We've all been part of the traditional "sales training" event a company organizes. Each quarter, or at least a couple times a year, companies bring the team in for training. It highlights new features or releases of the product(s), how to deal with objections, how to persuade, incentivize, progress deals through your pipeline.  New collateral is released, new use cases, new site features, etc. Usually people on the product side speak about industry trends and why this is a good fit. There might be some outside speakers that are engaging. The CEO is inspirational, the events are fun.  

But then what?

What do YOU do on your own to train YOURSELF? It's an interesting question, as there have been countless studies on the effectiveness of outside sales training. In fact, US Companies spend over $20 Billion a year on sales training. Unfortunately, by the next quarter, it starts to lose some effect. Much of outside sales training success depends on how much one applies themselves to it. It is also very product focused, not personal to your interaction and relationship development with prospects. Some companies go a step further and adopt a methodology, like "Solution Selling" or "Strategic Account Selling" which is a more formalized approach to pipeline management.

There is little to no research on how the effort around "self-designed" sales training sticks. Yet, this is one of the best investments a professional can make in themselves. The retention and application of what a person learns in any field is much greater when they are motivated. Also, there is a big picture at play. Not just the company you are at now, but to you as a professional and how your career develops. The time you take to educate yourself ensures you are very well-versed in trends, news, industry publications, and are able to map what you learn to discussion points so you can quickly dive in at the level of your customer. 

When customers have participated in studies (great article with podcast by Harvard Business Review) about what they really want in a sales rep, top of the list is someone that understands their business and unique challenges. The knowledge of your product is important, but how it fits into the big picture with all the various scenarios they could be dealing with is what establishes you as an expert.

What can you do right now to invest in yourself?

  1. Pick 2 industry publications you will subscribe to. Not sales oriented but industry. Since everything we do is in enterprise tech, publications like CIO Magazine and Information Week are great to keep up on trends.
  2. Set Google Alerts for topics related to your customers and solution(s). Keep up with what is happening outside of your company.
  3. Start keeping track of social channels on Twitter and LinkedIn that has content you can learn from related to areas you are working on.
  4. Always step back and connect the dots, it's important to see how what was going on a year ago maps to now, and how there is overlap with all of it.
  5. Build a reading list of books on new sales and management trends. Keep up on what is effective, and what is dated.
  6. Spend 15 minutes a day reading about your industry, verticals, trends, news, and other relevant information.
  7. Make an honest assessment of your strengths and challenges, and have a plan. Example, if you don't like to speak in front of groups, join Toastmasters.
  8. Keep a list of what you want to learn about related to your industry, and work through it over the coming months. Is it understanding the history of Supply Chain Management? Networking/Telecom?  It isn't boring once you dive in, and it will give you a huge advantage when talking with customers/prospects when you bring a background of knowledge.

Are you doing any of these things above now? Spending 15 minutes a day developing yourself pays off for years to come. I'll look forward to hearing how some of your have implemented a "self-designed" model of sales training and the impact it has with your customers!