Sustainable Sales Training is about Attitudes and Habits

This week’s blog is by Leanne Hoagland-Smith, Founder and Chief Results Officer of ADVANCED SYSTEMS, an international human capital performance improvement firm that focuses on the creation sustainable results using positive return on investment solutions. Her book, Be the Red Jacket in a Sea of Gray Suits: The Keys to Unlocking Sales Success, is available in the Store.

Sales training is one of the few areas within the training and development industry to experience a growth in 2009. The areas of sales management and sales coaching are expected to secure approximately one-third of all dollars invested in sales training.

Yet the question remains: Will this help achieve the desired end result of more sales?

Given that training and development continues to be modeled after the K-16 educational experience, I strongly doubt the anticipated results of sales training will be any greater than in past years.  Yes, coaching is on the rise and is one of the few areas of learning that does demonstrate a positive return on investment.  However, for many small to medium size companies, hiring sales coaches for each sales person is not economically feasible.

What these companies can do instead is revise their sales training curriculums to focus more on developing positive attitudes and habits and less on honing sales skills and knowledge.  Some very expensive sales trainers and publishers of sales training curriculum might take offensive at this suggestion, but let’s look at what the sales research suggests:

  • Almost 50% of all sales leads are not followed up
  • 25% of sales people stop after the second contact
  • 12% of sales people stop after the third contact
  • 10% of sales people make more than three contacts
  • 80% of all sales are made on the fifth to 12th contact

This data reveals that the obstacle to sales people achieving their sales targets is not a lack of knowledge or skills, but rather poor attitudes and habits.

Sales professionals know leads keep them employed and the business sound.  Most also know that unless they are told to go to Hades, the sale can still be earned. Yet many lack the necessary attitudes and habits to do what they know they must.

The question sales trainers, sales coach and consultants should be answering is “Not do they know it?” but rather “Do they want to do it?”

When the sales training facilitation can generate the emotional buy in, or “what’s in it for me,” only then can it lead to “what’s in it for us?” as the organization.

Now is the time to invest in positive attitude and habit development within your sales training. Yes, sales skills are important, but the will (attitude) will always exceed the skill (knowledge).

The Truth About Older (50+) Salespeople

Steve Martin shares an interesting view about hiring candidates over the age of 50. “It is hard times for salespeople (and sales managers) over 50 today. As companies downsize, they find themselves five times more likely to be let go when compared to their younger counterparts. They also have a more difficult time finding new jobs because younger sales managers have five basic fears about hiring someone older than themselves.”

“How to Win a Pitch” reveals secrets to sales success

As one of the country’s preeminent experts on selling skills and communication, Joey Asher is no stranger to winning business. In his latest book, How to Win a Pitch: Five Fundamentals that will Distinguish you from the Competition, Asher offers sellers valuable strategies and tactics to distinguish them from the competition and win business.

I had the good fortune to interview Asher recently about his new book, which is available in the SalesJournal Store, and discuss with him where sales professionals make the greatest mistakes.  He shared with me that the book came from his desire to help business people learn to create and deliver effective new business presentations.

“In today’s economy, a single new piece of business can make a huge difference for a company,” he says. “This book can help you win business. It details the exact approach we have used in helping our clients win billions of dollars in new business contracts over the last 23 years.”

Asher believes that many sellers fall short when it comes to pitching because they don’t understand what a good pitch requires—providing a solution to their prospect’s key business challenges. With that in mind, he identified the best pitches as those that start by focusing on the problem that the prospect’s business is facing, then detailing a plan to help solve that problem.

“I think another major shortcoming is the failure to rehearse. Rehearsal shows. Yet most sellers don’t rehearse much,” he adds.

To Asher, the biggest myth surrounding sales pitching is that you must articulate why your company is different.  In a short presentation, it’s very difficult to show how what you do is any different than your well-qualified competitors. But if you execute the five fundamentals detailed in the book, you’ll distinguish yourself from the competition. These fundamentals are:

  1. Keeping your message focused on a solution to your prospect’s needs
  2. Keeping it simple
  3. Speaking with passion
  4. Answering questions well
  5. Rehearsing

“Few of your competitors will execute those five fundamentals. So if you do execute them, you’ll distinguish yourself,” Asher says. “Winning a new business pitch is about executing a series of fundamentals better than your competitors, most importantly focusing your message on your plan to solve a key business problem for your prospect [and] rehearsing like crazy.”

For more information on or to order How to Win a Pitch, visit the Store.

Where Is The Money In These Challenging Times?

Paul Castain, Vice President of Sales Development for Consolidated Graphics, is assuming that you are already picking low hanging fruit with existing clients, referrals etc so let’s save that discussion for another time. He wants to discuss finding money during challenging times.   

Think about this: “Businesses, regardless of what they do want: Increased Sales, More Profit, More Market Share, Happy Customers, Shareholders and Employees, They want to retain employees, customers and shareholders, they want to be more innovative, have quicker to market turn times, they want to streamline efficiencies, and in a bad economy they crave more of these things.”

The wise bet is on the rep who understands that and goes where the real money is right now!