There are many popular and effective training programs on the market that are targeted specifically to the needs of sales professionals.
The “Challenger Sale” philosophy from the Corporate Executive Board is a notable one, and it’s getting a lot of attention right now.
This forward-thinking approach to sales training developed out of the Corporate Executive Board’s research on the skills and personalities of sales professionals who consistently outperform their peers when operating in a complex sales environment.
The “Challenger Sale” concept is based on the research-supported notion that highly effective sales reps “use their deep understanding of their customers’ business to push their thinking and take control of the sales conversation. They’re not afraid to share controversial views and are assertive.”
The Challenger approach to sales training (and others like it) do an excellent job of developing the selling capabilities of sales reps, but they don’t necessarily provide sales professionals with complementary skills—skills that support the sales process and help the sales team add greater value to the team and organization.
In our experience, organizations that implement a complete sales “academy” with a well-rounded developmental curriculum are more successful than their counterparts. While we agree that selling skills are mandatory, we’ve also seen the importance of developing other, “softer” skills—and when used in conjunction with strong traditional sales skills, these skills and competencies lead to bottom-line results every time.
There is almost always an opportunity to enhance the training programs provided to your sales force. Whether you are currently using the Challenger Sale process, another similar sales-training program, or simply want to broaden the reach of your business’ current approach to employee development, we suggest that you consider adding some new topics to your sales curricula. Here are some areas that we think shouldn’t be missed:
- Business acumen (sometimes referred to as “Mini-MBA”): This is an important part of any sales-development process because so many salespeople lack an essential understanding of business fundamentals. Selling ideas and new solutions to customers is difficult if the salesperson is unable to speak credibly about business finance and operations, as well as creating long-term value and generating bottom-line results. When sales reps have this knowledge, they are more likely to grasp their customers’ business, as well as their own, in a deeper, more-insightful way. Challenger sales reps have the capacity to teach their customers how to make money or save money, but without a solid foundation in business essentials, this would be difficult for any rep to accomplish.
- Strategic Thinking: The value of sales reps who have the ability to think and act strategically is that they are better at analyzing the market environment and customer needs. They can then use that information to create strategies for meeting consumer demands that will add value and benefits for their customers. The key is for sales reps to create greater differentiation between their own organizations and the competition. In order to do that, they need to be able to strategically leverage the competitive advantage their companies offer as they present their solution and ideas to prospective customers.
- Innovation: The best sales reps are able to identify or develop creative solutions that meet their customers’ current needs. However, sales reps not only need to address the current needs of customers, they also need to be able to pinpoint what their customers’ future, unmet needs are going to be. This requires the ability to think innovatively, making innovation another excellent and complementary training topic to consider. Innovation can play a key role in securing a sale when reps are dealing with customers who have undefined needs.
- Change: Many customers are resistant to or skeptical about considering new ideas and making changes, so a rep who is comfortable with the concepts underlying change management and change leadership will be better equipped that their competition to manage contrarian, stubborn, or change-averse customers. An element of training that addresses change in some fashion will not only benefit sales reps in terms of their customer relationships, but will also improve change resiliency in their organization and team as a whole.
- Emotional Intelligence: A key part of the Challenger approach is to teach, tailor, and take control. However, in order for sales reps to effectively influence their customers in that way, they need to have keen emotional intelligence and personal awareness of how they manage their behavior in situations of all types. Improving emotional intelligence and using it as a sales tool makes a long-term, positive impact on customers, the organization, and the professional satisfaction of sales reps.
Every organization’s training needs are unique, but the inclusion of some or all of these topics will help round out the courses offered in your sales academy and provide a distinctive, individualized curriculum for your sales organization.