Are Your Reps a Selling “Triple Threat?”

By Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy Officer

August 10, 2016

In show business, the classic “triple threat” is a multi-talented performer who can act, dance and sing at world-class levels. In sales, there’s also a set of performance skills your salespeople need to master to become a selling triple threat—and they have to do with three “Ps”—pipeline, proposals and profits.

But let’s rewind a second to my previous post and frame these skills areas within the context of virtual training, which 65 percent of companies plan to increase investment in.

As our survey revealed, the main challenge of modern training is two-fold: Training managers balk at investing time in the training format they believe to be most effective (instructor-led). And, they’re not sure how to keep reps in the field without compromising the quality of training.

So what’s needed?

Here are three things companies need to overcome these critical training challenges:

1. Competency Model-Driven Training Curriculum – According to Sirius Decisions, 70-80 percent of companies do not follow a competency-based training model. That means there’s no standard set of skills that salespeople need to master, and no agreement about what level of proficiency they must demonstrate.

What’s a reasonable roadmap for developing a competency-based training program? One idea is to build a competency model around the three “Triple Threat” areas reps must master across the buying cycle to drive success and growth:

a) Pipeline
– Provide training, practice and coaching on the ability to disrupt the status quo, convince a prospect or customer of the need to change, and then effectively differentiate from competitive alternatives to create more qualified opportunities.

b) Proposals – Provide skills development and tools to improve the ability of reps to connect external factors and key customer initiatives to your solution, and then build a meaningful business case that communicates value and passes muster with executives.

c) Profits – Provide concepts and techniques to make sure your reps don’t let value leak and margins suffer as the deal makes its way through the process and you confront the inevitable pricing pressures and run the procurement gauntlet.

By ensuring reps are being trained, coached, measured and certified on these skills, you will improve the relevance of your curriculum relative to sales’ key performance indicators.

2. Custom Learning Paths based on Performance Indicators – With a competency model in place, you can now replace your outdated “arbitrary learning paths” with custom learning paths designed to up-skill salespeople in the areas they actually need, versus relying on unreliable manager opinions or generic role- or tenure- based development plans.

Helping to make this easier is the fact that data is available from several sources which can help determine each rep’s specific area of training needs. For example, you can look to your CRM system to find which reps are struggling to create pipeline sufficient to meet their quota; you can see which reps tend to have deals and proposals get stuck in the middle of pipeline because they struggle to get executive-level buy-in; you can look at deal data to see which reps are the most lax when it comes to discounting and pricing.

Through these performance indicators you can begin to assign the appropriate training to your reps, helping you address the areas of greatest concern. In addition, you can consider behavioral outcome type assessments that help determine the skills gaps associated with each of the competencies in your model. Well-written surveys that include benchmark data for comparison to low and high performers can help you prioritize which reps need help in which areas.

3. Flexible Learning Modalities – Competency models and custom learning paths won’t help your reps become Triple Threats unless you can get the right training to the right reps at the right time. As the survey detailed in my previous post discovered, time is the biggest enemy of a great training program. In traditional classroom learning, reps are often waiting to attend a scheduled class in a city near them that may be months out from when you have determined their need, only to have that date come and the rep’s manager decide they can’t leave the field (or, something like a travel freeze could also keep them grounded in their home office).

Imagine being able to “push” virtual, modular content to each of your reps, as soon as you determine the gaps and deficiencies in their performance? The idea of just-in-time, situational learning is a reality with modular online training options that can intercede immediately when an acute performance challenged is identified, creating a custom learning path.

Classroom training may still be regarded as the standard when it comes to creating behavior changes in the field. But, valuable as they are, they’ll have zero impact if you can’t get reps into the classroom when they need it.

That’s why companies need virtual training formats that strive to replicate the training rigor of a classroom setting, providing competency-based training, custom learning paths and situational learning modalities that improve reps’ performance without removing them from the field.

Check out our State of the Conversation Report: Beyond the Classroom to learn more about these virtual training concepts.