though, most business development leaders are naturally happiest when cash is flowing, and less comfortable when it’s running dry. 

During difficult times, though, the outstanding ones see opportunities to move from their comfort zone and deliver even stronger performance. Moreover, they help their teams adopt the same mindset.

How? They throw out the old sales playbook and they retrain everyone on new business development strategies. They also avoid common training mistakes that could impede everyone’s progress, including:

  1. Lack of leadership buy-in: Too often, business development executives require their people to retrain while they remain on the sidelines. Leaders and managers should complete new training programs before anyone else does – demonstrating their support for the updated standards.
  2. Putting the wrong person in charge: During a downturn, how often do companies ask people to shoulder more than one role? That can work in other positions, but not for sales training. How can individuals who are overworked (and very possibly underqualified) empower their teams to maximize revenues and margins and shorten sales cycles? Odds are they just don’t have the bandwidth or the expertise. In this case, it’s important to tap someone who is proven.
  3. Adopting a one-size-fits-all approach: Training everyone the same way at the same time is a recipe for intimidation and confusion (among rookies) and disinterest (among seasoned leaders). Trainers should prepare flexible and robust content to meet everyone’s needs. Great trainers not only make desired outcomes clear; they individualize KPIs according to each colleague’s experience and skill level.
  4. A lack of consistent or sustainable reinforcement: Top-notch trainers know that people’s habits determine their future – and the future of their company. Leaders need to keep modeling and reinforcing new training solutions as “must haves” to ensure that their teams will adopt and master them. 
  5. Improper budgeting: Asking what a training program costs is the wrong question. The right one is how much money will be required to advance your organization. What is your objective and what do you need to get there? Factor in variables like how many people will be trained, how much customization will be required, and what effective follow-up coaching will look like – remembering that team accountability will ultimately drive results.
  6. Exceeding the needs of the team: Though training should align with team members’ needs, it can be tempting to overcomplicate it. Build a modular program that teaches the most important skills first so your colleagues can implement them faster.
  7. Ignoring trainees’ needs: Different teams will likely have different performance gaps – such as prospecting, presenting, or negotiating and closing. Help colleagues tackle their specific needs and call out the positive behaviors that will lead to change.
  8. Attempting to train the masses: Does everyone need to retrain? Maybe not, and requiring outstanding performers to do so will only hold back progress. A better approach is to isolate and address your biggest growth needs. This could mean accelerating the success of underperformers first, then tackling the middle, and then looking again at the top.
  9. Training participants who don’t know what’s in it for them: Salespeople all appreciate having a roadmap for their personal and organizational success. Will they be rewarded for growing revenues, reducing discounts, or speeding the business’s expansion? Will they have the data and tools to empower them?
  10. Incomplete evaluation of training options: Sometimes companies choose training partners with a “build versus buy” mentality – but they miss critical factors in their evaluations. For example, a former training partner might be behind the times. Internal business development executives might be more helpful to their companies in the field than in a training role, even if they’re highly qualified.
  11. Leaving out knowledge capture and transfer: In many situations, trainers are entertaining but use so many stories and anecdotes that they miss critical opportunities to teach. Set a framework for your team’s informational needs, and ensure that trainers address every area.
  12. Forgoing best practices: These best practices include leadership buy-in; content that is robust but easily applied; proven, relevant, and customized approaches; reinforcement; and consistent delivery from facilitator to facilitator.

When sales leaders embrace these training strategies, they have every reason to believe they will ride the waves of success – buoyed by the engagement and commitment of their teams.

Casey Cunningham is CEO and founder of XINNIX: The Academy of Excellence, a premier leadership and sales performance company. For more information, contact the firm at 678/325-3500.