6 Principles of training of salespersons

6 Key Principles to adopt in Training / Upskilling Salespersons

Given my company (TMIe2E) 10+ years of experience in BFSI FoS (Front line sales) training across Liabilities & Asset products and training 100,000+ salespersons across India, I believe that six key principles are important to embed when designing training & skill-building programs for Front-line Salespersons.

1 Do not do a cognitive overload during training. The rationale:  Most salespersons are likely to be low in cognition and high in action orientation. It is difficult to hold their attention over knowledge of concepts, processes, systems, and procedures. It makes better sense to skill them on specific tasks, by giving them the desired knowledge and allowing them to try it out in action and figure it out by themselves in their own contexts. We of course need to ensure they don’t break compliance parameters or company values while figuring it out. Undertaking a detailed role analysis with high performers and performing activity-based costing helps in avoiding this.

2. During Role Induction training, skill-drill on key input tasks and convince them to deliver these with sufficient velocity. The rationale: Most salespersons remain in the job only when they make incentives. If they are unable to perform key tasks efficiently and with sufficient velocity, they will be unable to meet their output norms; hence they won’t make their outcome targets and consequently not make incentives. They will attrite once they realize they will not be able to make incentives. There is a powerful model to practice this principle – the Job Instruction Method, pioneered by Toyota Motors, Japan, which is the gold standard. TMI e2E has patterned its design by adapting from this method to ensure outcomes on the ground.

3 Build a scaffold of learning outcomes to ensure that the learning goals are met, and performance is delivered on the ground. The rationale: Most salespersons cannot internalize complex learning outcomes one-shot. It is better to build granular enabling learning outcomes, which cascade into learning outcomes, and these cascade into a learning goal. Multiple learning goals together deliver the training program outcome. For example, if the training program is to “Skill salespersons to become more productive”, one of the learning goals is likely to be: “Enable the salespersons to step up from selling lower-end products to higher-end products”. Two of the many learning outcomes that will need to be part of the design could be: “Detail high-end products to customers” and “Identify the right product (high-end) to pitch to a customer”. To ensure that the salesperson can deliver on the second learning outcome mentioned above, the enabling learning outcomes could be: “Profile a prospect to match with / come closest to a typical customer persona for our high-end products”, “Identify stated & unstated needs through questioning and probing” and “Validate the understanding of the profile and customer needs by clarifying”. Once the salesperson can deliver on these 3 enabling outcomes, he/she will be able to identify the right product to pitch to this specific customer, which will ensure they don’t try to under-sell or over-sell, both of which may lead to productivity loss for the salesperson. Using a tool such as Modified Bloom’s Taxonomy helps in building the learning scaffold

4.Blend the training program with multiple ways to learn. The rationale: Salespersons learn through active experimentation and peer-to-peer networks, as much as they do from Trainers. There is hence a need to provide for active learning in the form of Natural Learning Opportunities on the job. A simple method could be, Shadowing a performing peer / superior with structured After Action Recall. There is also a good case for setting up formal/informal networks within the company that encourage storytelling and sharing of information, experiences, and insights with each other. We are currently piloting video-based P2P learning over a closed network using a mobile app for salespersons of an NBFC.

5. Activate the salespersons on key input tasks, on the ground. The rationale: This is a key requirement as some of the learners may not know how to do a specific key input task or may have failed to do this effectively on the ground. This will become a deterrent to stepping up their performance. Once activated on all the key input tasks, they become confident to execute these with the desired velocity to ensure they make incentives.

6.Deliver refresher learning for 90 – 180 days post-training, to drive recall and more importantly step-up learning to improve performance outcomes. The rationale: Learning retention is poor among most learners, including salespersons, based on a single intervention. Habit formation is important. Both performers and non-performers can fall into poor habits, and it is important to refresh their knowledge, skills, and behaviors to drive outcomes. We do this by undertaking mass customization of programs that balances budgets with personalized learning paths. The personalized learning paths are based on performance analytics, with drill down right up to a single salesperson, and not a gut feel of what is required.

These principles are mostly domain agnostic and applicable to other sectors too, with some moderation and modifications, as our practice has shown. I will be happy to learn from your experiences and insights to add to the list of principles or contextualize them to a specific vertical.

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