Note: This series, “Creating a Brilliant Sales Force,” looks at how you can purposefully design an incredible sales force to reflect your values and align them with your goals. In this third installment, we’ll look at how training reinforcement can keep your sales team sharp. Read the first installment of this blog series here, and the second installment here.
Brilliant jewels are no accident. The people who shape diamonds have a plan for success, and they follow that plan to a T.
When a jeweler gets a rough diamond, they are very careful to maximize its value. They want to get the largest, clearest and most brilliant stone possible.
Instead of immediately revving up the diamond cutter, they take their time to plan it out. There’s lots of careful mapping of cuts—more than 50 on a typical diamond—and patient attention must be paid to each. Otherwise, a jeweler could ruin something that took three billion years to create.
In this respect, nurturing a sales force is not much different. Before new sales team members can shine, they must learn about your offerings through rigorous classroom training or online courses to familiarize them with your processes and procedures, or by visiting customers with a mentoring senior rep.
Training is essentially rough-cutting a diamond, and it’s an essential piece of molding a new sales team member.
But research has consistently demonstrated that humans only retain about 10% of any new skill they learn, unless they’re regularly practicing it. So, all that training probably isn’t remembered if they’re not using what they learned in their day-to-day interactions right away.
That’s where training reinforcement can help.
A Winning Training Reinforcement Approach
Training reinforcement can encourage new sales reps to actively use specific training and incorporate lessons into their day-to-day interactions. Here’s an example of a training reinforcement approach:
Let’s say you just conducted a sales meeting with breakout session to train your people on a new product. What can you do to reinforce your training and drive new product sales more quickly?
- Have reps take an online quiz a week after your sales meeting. Make it open book—you’re not trying to embarrass anyone who wasn’t listening in the breakout session. You want them to remember the key features, advantages and benefits of your product. Offer an incentive for completing and passing the quiz within five days to create a sense of urgency.
- Have them focus on five new targets for the new product and commit to doing a demo for them within two weeks. An online form can be used to submit their targets and you could provide a small reward for each demo conducted in the two weeks to create urgency and drive activity.
- Sweeten the deal with an incentive to target prospects within the first month. Announcing incentives as part of an overall training reinforcement strategy makes them think carefully about who to target and encourages them to act quickly.
Using a planned training reinforcement approach combined with rewards for activity and greater rewards for sales within a specific time period offers a strong road map for success. It reinforces the messages they need to become more confident in selling your products, solutions and support teams and hopefully encourages engagement and greater productivity.
Does Training Reinforcement Really Work in the Real World?
A client of ours, a telecommunications company, wanted to motivate their dealer sales representatives to increase sales, improve product awareness, build long-term loyalty and instill the importance of training and certification in their team.
To do this, we helped them put together a tiered training reinforcement program. As an independent dealer channel, we couldn’t mandate active participation, but we could use rewards to encourage active engagement.
The approach was simple:
- Enroll all dealer sales reps in a sales incentive program with rewards for sales of eligible products.
- The dealer sales reps who completed a series of product training and quizzes earned more rewards for each sale:
- Earn 150% greater rewards for each sale by completing pro-level training.
- Earn 200% greater rewards for each sale by completing masters level training.
In the first year of this training reinforcement program, the client saw an incredible outcome:
- 15% increase in overall sales in a stagnant market.
- Reps who completed pro-level training sold 280% more product than those who did not.
Building confidence with your sales reps by encouraging immediate use of new skills learned through training reinforcement will help generate both short-term sales and reinforce the skills to keep them engaged.