One of the more encouraging things about sales prospecting training, is that the statistically proven skills needed to fill the top of a sales funnel with qualified leads are among the easiest of sales disciplines to master. The bad news is that much of the training curriculum on sales prospecting currently available is fraught with generalizations or dubious strategies. Unfortunately, our proud industry of sales training can be susceptible to teaching methods that only work for certain sellers, industries or sales models. In some circles, sales training has developed a reputation of being ‘snake oil’ or providing little more than entertainment masked as training.
However, don’t be mistaken; training and skill development continues to be one of sales leaders’ most viable paths to improving performance, and increasingly so. ATD’s 2018 State of the Industry found that the average spend on training per employee has increased year after year since 2016, when organizations spent an average of $954,070 a year on training over all.
So, how do sales leaders leverage the immense resource that is sales training, while avoiding the pitfalls of a training engagement gone wrong?
Well, no matter who provides training on prospecting, there are a few elements that must be incorporated if measurable improvement and an adequate ROI are to be achieved. We’re proud that Funnel Clarity’s prospecting training incorporates each of these indispensable aspects of successful sales training:
Because prospecting, particularly so-called “cold” outreach by phone, is intimidating to most and uncomfortable to nearly everyone, a major component of the training experience needs to include real outreach efforts; not by an ‘entertaining’ instructor, but by the participants themselves.
Great training should therefore include things like finding the right people to call, knowing how to get through to them, how to break through a prospect’s natural objections and how to rapidly establish rapport. These things are not a matter of personality, but are elements of a real science. Nonetheless, the hurdle of doubt and nervousness that most sellers bring to prospecting training can best be overcome through muscle memory developed through real calling, emailing, etc.
A huge body of folklore has grown around the idea that “prospecting is dead”, “you can’t reach anyone by phone”, “it’s all about social media”, etc., etc. The data say that these are complete excuses.
After analyzing more than 100,000 actual prospecting calls made on behalf of more than 100 different companies, a number of surprises emerged. One of the most startling was that using the phone to prospect (in conformance with best practices) accounts for more than 70% of all prospecting success. When done correctly, phone prospecting was more successful than prospecting efforts using all other media combined (i.e. email, voice mail, social media).
A second interesting result was that using a variation of communication mediums, when combined in the proper sequence and frequency, yielded extraordinary results. In other words, using the phone, plus email plus social media was hugely more successful than relying on any one approach.
Therefore, prospecting training needs to enable learners to properly employ all of these media in the proper sequence and cadence. In addition to placing actual prospecting calls during training, participants should also send emails to actual prospects, send social media messages, etc.
Rather, it means allowing participants to hear people, just like themselves making calls using best practices. It means ensuring these calls include hearing what the prospect sounds like in “real world” situations. Remember, the phone is the most effective medium, but also the most intimidating to prospectors. Hearing peers successfully employing the techniques is the single best way of helping participants conquer their fears.
I suppose this goes without saying, but the quality of sales training content available varies widely. Don’t mistake me here. While almost any kind of training on prospecting which leads people to a concentrated focus on trying to get better will be superior to a lack of training, if you are going to take the time and spend money to train sellers on this vital aspect of sales, do some digging into the pedigree of what is being taught.
The study of 100,000 prospecting calls I mentioned above, revealed some surprising and sometimes counter-intuitive results. Actual best practices include some things that few people do naturally, and that training providers who have not done that kind of research are unlikely to even realize is important.
When you’re evaluating training, don’t sell this examination short. Insist on uncovering where the provider’s content came from. Ask for real data. What evidence is there that the techniques included in training will actually work in your world? If all you get back is something akin to, “you can call Mary at XYZ corp. and she will vouch for my content,” you should feel comfortable demanding more evidence.
With any kind of sales training, it has long been known that post-learning reinforcement is an essential part of achieving an ROI on training spend.
The great thing about prospecting training is that a huge ROI can be achieved in a very short time if the resources and process for reinforcement are in place the moment that participants finish training. The key here is the immediacy of that plan. Participants should be able to access the plan and the resources literally the day after they have completed the course. Funnel Clarity is proud to be able to offer this capability through our virtual training programs.
If prospecting training includes these five critical elements, the results can be astounding—the results that our training has brought our clients demonstrates that.
Want to train your team in proven prospecting techniques? Check out our comprehensive guide to sales prospecting, based on an analysis of 100,000 sales calls.