Sales training and corporate leadership training have come a long way. Or have they? Many of The Regis Company’s clients have a need to equip their sales teams with the tools to help them sell more effectively. In an age of digital assessment, mobile learning, virtual classrooms, and remote employees, how should companies approach learning and development training and sales enablement?
Prior to my time as Sales Operations Manager, I spent over a decade at various companies in business-to-business sales roles. I remember my first sales position, selling yellow page ads by phone to businesses in downtown Chicago and the suburbs. It was 2003, just before local online advertising gained momentum. This meant that the yellow pages were actually used by residents to find what they needed, which meant that businesses could attract customers by spending money, sometimes a majority of their marketing budget, by placing ads in the yellow pages. The phone book served a dual purpose of being helpful to those who were just a bit too tiny to see over the steering wheel, as well as being resourceful to consumers.
This is where my first sales training and professional development took place. I fondly refer to these eight weeks as “the kindergarten of sales training.” It had a deliberate way of weeding out those who had somehow stumbled their way onto the 71st floor of the AON Building in Chicago to sell yellow pages because their college major didn’t translate to something that could find them a job in the real world. For most of us, it was the first time we were exposed to learning and development training in the form of the six steps of the sale and how to transition from one to the next, how to overcome objections and how to source leads. We were also introduced to habits that would help us be successful and productive when tasked with making seventy outbound cold calls a day.
Prior to our first day, my training and professional development class of fourteen received a twenty-nine-page script we had to memorize verbatim. It included the extensive history of the company we were now employed by and how it had grown to where it was today, as well as the countless advantages to advertising in the yellow pages, including case studies and customer testimonials. Immediately upon arrival, we were taken one by one into a small room by a learning and development consultant where we began to recite the script we had received two weeks earlier. If we forgot what came next, we were given a one to two-word prompt by the trainer that would hopefully jog our memory. At the end of the first day of training, also known as happy hour, myself and a group of other men and women in their early twenties stood in a huddle and compared what page they had made it to before their memory failed them. From what I can remember, the average was page nine.
What would this training have looked like if, instead of scripts, PowerPoint presentations and a learning and development consultant reading out of a workbook at the head of a classroom, we had used training simulation software to learn about all of the different facets of what makes a high-achieving salesperson?
My simulation training, along with the benefits of experiential learning, may have looked something more like this.
- An engaged and realistic environment — experiencing the same client pressure but in a safe setting
- A risk-free simulation training — applying the fundamentals of sales without risk and consequently learning from my mistakes
- An immersive setting — practicing and refining my decision-making skills
As with most professional development training programs, my sales training taught me some skills that I still employ today. When I talk to a prospect on the phone, I will either take nine “nos” when trying to schedule an appointment or the prospect will hang up on me, whichever comes first. I can only imagine how a business simulation would have changed my early days in sales from something monotonous into an experience that was captivating. This elevated training and professional development program would have encouraged the adoption of a sales mindset and a sales culture rather than teaching me facts or scripts to be memorized and soon forgotten. It wasn’t until the eight weeks were done and I was released into the wild, a sea of cubes with telephones waiting to be dialed, that I truly started learning how to handle real objections on the fly and turn prospects into clients. If I had already experienced this during simulation training, I would have been better equipped to hit the ground running.
Bethany Kemp is Sales Operations Manager of The Regis Company. She supports sales productivity by streamlining internal operations. Bethany manages lead generation and supports marketing through industry award submission, the development of content, overseeing SEO, and is responsible for the development and execution of all outbound email and social media marketing campaigns as well as conference attendance, execution, and promotion.