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How to Make Sense of Choosing a Sales Training Provider

Choosing a sales training provider might seem like a straightforward task, but the reality is far from simple. Each business has its own unique needs and challenges, making the decision more complicated than it appears. Unlike other B2B service purchases, selecting a sales training provider involves a specific set of factors to weigh and risks to consider.

As companies aim to improve their sales performance, finding the right partner becomes essential.

In this article, we break down the right questions to ask a sales training provider, offering practical advice to help businesses navigate this important decision with confidence.

1. What sales methodologies do you lean on, and why are these relevant to my business?

Over the last 40 years, there have been thousands of sales methodologies created, as well as countless books claiming to have encoded the next paradigm-shifting breakthrough methodology. In truth, many of these do indeed have merit and often carry a lot of value. However, each business is completely unique, and it is unlikely that one ‘out-of-the-box’ methodology will work.

Great sales training providers will lean not only on the latest but also the most credible previous methodologies to guide you to something that suits your business, sales cycle, operating model, and market nuances. They will be able to articulate why they are using a particular component and (crucially) the outcome it delivers.

2. To what extent do you personalize your training and coaching content to our marketplace and buyer personas?

Your business sells a particular product in a certain market to a unique set of customers with their own nuances and idiosyncrasies, and that can’t be solved with a “one-size-fits-all” approach. This approach often leads to low attendance, poor engagement, and little to no adoption.

Any provider worth their salt will be able to explain their process of firstly getting to know your business, market, sellers, buyer personas, and secondly how they modify their training, content, and coaching to meet your needs.

3. How do you ensure ongoing reinforcement of the learnings?

Sales competency falls into the ‘use it or lose it’ category. The moment sellers leave a training session, there is a race against time to ensure the competency is being used, reinforced, and monitored to ensure a high standard is kept. Research estimates that only 20% of training is retained after 30 days. However, with coaching, retention rockets up to 88%.

When choosing a provider, learn about the supporting coaching and management coaching frameworks they will use to tackle this pervasive challenge. A decent provider will have a coaching element to any program and a detailed plan to take sales managers on that journey too. Without this critical piece of the puzzle, any investment will carry substantial risk.

4. How do you measure the impact of the program on skills development?

Sales training is a broad and overarching term. It is important to remember that within any program, there are a series of competencies and skills that you will be looking to improve and measure. The first important step is codifying those competencies and skills as they correspond to the challenges you’re having in the pipeline. Without this important step, you can open yourself up to poor adoption and a lack of relevance.

Once those skills have been codified, you can begin to track improvement and adoption of the skill through coaching scorecards as well as the right management interventions when the skill is either not improving or waning.

The providers who are motivated by long-lasting behavioral change in your organization will be able to detail how they track skill improvement and how to give your business this capability long after the program has finished.

5. How do you measure the impact of the program on live deals and pipeline?

Far too many training providers lean on surveys and, in some cases, anecdotal evidence alone to determine the success of a program. By virtue of needing sales training, there is usually a problem that you’re setting out to solve in the first place – this should be the measurement of successful training.

Come up with a list of both leading and lagging indicators that generate the outcome you’re looking to improve through training and coaching. Ask your provider how they will work backward from these to deliver specific and targeted training.

These can take many forms including (but not limited to) average order value, pipeline conversion, number of opportunities with discounts, length of deal cycle, and even the number of reps achieving quota.

As the program progresses, you may want to change focus on the measurement once you start seeing success in certain areas and as the program shows the sign of adoption in the right areas.

To remove as much risk from your decision, be sure to ask your shortlisted providers to talk you through this very important consideration.

6. How much time do you spend getting to know our managers and leadership team to align on program expectations and outcomes?

The success of a sales training program lies at the feet of many stakeholders. From senior leadership reiterating its importance and tying it to the business’s strategic priorities, the managers reinforcing at a local level, and the reps themselves participating in the program. Making sure all these parties are aligned and the expectations are set is crucial.

The role your provider plays in this is equally as important; therefore, they should take the time to ‘onboard’ themselves into your business.

You should expect your chosen provider to meet the managers participating in the program before the program starts. This will allow them to get a sense of their teams, individual challenges, and specific areas of improvement.

To keep the dialogue open and encourage continual alignment throughout the program, we’d recommend setting up a steering committee to meet at chosen intervals during the program.

We recommend choosing a mixture of stakeholders to make up the steering committee, including those involved in the program (Managers, CROs/VPs Sales) as well as functions that feed into the program from a wider business perspective (Sales Operations, Sales Enablement).

7. What track record do they have of driving lasting change in businesses/sales teams like ours? What evidence do you have of your programs driving tangible revenue outcomes?

One of the hardest hurdles in picking a provider is outcome uncertainty. Either trusting that the provider does what they claim to do but are they capable of delivering the same results for your business?

You will inevitably be greeted with ‘knockout’ case studies and customer examples, but naturally, they have been curated and, in some cases, contractually required in exchange for preferable terms.

To get beyond the case studies ask for contact numbers and email addresses of people they’ve worked with at all levels in the business. It’s important to get broad and rounded feedback from the decision-makers, recipients of the training, and those tasked with reinforcing it after the program finished.

We also recommend speaking to the person tasked with picking them as a provider; they can give you all the considerations and deliberations they went through in picking their provider too.

Lastly, this will give you access to the tangible results the program delivered. It is very unlikely that a provider will completely and utterly alleviate outcome uncertainty; however, these steps will act as further evidence of what to expect.

8. What happens to the IP when your program finishes?

Often sales training providers attempt to increase the lifetime value of their customers by licensing the content when a program finishes. This can take the form of a subscription model, or they rely on you now depending on their content therefore you must make a one-off payment to use it. These models often increase the risk and put more pressure on the success of the program.

Providers that focus on adoption and the overall success of the program will give a baseline

 level of IP and content that will allow the program to flourish and contribute to the adoption of the program for no extra cost.

This will include bite-size learning videos, cheat sheets, and scorecards.

9. How accessible are you to reps and managers during the program outside of scheduled sessions?

People learn at a varying pace with a wide range of learning styles, and the training sessions alone cannot be the only space and time they get to learn. Many will need one-on-one time with training providers to ask questions, go deeper into certain concepts, and ask questions on their journey of development.

There are two ways providers should strive to support this important detail. Firstly, they should be accessible as part of team social channels (Slack and MS Teams as examples). This is a brilliant opportunity to create dialogue with participants and create learning opportunities after training and coaching sessions.

Secondly, within reason, high-value providers will also make time to meet individuals and teams outside of sessions to give support and help them rationalize the training and coaching with added context.

10. With any investment, there’s an element of risk – how will a provider help us reduce this risk?

It’s important to first acknowledge that any provider you pick will carry an element of risk – but you can safeguard against this, the right provider will recognize this and demonstrate how they tackle it.

The last thing you want is to be stuck with a provider that doesn’t fit your business, isn’t delivering value or can’t adapt to changes happening in your organization.

Make sure you have break clauses built into the contract that allow you to cease the program with a fair and reasonable amount of notice.

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