By Corey Sommers, Corporate Visions
It’s the start of a new year and across the world, large and small sales teams are gathering – or preparing to gather – to kick off a new season of selling with new products and new and improved ways of selling them. Though the expense of gathering people together can be astronomical – in some cases $10,000 or more per attendee – organizations believe the money spent will, in the long run, improve sales effectiveness.
And yet, the mere mention of a sales kickoff meeting or sales training frequently elicits groans from even the most enthusiastic of salespeople. Sales meetings all too often signify work and personal time wasted; wilted hotel food; metal pitchers sweating and clinking with ice water; dark, cold conference rooms laid out with overly starched tablecloths; and the clicking of one PowerPoint slide after another morning until night.
You know these meetings. The typical agenda looks like this:
1. Opening session
2. Product sessions (slide presentations)
3. Sales methodology training (with or without hands-on role play)
4. Motivational speaker
6. Team building activity
7. Closing session
Everyone bunkered in for the day – or several days – bombarded with presenter after presenter talking through slide after slide of the latest and greatest product enhancements or pipeline strategies. And you, their fearless sales leader, hoping that they’re absorbing all of this information and will be able to translate it into unprecedented sales in the coming months.
Not only is the process painful for everyone involved, but also, it doesn’t work.
Studies show that people retain less than 20% of what is presented to them. The “first three slides and last three slides” retention rule – which is scientifically proven – is in full effect. And these presentations are typically limitless, in that there’s almost no limit to the number of slides or amount of information crammed onto each individual slide. Slide-based training is about knowledge transfer, not equipping the salesperson with the information in a way that can be used to facilitate customer conversations.
And, except for the possible Q&A session at the end of presentations, these sessions are not normally interactive, so attendees are easily distracted by their PDAs, coffee in the back of the room, or anything else that they find more interesting than what’s being presented. It’s no wonder salespeople hit the bar and wolf down the apps at the end of the day.
A better way
There is hope.
Just as you shouldn’t subject your prospects to droning PowerPoint-based sales presentations delivered in the dark, neither should you force your salespeople – whom you’re trying to teach and inspire! – to sit through one (or more), either.
Instead of telling them what they’re selling and how to sell it, use the session to practice and perfect the whiteboard approach to selling. Start with a “why whiteboard” keynote (PowerPoint doesn’t work, information isn’t retained, sales execs want a conversation, not a presentation, etc.) and then have a subject matter expert or sales leader present a “gold standard” whiteboard presentation. After the stage is set, assemble small teams to work together and leverage a role-play-based, repetitive, simulated sales call approach to present the whiteboard to one another other using a flip chart and markers. You could even end the day with a competition of top performers in front of the entire group.
But you’re not done there. Developing a whiteboard is a great first step, but stopping there really misses the whole point of the endeavor, which is equipping sales with a set of tools, skills, and ultimately, that critical element of knowledge ownership to “raise their game” when engaging with customers and prospects with confidence. You want to give sales mastery of the whiteboard content, structure, and flow; key questions to ask; and objection handling. You also want to equip them with basic whiteboarding skills and best practices so they can confidently present a visual story to a customer or prospect and interactively exchange information.
There are several studies that show participants retain ~70-90% of material when learning in a hands-on, visual fashion. In other words, with pen in hand. It’s not just about memorizing new product information – a whiteboard-based training is designed to be an interactive learning mechanism to transfer solution knowledge quickly and effectively to field personnel who may not possess the “situational fluency” and deep domain expertise of tenured and proven salespeople.
When surveyed, participants in whiteboard-based sales training identified a few key factors that contributed to their overwhelming satisfaction with these sessions:
1. The sessions were interactive, with participants able to ask questions, add things to the whiteboard, and share their opinions while learning from others
2. The training was 100% hands-on, facilitating “active learning”
3. The activities encouraged team members to come out of their comfort zone to learn new skills and present in ways they did not think possible
So gather your team, turn on the lights, arm them with a pen and an easel and set them to work. They’re bound to not only stay awake, but be much more effective in the year to come.