October 19th, 2009
Last week, I received a call from a firm with 700 salespeople in a somewhat commodity market. The person I spoke to was in charge of the firm’s sales training programs; we discussed a variety of programs we’ve created to develop sales certification programs for other sales training organizations. When I asked this person why he was considering the need for sales certification when most organizations are cutting back on sales training, he told me that in their tough industry, sales leadership felt that building a higher-quality sales team can separate the firm from the competition and add value to their sales offerings.
Adding sales value will be a critical success factor in 2010. This is true for organizations with five or fewer salespeople and certainly for those with more than 500.
With many clients, we simply work to install a three-week new-hire-on-board training program, and then build quarterly sales training programs that cover product/technical knowledge, sales skills, competition and company operations (CRM) industry awareness. These are designed to increase the professional value of the salesforce.
Sales certification takes this concept one step further. Sales certification requires a philosophical commitment from management to building a strong sales culture. It will result in more analytical sales data, less turnover, higher margins and long-term client relationships. A sales certification program requires sales team training, testing and validating that the training has been accepted and acted upon by the sales team.
This is the “inspect what you expect” approach we’ve written about before. We recommend to all our clients that twice a year (at minimum), each salesperson must be videotaped selling your company and your solutions and presenting a solutions recommendations or sales proposal. This not only allows sales management to access the skill levels of each salesperson, but it also builds a sales training library of the “best” sales training videos for each of the presentations.
Sales certification can also take it much further. In one situation, we hired professional actors to roleplay sales scenarios. Each salesperson had 30 minutes to read the sales scenario prior to walking into the sales situation in which the professional actors (a panel of three judges) evaluated the sales call. One note: The professional actor had a slightly different sales scenario. This forced the salesperson to react in real time — just like a real sales call. Each sales call was videotaped and judged on a pass/fail basis. This pressure and need to perform added the edge to getting it right! We also did this in their account planning process each quarter.
The last piece of sales certification is a tie to sales compensation. As each phase of certification level is achieved — you may have three to five levels of certification — higher levels of compensation can be paid. We like to recommend a quarterly percentage bonus if 100 percent of QTD quota is achieved.
2010 won’t be an easy year. The economy will still be fighting back, there will be worries of inflation and devaluing of the U.S. dollar, unemployment will still be high, and terrorist threats will still exist. Creating teamwork among quality salespeople will the way to ensure you sell your way out of the recession. In fact — and this is our message for 2010 — successful companies will have to create the policies, strategies and people to create their own opportunities and sell, sell, sell. Taking orders is a lost strategy. Sales leadership must set the discipline, accountability and control within their sales organizations to separate themselves from their competition with sales certification.
Ken Thoreson, president of Acumen Management Group Ltd., “operationalizes” sales management systems and processes that pull revenue out of the doldrums into the fresh zone. During the past 12 years, our consulting, advisory and platform services have illuminated, motivated and rejuvenated the sales efforts for partners throughout North America. Move up and move ahead! Acumen Management provides keynotes, consulting services and products designed to improve business performance.