This summer I worked with a start up to create a sales onboarding plan. The problem we faced once we had the plan was that the start up didn’t have the resources needed to actually create the training called for.
This is pretty common in a start-up environment. They don’t have the time to create robust sales training and they don’t have the money to contract it out. Also, with the velocity of change most start ups experience, sinking a lot of time and money into creating training of any sort doesn’t make sense. No sooner will the last “t” be crossed on the training materials then it will be time to revise them.
That said; people still need training. So, here are some quick and dirty workarounds that can get the job done.
1) Record and transcribe best practice sales conversations. At this particular start up, the Vice President of Sales was a master at managing objections. The right clarifying questions and the right responses seemed to just roll off his tongue. In fact, every member of the sales team wanted more time with Rob so they could learn from him. Rob, of course, was over committed with other responsibilities.
I recommended that he record a series of objection handling role-plays. The company could then have the recordings transcribed and distributed to the sales team. They could study what Rob said and apply it to their own conversations. A quiet room, an iphone, and a willing role-play partner were the only resources needed.
2) Create a sales dictionary on Google docs. If you’ve been in sales long enough, you’ve inevitably stumbled across certain phrases that seem to work like Ali Babi’s magic carpet. They open doors. They get a response. They move the sale along.
Why not set up a language of the sale dictionary on Google docs that every member of the sales team can contribute to? This way everyone, including new hires, benefits from the discoveries their fellow team members unearth.
3) Make screen flow recordings. Sales people spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer updating records in Salesforce, researching prospects on LinkedIn, creating and organizing spreadsheets, and more. Let’s be honest. Training new hires on how to do various computer-based tasks can be time consuming and tedious.
Instead of one-on-one training, you can use screen flow recording software to capture how to do a particular task along with an audio explanation. You can then use these mini-movies to train new hires over, and over, and over again. Talk about one and done!
4) Assign new sales hires to create their own sales playbooks, objection handling guides, and competitive battle cards. The benefit of this assignment is twofold. First, it provides a way for new sales hires to synthesize what they are learning into tools they can use going forward. This fosters deep learning and increased sales fluency. Second, it gives sales managers a way to see what new sales hires are, and perhaps more importantly, are not learning. As a result sales managers know where they need to provide remedial coaching. And, all that’s needed are templates for each type of tool so that new sales reps know what information they need to fill in.
5) Cascade new hire sales training. Often the process of training new sales reps goes to a sales training team who doesn’t sell. Unfortunately, you lose a lot of valuable knowledge and skill when you are not in the trenches every day. Another popular approach is to assign training to a stretched-too-thin sales manager or an experienced sales rep who loses valuable selling time while they train. Why not have the last group of sales reps hired and trained train the next group hired instead?
Of course, you need a solid training plan for this to work. But, there are some important pluses to this method. First, when you teach something, you perfect your own learning. What better way to help recently hired sales reps shore up their knowledge and skills then to assign them to teach? Second, recently hired sales reps still remember the stumbling blocks they encountered during their own onboarding. Also, fresh in their memories are the solutions they figured out. As a result, they can then more easily show new hires how to successful navigate their first few weeks or months on the job.
6) Tell stories around the proverbial campfire. Break out the marshmallows! People have been learning from stories since inhabiting caves. Those cave drawings? Ancient flip charts! In fact, did you know that every night in firehouses across the country firefighters share stories about their day. This ritual allows firefighters to learn from each other. Why not do the same with your sales team? Make sure the stories include successes, failures, bumps along the way, workarounds, and lessons learned. This way new sales reps can learn from experienced reps and vice versa. It’s also a great way for the sales manager to get a read on the sorts of issues that the sales team is facing as well as on the strengths and weaknesses of individual reps.