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Matching Your Needs to a Sales Trainer

Note: This blog post was written by Al Case, ESR’s Principal Analyst and Research Fellow.

Selecting the best sales training provider for your company’s needs isn’t easy. In simple terms, it’s a matter of finding the provider at the intersection of a number of critical learning areas. Let’s examine just three of them them individually:

Target industry.  As recently as seven years ago, one of the largest groups of companies consuming sales training were in the high technology industries such as telecommunications, software, hardware and related services. As many as 75% of sales training companies catered their products to these related industries. Then ESR began to see a shift. More and more industries sought to increase sales/sales productivity by providing high quality, industry-specific sales training. Today, as many as 60% of sales training companies ESR has evaluated have clients and tailored offerings for industries including, but not limited to, manufacturing, retail, transportation, pharmaceutical, professional services, financial services, and others. This is a trend that ESR believes is both healthy and permanent.

Sales skills subject areas. Sales training companies typically specialize in one or more sales subject areas, but rarely deliver high-quality solutions in all sales subject areas, with the possible exception of a handful of the world’s largest sales training companies. A typical categorization of sales training subjects might include:  basic selling skills, advanced selling skills, selling to executives, sales management, coaching, inside sales, messaging, negotiation skills, opportunity management, strategic account management, financial acumen, channel management, etc.  Remember please that effective sales training is not picking one subject for this year’s sales kickoff meeting and then another subject for next year’s.  The results of an objective and comprehensive requirements analysis will lead to an approach where some of these (and other subject areas) will be integrated into a long-term learning approach and delivered over time using the media that best suit the situation.

Another important point: Your sales training requirements are best determined without the influence of any sales trainer who might be later bidding for your business.  ESR has found repeatedly that these assessments can be biased toward the capabilities of the sales trainer and gaps not within the sales trainers’ areas of expertise are missed or worse, avoided.  Eliminating that potentially harmful conflict of interest is what was intended by my use of the word “objective” in the paragraph above.

Target company/sales force size.  Most sales training companies have a desire to secure large, long-term training assignments—many with large corporations. The fact of the matter is, depending upon the type of training provided, the resources (and hence size of the sales training company) has a direct bearing on its ability to service the sales training client. Large, global enterprises have few choices for one-stop shopping when it comes finding the right sales performance improvement partner. The challenge of limited sales training company resources and size can be partially, but not completely mitigated by the effective use of sales training-related technologies such as pre-recorded and standardized training modules, live and on-demand virtual learning content, and audio and video teleconferencing.

To the point: Looking at the intersection of your industry, company size and specific sales training required against sales training providers capable of meeting that set of needs can dramatically simplify your decision. The objective of ESR’s sales training provider research is to do exactly that—categorize and match sales training provider capabilities against sales training buyer profiles. We dig much, much deeper, of course, but this approach you set you off in the right direction.

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