A recent article on salesforce.com by Jason Jordan challenges our assumptions about sales training. Normally when we hear sales training, we assume that means training for salespeople. Jordan recommends that we focus sales training investments on sales managers instead of salespeople.
This surprising conclusion came from the results of a survey by the Sales Management Association. The survey indicates that companies are more likely to achieve their revenue goal if they shift their sales training budget from salespeople to sales managers.
Specifically, organizations that invested more than 50% of their sales training budget in managers reported a 15% higher achievement of revenue goal than those that invested less than 25% in managers. And the relationship was relatively linear, with the middle group performing just in between. Interestingly, only 14% of the companies surveyed had the nerve to allocate more than half of their sales training budgets to their sales managers. All this presents a thought-provoking question: What if we spent literally nothing training salespeople? What if we only trained our sales managers rather than our sellers?
Should We Turn Sales Managers into Full-time Sales Trainers?
Mr. Jordan proposes that we train sales managers to become sales trainers for their own people. It asserts that if your sales manager can train your salespeople, then there is less need to remove salespeople from the field and send them to training. Further, you can take the money you would spend to give modest training to ten salespeople and give exemplary training to one sales manager. You improve the ability of sales managers to coach better performance from their team.
But does this article go far enough in challenging how we go about managing and developing our salespeople?
The survey assumes that salespeople need training to improve their ability to hold meaningful sales conversations with their customers. If their ability improves, then more of those conversations will convert prospects into customers.
Here’s the question to ask: Is conversion really the problem? Instead of focusing entirely on conversion improvement, why not hold more meaningful conversations each week? In other words, focus less on sales conversion and more on sales throughput.
Instead, Allow Salespeople to Specialize in Selling
If most salespeople are only scheduling a few meaningful conversations each week, what if you increase that number to ten or even twenty conversations per week? If a salesperson is holding twenty conversations per week, it’s likely that their current level of training is perfectly adequate to the task and that many of these conversations will turn into customers. Furthermore, the best way to get better at something is practice. Salespeople who hold ten or twenty conversations per week are going to get better much more quickly than those that only hold two conversations per week.
But wait. If a salesperson is holding twenty conversations per week, this raises questions about all the other work that salespeople do besides hold meaningful sales conversations. What are these other tasks? They include administration, customer service, prospecting, solution design, and appointment-setting.
Since meaningful sales conversations are the main factor that drives how many prospects turn into customers, would it be worth finding other people to do the tasks assigned to salespeople that are not sales conversations? If you did this, then you would free the salespersons time to spend on sales conversations. Your throughput would increase dramatically with a consequent increase in revenue and contribution margin.