Using Sales Training as a Strategic Tool

Category: Sales Training

By Art Horn

Most of us know sales training as a means to elevate performance in short- and long-term metrics: 

Yet, optimizing performance in these areas surely underlies all business initiatives—probably everything we do ought to be traceable to long-term shareholder benefit.

Sales training is most interesting when seen as a strategic tool.  In fact, one of the most commonly cited reasons for sales training is to differentiate an organization by virtue of the consultative expertise of the sales force. In this case, particularly in commoditized industries, sales training becomes a key method of marketplace differentiation. 

There are other ways to use this tool. Sales training can be used to elevate change receptivity in advance of, or during times of, significant transition. It can be used to help modify the perceptions held by customers and consumers. It can be used to galvanize: 

  • team selling
  • launch products
  • inspire growth
  • reward performance
  • reduce sales force attrition
  • reduce receivables 
  • improve recruiting efforts (people like to work on a sales team that invests in its people)

Sales training can change the culture of a whole organization. There is a growing trend toward training non-salespeople to think like salespeople. Organizations that were once self-identified as bureaucratic –perhaps because they were once government-run (e.g., the post office) or massive in size (e.g., banks) or highly risk sensitive (e.g., hospitals) , often choose to provide what is essentially sales training to help people think like entrepreneurs, develop customer-centricity, generate leads, influence internally. Indeed sales training is not just for salespeople.

Many organizations want their people to think the way ideal salespeople are considered to think. Sales training is often used to nurture an “optimal” attitude for success in business—after all, given that they face rejection almost for a living, salespeople need to be resilient, hopeful, optimistic, self-motivated, and courageous. A decade or two ago scientists couldn’t measure the traits listed above, and certainly had no idea how to heighten a person’s tendency toward them. Credible Human Resources departments were not inclined to invest in such intangible intra-personal nuances. However, with the advancement of technology that can see the inner workings brain and to observe and measure human traits, and scientific evidence that individuals can self-manage these traits, the world of sales training has incorporated positive psychology.

So, self-management (how to stay engaged and positive) is one broad sales training topic. There are three others.  

  • Tactical skills: the ability to “sell” (how to negotiate, make an effective presentation, conduct a meeting, for example)
  • Strategic Skills: the ability to see the big picture, make a plan (a territory plan, an account plan for example)
  • Knowledge: knowing the products, company, and marketplace

Art Horn is the founder of HORN Training and Consulting, Art is the author of four books, the first of which, entitled Skills for Sales Success, has been used as a textbook in colleges and universities across Canada. Originally trained as a psychotherapist, and armed with post-graduate work in Psychology and Philosophy, Art has helped thousands of salespeople become more influential in their lives—both personally and professionally.

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