3 Pillars For Rolling Out Skill-Based Training For New Sales Hires

Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks

skill based training new hiresI’d like you to picture that you coach a sports team. You’ve been hired after the annual draft, and need to start assembling your final roster during training camp. How do you think the most successful coaches would approach training camp?

  1. Push only last year’s roster to tackle new advanced plays.
  2. Make sure that their newly drafted teammates can master the basic plays that the entire team has always executed.

I hope the answer seems obvious in sports.

But why doesn’t this seem obvious in a sales and marketing department? This is where you can help shape your annual sales kick-off (SKO) and quarterly business reviews (QBR) to incorporate skill-based training.

1) Product Has No Place at The SKO

It’s been my observation that most SKOs and QBRs are far too product-training heavy. I’ll meet streams of newly hired sales professionals at these events and pick their brains about their onboarding process. The process was a fire house of “how to sell our product,” and now they’re at SKO, and the objective of this three-day event it to showcase the product road map for the next 12 months.

Unfortunately, these newly hired sales professionals are missing the basic “blocking and tackling” of your core team’s sales methodology, let alone adding new skills such as social or digital selling. This is how Random Acts of Social can metastasize in your business. Before you know it, there is a huge discrepancy between how a ten-year veteran and your new sales professionals are selling.

Compound this among hundreds of sales professionals in different regions and countries, and the “prioritizing” of new campaigns, and stopping and starting new initiatives…we’re talking about utter chaos.  This chaos has a real negative business outcome for sales organizations striving to hit sales quota.

  1. You’ll have a much more difficult time helping each sales professional meet his or her sales quota if all are selling differently.
  2. Compound other initiatives that have been rolled out to some sales professionals, and not others; your prioritizing of needs for each sales professional becomes almost too dynamic. There isn’t just one skill gap, but many.  How can you measure the effectiveness of your sales force if there isn’t an even baseline between everyone?

2) Execute On The Sales Playbook first

You as a sales enablement leader need to change your new hire program to aligning all skills shared among every sales professional. The knowledge your top sales professionals have, and are executing on each day, needs to be the same playbook for your new hires.

We’ve seen companies recognize that changing a sales culture works exactly like a sports team. Strong sports franchises that have a down year(s) or cultural challenge, will fix this with new players from the draft. These sports franchises know that the most successful teams will organically grow and develop a positive culture together. Player by player, the old culture is pushed out by the new culture.

If you’re keen to develop a synergistic ecosystem, I highly recommend you incorporate any digital training directly into the new hire program.

Companies will use the first week of onboarding to tackle the company’s fundamentals such as “culture” and “product training.” Immediately afterward, the sales enablement team will begin rolling out skill-based training to ensure every sales professional is selling the same way. 

Don’t wait! I’ve seen companies that didn’t even have proper territory assignment and compensation plans ready for new hire training. Can you really afford to have a sales professional executing in market for three months, without the same playbook as your other team members?

3) Use Empathetic, Role-Based Training

I’m a huge fan of role-based training and practicums to test that a newly learned skill is translating into a sales outcome. Think of HubSpot: HubSpot sells its Marketing Automation solution to marketers, and the company wants its newly hired sales professionals to empathize with marketers. To accomplish this, each new hire is responsible for building a personal website, and promoting the website using content, paid advertisements and so on. There is a defined goal for each website, which teaches each sales professional the difficulties that marketers are having in gaining high rankings on Google.

Using this same logic, I recommend your new hires sit with the Digital Content Marketing team for a period of time. Watch the team create, organize, distribute and evaluate its campaigns. Have the team see exactly how a marketer supports the sales team’s success.

Have the sales team start at the foundation by learning the Buyer’s Journey. You can’t afford to have these sales professionals cycle into their sales role and slip into the same myopic view that most sales professionals have, especially the seasoned veterans. As the old saying goes: “Just because you sell hammers that doesn’t mean everything you see is a nail.”  Broaden your new hire’s appreciation for sales and marketing integration, and the power of Team Revenue.


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