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Why Your Sales Training Needs an Architect

In last month’s article about the CAT Scan for your sales training, we looked at the C, which stands for content. However, the greatest content in the world will have little impact without the right structure in which to deliver it.

That is why the second part of the “CAT Scan”  –  the A – stands for architecture.

My recent experience with a financial firm was an example of why this is crucial. I was asked to redesign a sales training program for the firm’s 350 representatives. The company trainer was the senior executive who championed this project. He was very excited about this and wanted to present the new training himself.

Most of my work was to build interactive components into the training. On the day of the training session, I approached the senior executive during the lunch break and said, “Uh, you’ve skipped every exercise and lectured for three hours.”

“Yes, Dan, I’m worried that if I stop and do the exercises, we won’t have time to cover all the content,” he replied.

It was not pretty. The man spoke for two days straight – and that was the company’s complete training experience!

Now this example is a bit extreme; most of us see the value of adding some exercises and interactivity to our training. But after keynoting and training at dozens of firms in this industry, here’s what I’ve observed about what most (OK, almost all) companies consider to be training:

We’ll put one of our top performers in front and have him or her share what they do to achieve their success.

But that does not mean people will absorb what the trainers have to say and put the lessons into action. The architecture or design of your training experience must incorporate adult learning principles in order to transfer learning into new actions, new routines and new rituals.

Why is this rarely done? Because our frame of reference for learning is often what we grew up with, which is teaching and preaching.

Have you noticed a distinct, disturbing lack of results with this type of “training?”

Having a methodology for structuring content is both a relief and a blessing to training and sales departments that are dissatisfied with their instruction’s outcome.

An interesting result of the poor two-day training program I described was that the client/trainer was inundated daily by reps calling from all over the country to ask additional questions. Others began to fly in, to shadow him and watch him sell. This represented tons of extra hours of workload, simply because the training experience did not work.

When you choose to train, you are in the “before and after” business. If your trainees don’t experience distinct changes in behavior after the training, everyone loses.

One way to ensure change is to implement a quick and simple six-step design process based on a highly successful model used by Wendy Seidman, former executive director of content development/training for the Willow Creek Association (WCA). Her training products have generated more than $50 million in sales.

Designing Your Training Session

Designing your training session is similar to creating a road map. First, you need to know where you’re going – the goal. Next, you need to know who you’re starting with – the target audience. And finally, you need to give them the directions or steps to reach that goal.

In sales training, it makes the most sense to create the steps to match the selling process through which your learners will move to complete a sale: finding, conversing with and closing a buyer.

Create your own six-step chart and fill it in with this content.

  1. Identifying the desired response/goal: What should participants be able to do when they get back to their role? For example, how will sales reps be able to handle the top six objections they encounter from prospects?
  2. Determine the target audience: Who are they? What is their level of experience with your subject?      
  3. List the steps: How do you get to the desired response/goal? What’s the process or road map? List the steps sequentially. They need to be in order.
  4. Identify the activities: For each step you identified, what do you want the participants to do during the training session to ensure that learning occurs and new behaviors are practiced?
  5. Develop the content: What information does the participant need to know, feel and experience before they do each activity?
  6. Select the delivery method: Decide which training method to use for each step, and write each method in the chart above.

In addition, your architectural design should include post-training elements to deepen the learning transfer. This might mean using forms of accountability and ways to revisit the concepts and behaviors that were taught.

There’s your architecture. You now have a proven, highly successful model for creating or re-creating your training experience.

Here’s a gift for you: You’ll want more detail about delivery methods and post-training elements. For a tips document on these, send an email to me at the address below.

Coming in Part 3

The final part of the CAT Scan for your sales training is T, which stands for training. We will focus on how the person you’re trusting to improve the performance of your sales professionals can adopt some new behaviors. This will include a nice blend of platform skills from outstanding actors, speakers, musicians, even comedians.

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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