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May 9, 2019

5 Stages to Transform Sales Training

If every new hire were a prodigy—a natural-born top seller—sales trainers, enablement professionals, and instructional designers would be out of a job. Creating results-oriented training programs would be as simple as handing out product manuals to new reps and then turning them loose in the field.

But, salespeople who walk into the role and succeed without training are in short supply.

What this means (in addition to job security for learning professionals) is that effective training needs a solid blueprint. And a great example by sales enablement leader, Mike Kunkle, is the 5 Stages of Sales Mastery and Behavior Change.


The 5 Stages of Sales Mastery and Behavior Change

The blueprint is a tech-supported learning system that aims to transform salespeople into masters. Here’s a brief outline:

  1. Knowledge Acquisition

Stage 1 is about knowledge acquisition—actually teaching employees something new. Whether the training takes the form of a traditional classroom-based curriculum or an interactive modern learning strategy that incorporates digital tools, it’s important for the content to be aligned with the company’s revenue objectives. Just as importantly, the training methods must be proven to actually drive engagement among sales reps.

  1. Knowledge Sustainment

Stage 2 focuses on knowledge sustainment, helping reps remember what they learned after the formal training is over. Just because people learned something doesn’t mean they’ll retain it. That’s why reinforcement is critical. Whether it takes the form of gamified daily exercises that make use of concepts such as spaced repetition, or conventional tests and quizzes, the reinforcement must be frequent and sustained.

  1. Skills development

Just because someone learned something and remembered it doesn’t mean they can actually apply that knowledge in the real world. In fact, this is one of the most common problems. The remedy? Give reps the opportunity to practice their skills in a safe environment—just as public speakers practice at Toastmasters meetings. It’s far better for salespeople to practice and get feedback from their managers and peers—in person or via mobile video—than to practice on the customer with a six-figure deal at stake.

  1. Transfer of Knowledge to the Real World

Stage 4 is where training most often breaks down. Just because they learned it, remembered it, and practiced it doesn’t mean they can do it—or will do it. To ensure that reps do transfer their new skills to the field, managers need to assess their performance during customer conversations and then provide feedback.

  1. Bringing  Reps to Skill Mastery

Stage 5 is about bringing reps to skill mastery, at least for the critical sales competencies. Just because they learned it, remembered it, practiced it, and tried it doesn’t mean they did it well—or will continue to do it. That’s why it’s important to teach managers how to assess and observe the application of sales skills in action. From there, they must also have the right tools for comparing what they’re seeing to best practices, as well as the knowledge needed to close any skill gaps.

Whatever you do, be sure to engage your sales managers—up front—to start the buy-in process. You’ll need their support for the new training system because, as you can see from Stages 2-5, they will play a critical role in its success or failure.


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