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Why Your Sales Training Needs a CAT Scan

Pain is popular. But relying on just pain to motivate buyers is hurting your sales.

Pain is popular. But relying on just pain to motivate buyers is hurting your sales.

There are also plenty of new things you could be using to coach your sales force. We now know exactly when to use benefits and when to use pain to motivate buyers.

That is an important distinction to make. Only 40 percent of the U.S. population makes decisions based on solving problems – perfect for pain. Another 40 percent is motivated to decide based on goals and good things – perfect for benefits. And you could easily identify which buyer is which, if you knew the right question to ask. So the oldest argument in modern selling, gain versus pain, has a solution. That’s something you want to have built into your training content.

Here’s how you can get help in figuring out what to do about your training.

The CAT Scan Diagnostic Tool was created to give focus to sales executives, managers and trainers in defining the three key training-related elements that improve a sales representative’s performance.

The structure covers the following:        

CONTENT: Will you include the most critical components to help your sales team increase earnings? Should certain content be given less initial attention because it’s not as useful now as it was in the past? Are you aligning your sales reps’ approaches with their buyers’ purchasing processes?

ARCHITECTURE: Is your training program crafted to enhance learning and acquiring skills and behavior? Does it include the latest techniques based on what we know now about adult learning skills?

TRAINER SKILLS: Do your trainers have dynamic delivery skills that engage learners to increase their adoption and application of the content?

Let’s look in detail at each of these components.             

In this first installment of a three-part series, we will examine Content, the first piece of the CAT Scan Diagnostic Tool. This was developed and introduced to the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), which has 74,000 members worldwide. I’ve designed both their global sales training program and their Ultimate Selling Skills training design program. Some good people are using this tool to analyze their existing training and to figure out the best way to re-design it. After Content, we’ll look at Architecture (your program design), then Trainer skills.

The Content

Here are the 10 basic elements of great sales training. World-class sales professionals excel in most of these. Mediocre sellers struggle in most of them.

  1. Rapport
  2. Prospecting
  3. Opening the first meeting
  4. Qualifying and disqualifying prospects
  5. Questioning
  6. Listening (yes, it belongs in your sales training)
  7. Objection-handling
  8. “Gain versus pain” selling
  9. Closing
  10. Debriefing the call

This list is essentially chronological, in the way that the seller experiences the interactions with the buyer. However, I do not recommend covering all the items on this list at one time because it’s way too much. Sadly, most organizations dump a whole system on their learners at one time and hope they come away with a few good ideas.

I always start first with what I call The Ultimate Objection-Handling Tool. Why discuss objection first? Because objection is the biggest choke point in selling. You begin to eliminate resistance and you move further down the path toward the close. Here, you create a book of top objections, with 20, 30, 40 different responses to each. Why so many? Each of your team members must “find their voice” and use the kind of language that reflects their personality, approach and word choices. The tool also doubles quite effectively as a monster coaching workbook for rookie hires. No surprises from buyers – that’s nice.

So you teach only one of the 10 elements at a time. Get your people to be great at eliminating resistance, and then move on.

Next, I like to spend time discussing qualifying and disqualifying buyers. You all kill yourselves chasing poor prospects every day. One company really put time into this approach. Their top salesperson was spending 37 minutes with each buyer before he decided either to pursue them or say goodbye. No more holding three or four meetings, conducting deep financial analyses, spending time, energy and time (not listed twice by mistake). Thirty-seven minutes. This is training that frees you up, reduces stomach acid and makes you money.

The third training subject is how to open a sales call. We’ll call this module “One Great Opening Is Worth 10,000 Closes.” Because if you don’t open well, you’ll never get close to the close.

Everyone who sells anything should have a distinct opening to every dialogue, whether that dialogue takes place by telephone or face-to-face. You begin by setting an outcome for the conversation, gaining prospect agreement, and you are overjoyed at the way you reach real next steps at the end of the meeting.

Pause here for a teaching moment: a trick question about next steps.

Is “Call me next Thursday” a next step? No, it’s not.

“Next Thursday afternoon?” Still no.

“Next Thursday at 2 p.m.?” Yes, but …

Have you ever had a prospect no-show or not take your call on the appointment? Shame on us if that happens. Because you should have a strategy to prevent that from happening again. Try this:

“Mr./Mrs. Buyer, when I call you at home next Thursday, if you’re not able to answer the phone, what should I do? Call your cell? Come by? Try at a specific time in the evening?”

You get the idea. Your training content should teach your salespeople to teach your buyers how serious, how professional you are and that your time is as precious as theirs. Good training reduces surprises.

Those are the three most important things your sales professionals need to do spectacularly: eliminate objections, qualify quickly and open strong.

The rest is up to you. Although you should know that No. 10, “Debriefing the Call,” will help people improve on the fly, because a simple document can help your salespeople to coach themselves after each prospect interaction, just as if a sales manager were with them.

Aside from the top 10, there are plenty of other important things you might want to employ to improve sales team performance. This includes things like budget (If your salespeople’s cash flow fluctuates as wildly as John Travolta’s acting career, why not help them better manage their cash flow during dips in income?), storytelling skills, Neuroeconomics (new research on buyer motivation and decision making), how to evoke emotion, mental health for sales professionals (all that rejection, how to manage it), humor skills, daily performance improvement tips and more.

Coming in Part 2

Next, we’ll address Architecture and you’ll learn how bad most training is, since it’s based on our experience with teaching and preaching. You’ll learn how great it can be, when it’s based on adopting adult learning principles that help your people change their behavior and make more money for both of you.

Dan Seidman is the 2013 International Sales Training Leader of the Year (Stevie® Awards) and designer of the global sales training program for the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD). He is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Sales Training. Contact Dan, write to [email protected].

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