For an assignment in business class, my daughter and her peers each had to deliver a sales presentation in front of their classmates, after which they voted on the winner. My daughter texted later that day, saying her presentation ended up “winning by a landslide.”
To which I replied, “it must be in the DNA,” jokingly trying to take the credit. Within a second, she responded: “Or it could’ve been the 50,000 times I practiced it.”
I don’t take that lightly coming from my daughter—a collegiate gymnast who spends, on average, 25 hours per week perfecting a routine that lasts about 90 seconds in competition.
Most salespeople have confidence in their natural abilities, just like elite athletes trust their innate physical gifts. But most athletes know that slacking on training does not breed success. Why shouldn’t we expect salespeople with millions of dollars on the line to adopt a similar approach with their sales conversations?
We’re Talking About Practice
You can’t expect a salesperson to nail your message in front of customers just by watching an online video and taking a quiz to prove competency. He or she needs to practice in front of an audience, get feedback, and receive coaching and certification in environments that resemble the actual arenas where sales conversations take place. That means training for both face-to-face and virtual contexts.
Your 2015 kickoff is the ideal venue to set the tone with sales practice sessions that nurture good selling habits and ensure your salespeople tell your story in a purposeful and visually powerful way across the buying cycle. As an example, here is what I have organized for our 40 salespeople attending kick-off this year:
1. New Stories: We’ve created or updated our company’s “distinct point-of-view” stories for key selling situations. These are whiteboard-style visual stories designed to provoke a prospect to see the need to change from his or her status quo and consider our solutions.
2. Online And Offline Demonstrations: These stories are recorded for demonstration purposes in two forms—one for virtual conversations, another for live, physical conversations—to show reps what great conversations look and sound like.
3. Recorded Practice Sessions: Ahead of the kick-off, we’re having our reps put their storytelling skills to the test in both live and virtual formats. We’re mailing them desktop easel pads and markers, and we're having them use their webcams to record themselves delivering the whiteboards, and then submitting these trial runs for review and coaching from our sales training team.
4. Live Stand-And-Deliver Experiences: At kick-off, our reps will rotate in small groups between rooms representing each of the core visual stories. They will be given one of several potential customer scenarios. Options could include a new prospect or an existing customer with certain products in place, but not others. After some prep, they will each deliver that particular visual story within the assigned selling context. In each room, a sales leader will facilitate, providing feedback along the way.
5. Final Certification: Over the course of the first quarter, our sales reps will return to the online Youtube-style tool (for example, www.commercialtribe.com) to submit their final recordings for each story. These will then be reviewed and certified by the respective subject matter experts. That way, regardless of who’s telling your story, and by what medium, you can be sure it’s being told in a way that is compelling and consistent across the board.
An increasing body of analysis and research shows that it’s ultimately the customer conversation and the salesperson’s ability to articulate value that makes the difference. Use your sales kick-off to ensure your reps are delivering your best story in the best way possible--on purpose, not by accident.