Magazine article Talent Development

Simulations Give Sales Training a Dose of Reality

Magazine article Talent Development

Simulations Give Sales Training a Dose of Reality

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

How many times have we heard salespeople complain about being disappointed by a sales training program? All too frequently. Unfortunately, sales training often comes down to a self-proclaimed expert flipping through a bundle of PowerPoint slides with a quick role play tossed in here and there.

Salespeople are a more important strategic asset to companies than ever before. In today's market, a salesforce not only must be able to sell a competitive advantage but they also must be a competitive advantage.

Companies continually try to give their salesforce the skills needed to become a competitive advantage by taking the sales teams out of the field--away from their customers--and into a classroom. The total cost of a training session is not simply the price of the program; it also includes the cost of lost time in the field with real customers. Given these cost elements, it is imperative that all sessions be valuable to the sales team and provide high impact to the company.

So how can you ensure that your sales training sessions bring you the high impact you need? The principles of adult learning tell us that individuals are responsible for their own learning. Therefore, to create high impact, you must first start by setting proper expectations around the intent of the training and the impact the training will have on sales success and the contribution toward the company achieving its goals.

Here are four good reasons to consider sales simulations:

* They create a realistic environment to test "what if" scenarios and provide the opportunity to make mistakes in a safe environment.

* They provide context, content, and process, which are relevant, realistic, and directly applicable on the job.

* They shorten learning cycles because of immediate feedback.

* They drive business impact through strategic application of critical selling skills.

Driving business impact

There are three types of participants in any training session: prisoners, vacationers, and learners. Prisoners would rather be anywhere but sitting in a sales training class listening to ideas they believe they've already heard. In contrast, vacationers are the ones who enjoy being out of the field, away from customers. These individuals enjoy the hotel and all its amenities and view the training opportunity as a break from the real world. Finally, learners understand the strategic intent of the training program and why those objectives matter to them. Whether the training program has been positioned as a new product launch or an approach to a new customer interface, learners realize that the session they are preparing to attend isn't about simply improving sales skills--it's about helping the company attain a critical business goal.

Call execution skills, presentations skills, negotiation skills, strategy development, and other skills programs are critical to developing a world-class sales team. However, it's important to realize that these types of programs are intended to develop skill. Business impact comes from mastery of these skills plus in-depth practice and feedback in the application and integration of the skills under real-world conditions. This latter objective requires a different type of learning experience and a different learning environment. Sales simulations are a great answer.

Many companies choose to implement a sales simulation when faced with

* a new strategic direction

* market changes

* a new competitive threat

* new business strategies

* a new product launch

* uncertain economic times.

Case study

When sales training is properly designed and positioned, participants come prepared to address real-world challenges that can help improve sales results. Every salesperson, even the top performers, acknowledges that there are sales challenges that make it difficult to achieve sales success. …

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