Almost nobody expected 2020 to turn out like it did. At the end of 2019, we were all dutifully making our annual plans for the coming year, projecting revenues, segmenting markets, doing all the things that good sales departments do.
For some industries, the impact was minimal. But for others it was apocalyptic. And for many sales trainers, the impact has been significant.
When I talk with sales trainers and consultants in my network, what I hear over and over again is that not only did pipelines dry up, but existing engagements were placed on hold, too. In Sweden, this dropoff was aided and abetted by a government policy that provides substantial assistance to companies only if they fire all their outside consultants first.
In other parts of the world, the reasons may be different, but the outcome is similar. Nobody wants consultants to come into their offices. Employees are working from home and we’ve moved most meetings to the virtual space. Lots of companies are cutting costs. The sales training industry is being affected in a big way.
To take the pulse in the market, I did a quick survey and these were the results:
Interestingly, all the sales trainers who responded “It’s been positive, doing better than ever!” were “digitized” before the pandemic hit, and top partners with Membrain.
Of course, like all end of the world scenarios, it won’t last forever. Things will get better. The pandemic will end. But when it does, the world will have changed. And very few sales trainers will be able to return to business as usual.
On-site workshops and training might never be the standard delivery model again. Delivering these same services over Zoom and adding an LMS (Learning Management System) seems like a great idea, but it’s harder to sell, and much harder to deliver in a differentiated way.
Additionally, sales departments that once gladly spent $5,000-$10,000 for a one-day training are going to be reluctant to drop that kind of cash on anything that can’t deliver measurable results. They’re going to want more for their money.
Sales teams don't need strategy, training, and tools in silos. They need results created by orchestrated execution.
None of this is great news for sales trainers.
But there is good news. The good news is that there is a path through, and those who get this right, will be positioned to bounce back and grow stronger than ever before.
Sales trainers have to be thinking forward, now. Thinking not just about how to deliver training and coaching via video conference and digitizing their training material, but how to make their offering valuable and differentiated in the new economy.
Sales organizations are going to want not just strategy and training, but results. They’re going to want to see that their salespeople are not just learning new things, but that they’re able to apply and leverage their new skills.
As I see it, there are 4 big things sales trainers must be focused on right now in order to come out of this time ahead of the game:
Gone are the days when having a charismatic personality or a name-brand training program is enough. You’re going to need to be able to deliver a complete package that delivers results for sales organizations.
Think in terms of effectiveness packages.
Training, yes. Strategy, yes. But how about strategy + process + training + platform + reinforcement + optimization.
This isn’t as far-fetched as it may feel to those who have been surviving by selling sales consulting and training alone.
A platform like Membrain makes it easy for you to convert strategy into process. You can then create scenario-based training that trains to the process, and deliver on-demand training in context within the sales process.
Membrain’s editions allow you to pre-program the key elements of your approach, and launch an instance quickly and easily with new clients, making modifications to meet their unique needs. You can program training directly into the workflow, so that salespeople can access it right when they need it. All without having significant technical expertise.
If you’ve introduced a new prospecting call approach, for instance, you can program reminders and videos about the approach so that it pops up for them while they’re preparing to make prospecting calls.
Packaging in this way has the added benefit of increasing recurring revenue, by enabling you to sell licenses and offer your services in a recurring revenue model.
In the new normal, you aren’t going to be able to go on ride-alongs and fly out to client sites to do reviews. You are going to have to find a way to perform this work remotely.
You need a platform and a process that enables you to collect data and review key performance indicators, perform analysis and drill down to behaviors and skills that need adjusting so that you can help your customers get the value out of your training.
The same thing is true for account reviews, if you’re helping customers with optimizing their account growth. You need to be able to see account information conveniently and visually, to help clients understand where to focus their attention.
Membrain’s account growth module is built for that, and is a great complement to your packaged approach.
It’s always been appealing to be a superstar trainer, whose mere presence at an event warrants the expenditure of thousands of dollars. For some trainers, personal charisma has been a big part of branding and profitability.
There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but in a post-pandemic world, it may not be as successful as it once was.
Sales organizations are going to want trainers to provide more than a few hours of fun and motivational content. And a charismatic presence doesn’t always carry across video.
The successful sales training organizations, I believe, will be those that become hands-on with their work. They not only bring in strategies and methodologies, but also help to make those strategies and methodologies actionable in the workplace. They help companies create the processes and embed the processes into the workflow so that they translate to actual results.
This is going to mean, in a post-pandemic world, that these hands-on offerings have to be digitized. Your work needs to be in the hands of each salesperson, in the hands of each sales manager, and in the hands of each person who touches the customer during the sales process.
And it can’t just be elearning. It’s got to be innovative, creative, and immediately actionable. Videos need to be short and sweet and delivered in a workflow context for immediate use.
Now is not a time to fall back on old ways of doing things, or relying on what used to work. The winning trainers are going to be those that think forward, and think outside the box.
How can you compensate for not being onsite? What can you offer that’s different and valuable and compelling?
I saw one training organization that was providing a “what training is right for you” quiz as an entry point to their offerings. You fill out a form, and at the end it tells you what kind of services are best for you. It’s a little like the “what wine is best for you” or “what kind of owl are you” quizzes that are popular on social media, but with a valuable offering at the end.
Whether this approach is effective or not remains to be seen (it still focused only on training,) but one thing is certain: Those who refuse to take some risks and innovate will get left behind.
On the other hand, those who use this time as an opportunity to reinvent themselves as visionaries, partners, and hands-on deliverers of results will thrive.
What do you think? If you’re a trainer, how hard were you hit and what are you doing to adapt? If you’re a sales leader, how will you be buying training differently in the future? I’d love to hear from you - connect with me on LinkedIn.
George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.
Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn