How to Use Training Programs to Successfully Transform Your Sales Team

Leaders successfully using training programs to increase sales team performance

Is training really that important? Will a sales or leadership training program actually improve your team’s performance, or is it just a box that managers are supposed to check?   

At XINNIX, we have delivered training programs for thousands of companies that have impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of sales professionals over the past two decades. As the VP of Training here at XINNIX, I have seen firsthand what effective training programs can do to transform an organization successfully. I have also seen the gaps and failures that often prevent training from achieving its full potential. I want to share some lessons we’ve learned at XINNIX to help leaders ensure successful team development during training.

Show Your Support  

Suppose employees notice their organization’s leadership has not fully bought into a program. In that case, we can’t be surprised when we find they’re not buying in either. Energy comes from the top down. Managers must communicate to their teams why the program is a priority and how it will benefit everyone. There are a few ways we can achieve this.    

The first is giving employees the tools they need to succeed in training. If they only have the time, energy, and resources to do their job or complete their training program, they will choose their job every time. Throwing an intensive training course at employees who don’t have enough time to dedicate to it will not set them up for success. When leadership carves out the space for their people to devote adequate time to training, they communicate that development is a cultural priority.   

As the CEO of XINNIX, Casey Cunningham has seen countless managers lead their teams through training, both successfully and unsuccessfully. One of the key differences she has observed between success and failure when implementing training is leaders who don’t just assign training for their teams but actually go through training with their teams.    

Casey explains, “Over and over again, I’ve seen sales teams go through a sales training program, but management doesn’t participate. They may pop in and out of the classroom but don’t understand what their teams are learning. Later, they are on a sales call together, and the salesperson begins using skills they learned in class. Because the manager wasn’t involved in the same training, they are not in sync with their team’s new strategies, and things don’t go well in front of the prospect or client. What is the manager’s response? They say forget that ‘new’ stuff and stick to the tried-and-true methods. They undercut everything their employees learned during the training program because management isn’t on the same page with their team. They’ve effectively communicated that education was just a box to check, not an investment in transforming business.”  

When leaders align with their teams and give them space to succeed, learn, and grow together, they will see how powerful training can elevate their organization.    

Individualize Training  

If you’re a track and field coach, would you use the same coaching methods for a sprinter as a shot-putter? Of course not. These competitors have entirely different goals, strengths, and weaknesses. In sports, a one-size-fits-all approach to training would be ineffective and potentially destructive to the athletes. The same is true for our sales teams.  

Casey says, “There’s a myth that we should put top performers and underperformers in the same class. The thought is that the high can bring up the low. In reality, this doesn’t set either up for success. High producers feel like they are wasting their time, while less experienced employees and underperforming salespeople get intimidated. The underperformers hold back because they are nervous in front of their more successful colleagues, and the top performers don’t participate because they feel they have better things to do. The truth is that their needs are very different. Training for new or underperforming salespeople should include understanding your market, personal confidence and motivation, pre-call preparation, prospecting, communication skills, etc. Advanced and high-achieving sales teams are looking for deeper and richer behaviors and skills required to grow beyond where they are today.”

For managers to understand what training will be most effective, we must first understand the individuals on our teams. We must consider each person’s strengths, weaknesses, motivations, personality, and goals. By investing in the best program for each specific person, we are investing in the entire organization’s success.

Invest in Experiential Learning  

Acclaimed speaker and author Krish Dhanam says, “If you are at point A and want to get to point B, learn what it takes to be at point B while you are at point A.” If we want our team members to achieve their goals of higher performance and increased production, they will need more than a textbook. Teams need hands-on training and a program that shows them how their learning strategies will impact their business. They can see their numbers improving in real-time. They need experiential learning.  

Casey has seen the difference experiential learning can make innumerable times. “At XINNIX, our trainees don’t graduate from a program because they complete a test. To graduate, they have to use the practices they learn. We hold them accountable. Not just to read some material and take a quiz, but to implement their training and transform their business.”  

The element of accountability is key, not only for the training program but also for leadership. Managers, when you are learning alongside your team, you can ensure that they are correctly putting best practices into place. Don’t let training only be a box that you check. Be an active participant in the development of your team. Support them. Invest in them. Empower them. Training shouldn’t be an assignment; it should be a partnership between manager and employee to achieve mutual future success.  

To learn more about how to implement a training program successfully and avoid missteps for your team, check out our blog series on why training programs fail.  

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Paul Waldrop is the VP of Training and Client Engagement at XINNIX. Paul has held entrepreneurial and senior leadership roles in various capacities among large residential lending and prestigious financial institutions for over 30 years. He has used his leadership, coaching, and analytical skills to start his own companies and lead large teams. As a Certified Expert Coach, Paul has nearly 500 paid coaching hours that have led dozens of loan officers to increase their personal closed production exponentially. In his current role, his focus is to ensure all XINNIX content remains relevant and enhances the potential of every individual to improve their performance in leading themselves and others. 

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