Monday, December 19, 2011

Making The Right Diagnosis

A surgeon doesn't just walk into an operating room, see the patient lying on the tale and start cutting instead, they enter prepared, armed with a history of assessments, diagnostics, and patient background. They understand the source of the problem before they ever set foot in the room. When the do operate, they do so with a full-fledged plan, knowing exactly what it is they need to address.

Training sales staff, while maybe not quite as life and death , involves much the same dynamic. As a Training Director, you can't shoot blind and hope to meet the needs of each salesperson. There is no one-size-fits-all sales training. Salespeople are unique, each with their own strengths  and challenges. The best sales training recognizes and addresses this.

Let's look at an example. As a national sales assessments and sales training company, one of the most common requests we receive from training departments are requests to teach their salespeople how to handle rejection. Our question back to them is always the same.

Are you sure salespeople are capable of handling rejection?

There are two types of sales skills: hard skills and personal skills. Hard skills include things that can be taught, such as product and industry  knowledge transfer.

More difficult to assess (and address) are personal skills. Personal skills include things such as self-image, practical thinking, empathy, and coach ability. Personal skills involve first an awareness and, second, a behavioral change.

The ideal is to marry hard and "soft," or personal, skills in a  complete sales training program. Both skill sets must be assessed. Otherwise, your sales managers and directors won't know if they're facing a coaching situation (personal skills) or a knowledge transfer issue (hard skills) when dealing with a sales rep who, for example, has difficulty overcoming objections.

It's not uncommon for our personality assessments to reveal that a salesperson struggling with handling rejection is an approval seeker. This is a personal skills issue. You as a Training Director can pay good money to teach that salesperson every sales technique there is about how to handle rejection, but it's not going to stick. If they're intrinsically wired to shut down the minute they receive and objection or rejection, no amount of hard skills training can fix that.

Alternatively, sometimes there are just knowledge gaps, like how to process an order, that need to be addressed and involve little to no coaching.

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