Time to re-think behaviour change in sales teams?

Over the many years I have been in sales, I have been exposed to a wide variety of sales methodologies and tools; SPIN, Blue Sheets, Target Account Selling to name just a few. Regardless of the tool, the training approach was much the same; typically, a three-day training course delivered by an enthusiastic evangelist followed by great personal commitment and enthusiasm to use this new tool with every confidence that I would now be equipped to over achieve my target. Only to find as the weeks went past I gradually slipped back to my old ways of working.

Even as a sales leader, I persisted with this approach; haven’t we all!!! But on reflection regardless of the methodology, there was one vital component missing. Asking people to change their behaviours is very hard. As Katzenbach, Steffen and Kennedy pointed out in their HBR article “behaviours are easiest to change, but only if you know what gets people to change their behaviour”.

On reflection, the courses were just about telling the sales execs what to do, not helping them do it. A three days course without the necessary post course coaching and support will never the achieve the desired results.

I was pleased to read recently an article from Huthwaite on this very topic. Of course, they concluded that SPIN delivered the increase in sales the client was expecting, but what was more interesting was their conclusions that this was only achieved because of a programme of sales coaching and interventions the client adopted post the training.

It demonstrated that with a coaching scheme aligned to the course, positive behavioural outcomes were delivered.

Which got me thinking further. With millennials increasingly making up greater portions of sales, coaching is still important, but how do you make it effective?

Like me, I suspect many sales leaders are from the Baby Boomer era. We’re comfortable with structure and organisation and have a preferred style of learning new things. But how do you engage with an increasingly dominated Millennial sales team to learn new behaviours? Do we need to look at different tools and techniques; we know Millennials are the most tech savvy generation?

We know Millennials are more responsive to new ideas, enjoy learning through investigation, discovery and experience. Their attention span is short, spend long periods on social media. As well as adopting video based learning and delivery via mobile learning, I’ve pondered the role of gamification; the process of adding motivational elements based upon game theory and game mechanics. Imagine a sales exec placed in virtual replica of a sales campaign. The theory suggests that allowing the sales exec to manage a real-life sales call / campaign the experience becomes more memorable, motivational and energising.

As Baby Boomer sales leaders, we need to re-think how we enable the behavioural change we desire in our sales teams, otherwise we won’t achieve the ROI our boards are demanding.

About Chris Smith - Chris is passionate about the delivery of excellent customer service. He has over 30 years of winning and delivering innovative technology solutions into a variety of different industry sectors often working on high profile transformational projects for companies like First Group, GSK, Royal Mail, Serco, G4S, Cardiff Council and HMRC.

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