What’s at the Core of Effective Sales Training

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

All sales training looks alike.

Right?

On the surface, there are a lot of apples next to apples — similar steps, similar scenario-based practice, similar evaluation.

But under the hood, there are some key differences.

In most sales training, two huge components are missing. When these are overlooked or unaddressed, companies like yours spend all of this time and effort getting people trained and see very little difference back in the real world.

Let’s talk about what those sales training programs leave out.

 

1. Beliefs Drive Behavior

A lot of sales training is prescriptive: do this, say this, answer this way. But it never gets deeper into the beliefs that drive the reps’ behavior change. Much of what we’ve learned to think about selling actually sabotages our ability to deal with real selling situations.

We’re training to fix the symptoms of ineffective selling, modifying stance, approach, pitch. 

We’re teaching people how to “act better.”

But even if your salespeople use solid tactics, a disconnect in belief will spell imminent demise.

Let me explain.

We have a sales principle at ASLAN we call Drop the Rope®. It means, essentially, lay down your arms and stop behaving as though the person in front of you is your rival or enemy. Reduce the tension and refuse to fight.

This positioning is great, in theory. But if salespeople still believe in their heart of hearts that they have to aggressively maintain control to win the sale, their behavior won’t change, at least not in the long-run. What’s worse, motives are far more transparent than we think they are. Customers will sniff out the inconsistency between what a rep says and how they behave, and the jig is up.

Beliefs go deep, encompassing most of who a person is and then how they act. One idea we purport is that “what works in life works here.” What works in life works in sales. Because that is true, we train using parallels from life’s most important relationships.

Parenting, for instance. Parents are great at dictating rules. But what about being influential? 

Influence is the big goal behind both parenting and selling.

I tell a story in my sales training about my teenage son. Picture it: my son is a normal teen with normal decisions to make about right and wrong. What if, instead of laying down a law, I walk into his room and explain, “I can’t make decisions for you. But I would like to talk about what you’re thinking about. Can I tell you a story about… “?  And he says, “Sure…”. Now heads start to nod and light bulbs go off. 

That approach gives me influence in the long-run.

When salespeople change their fundamental beliefs — shifting focus from the product or themselves to the customer — it will result in long-term behavior change. This approach enables them to win influence. Good sales training makes this possible. 

 

2. Focus on the “What,” Not the “How”

Every sales training program you ever look at has steps: 

  • Introduction
  • Ask questions
  • Pitch/prove
  • Close

Step one, step two, step three, step four. It promises: progress through the formula and win the sale. 

In real life? Not so clean-cut.

Think of skill-building in salespeople as a cook versus chef. Anyone can cook, meaning, anyone can follow a recipe to the letter and get something close to the result. But a chef is an innovator. They have imagination. Flexibility. Big-picture thinking.

Chefs break out of the rules and go beyond the rules. No one would ever put garlic corn-on-the-cob on ice cream. But some guy in Reinholds, PA does it and it’s delicious… and his #1 seller.

Yes, there are standard steps to sales. Follow them, and you’ll statistically increase the likelihood of engagement.

But what about the result of the “steps”?

This is often unaddressed entirely, but it’s the whole point. 

For instance:

  • What’s the goal of the introduction? — A good intro will result in the customer being open and receptive.
  • What’s the goal of discovery? — Effective discovery results in gaining all of the information a salesperson needs to help the customer, as well as helping the customer feel heard, understood, and validated.
  • What’s the goal of a pitch? — A solid pitch builds value, ensuring the customer emotionally embraces the recommendation, which leads to…
  • The goal of the close or advance — To get the customer to commit to the next and best step.

 

Bad training skips the goal of each of these, just drilling on the details of question types or pitch tactics. You can’t forget about the art and the talent of selling.

If sales training focuses exclusively on the formula, it will miss the real untapped potential in your people. Which will then miss the desired result. 

Salespeople need a vision set in front of them, and the freedom and agility to pursue the goal. It’s a far more complex skill to build, so most sales training programs don’t bother, or simply don’t know how to zoom out and unlock talent at this level. But, in my opinion, it’s the real key to success.

 

Deploying a Better Sales Training Program

At ASLAN, the core of what we do is Other-Centered Selling. It’s a framework we developed that spins out the process: engage, discover, build value, advance.

It starts with beliefs: beliefs that other people are important and worthy of our concerted attention and efforts. Beliefs shape the process, and until we change salespeople’s beliefs, their behavior is a lost cause.

Our sales training starts there, then focuses on the ultimate goal of selling. All mechanisms and tactics aside, an eye-on-the-prize mentality, an envisioned ideal outcome, is imperative for success.

Effective sales training teaches with the result in mind.

 

Find an Effective Sales Training Program

True change starts at the level of beliefs, so that’s where sales training has to start too. Then, your people need a powerful vision with a clear picture of what ideal results look like. Tackle these two areas, and sales training has a good chance of resulting in true personal and professional transformation. Which is what you need to see real change. 

 

We set a high standard for effective sales training. Check out our programs and connect with us anytime to learn more.

As President of ASLAN, Marc is responsible for all day-to-day operations including our sales and marketing efforts and growing our success in helping our clients be Other-Centered®.

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About ASLAN

The best way to get to know us is to know what we value. If we teach it we live it, because what we do speaks far more eloquently than what we say. We’ll always choose people over profits, and we’re most fulfilled and effective when we serve. It drives our culture, frames our training programs and transforms the lives of the clients we partner with.