Sales reps and the sales material and training created for them are often like two ships passing in the night. Out of sight of one another and out of mind, they slide blissfully by. Sometimes the folks behind the very training and materials designed to help sales reps—and the reps themselves—plot very different courses to the same destination.

The result is often two ships on parallel courses, but not quite aligned. It’s a perfect lose/lose scenario.

Asking pivotal questions is one way to align reps and sales support staffers because the right questions reveal the pitfalls hidden within business-as-usual.

1. Are you developing sales training in sales context?

Sales support training is only one of many elements available to reps to enhance and enable their selling efforts. Only 10% of what sales reps learn comes from sales support training. So keep it all in perspective and view every effort through the lens of the reps’ learning discipline:

  1. Where should I spend time?
  2. What do I need to prepare for an immediate need and where or from whom can I get it?
  3. Where or from whom can I get quick answers to customers’ questions?

2. Are your efforts aimed at the right goal?

Given proper context, the goal should be motivating sales reps to sell—acting eagerly on what has been presented as a new opportunity. Achieving this kind of reaction will likely mean retooling how you think about training.

Persuasion, not merely communication—is the name of the game.

3. Is the training model correct?

What if neither product training nor sales skills training can single-handedly achieve the goal of motivating sales reps?

A third category, sales enablement training, can help motivate and excite by focusing on product training for sales, competitive training, and sales opportunity.

4. Are the learning objectives aligned?

As shown below, the learning objectives for product training and sales enablement training are very different.

Learning Objectives for Product Training:

  • State what the product does
  • Recall how features work
  • Explain how the product is different
  • Demonstrate key features

Learning Objectives for Sales Enablement Training:

  • Understand what the product does
  • Learn which customers and buyers to target
  • Identify the size of the opportunity
  • Recognize how the product solves customers’ key business challenges

So, what can you do about about this learning objective disparity? There are two methods for getting the learning objectives right: 1) ad hoc and 2) organizational.

Ad hoc requires the developer to reach out to the sales team for a discussion about the learning objectives each time training is requested or proposed.

With the organizational approach, the sales and marketing teams “jointly create and agree on a sales training requirements matrix,” which brings together the agreed-upon learning objectives and overall content that the teams can suggest or propose.

5. Is the customer content effective?

Remember, customers want answers to questions like these:

  • Why should I consider your company, product, or service?
  • Why should I meet with you?
  • Why should I change from what I’m doing to a new, untested solution?
  • Why should I choose you from among all the companies available to me?
  • Why should I buy now?

The answers to these questions are the stuff of persuasion. This is what sales reps want, but is it what they’re getting from sales support? As we have seen, they are probably getting a steady diet of descriptive content instead.

6. How good is the visual and verbal delivery of content?

You could do everything we’ve talked about well and still stub your toe at the very end. So don’t let this last item be your first mistake.

In the visual category, avoid slides that are text heavy or contain images that don’t support and enhance the point.

On the verbal side, disaster usually awaits a presentation that is delivered with a heavy accent, mindlessly read, or delivered in a lifeless monotone with no excitement, passion, or humor.

These are not monumental problems, and training in basic presentation skills usually works wonders.

The “right” questions to ask will vary with the circumstance, of course. But resolving to ask key questions at the beginning can do a lot to align what sales support produces and what sales reps need.

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