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How Will Sales Training Change in 2010?

“The selling skills needed by the frontline salesperson to win in today’s market have to change dramatically,” said Ken Powell, VP of sales learning and performance at ADP. ADP, a $9 billion provider of business outsourcing solutions, knows how to run a highly successful and profitable operation. Last week, the financial Website Seeking Alpha ranked ADP among the top five S&P stocks by yield, reporting a whopping $1.62 billion in cash with only $42.2 million in debt.

On Wednesday, December 9t at noon CST, Ken and I will talk about how to create a successful salestraining and salesenablement process during a one-hour Webinar.

Ken predicts that the recovering economy will require a significant adjustment in determining what to train on and how to train salespeople. He also predicts that sales organizations will risk losing their top sales producers to more progressive companies that have successfully transitioned and adapted to the new realities.

The mind of the customer

ADP has recently restructured its salestraining approach based on a number of insights from thought leaders in the field. Among them are the philosophies and concepts published in the book The Mind of the Customer: How the World’s Leading Sales Forces Accelerate Their Customers’ Success (McGraw-Hill, 2006). The book and the companion Website offer concise tools that range from a comprehensive skills analysis to the development of a clear strategy for creating results for the customer.

Says Ken, “In today’s market, 75 percent of sales success depends on how you sell and 25 percent on what you sell.”

The mind of the “millenials”

Smart sales organizations such as ADP are preparing for the emerging psychological conflict created by the integration of the “millenials”- those who were born between 1975 and 1995. Powell referred to a 60 Minutes broadcast describing the millenials as the generation that is more tech savvy. They multitask, shifting quickly from typing on their notebook computers to texting, all while listening to music and playing an online game in the background. Their priorities are clear: They come first.

Millenials are online learners; they hate lectures, prefer peer learning, and have a completely different set of motivations compared to the previous generation. Millenials resist traditional sales training but respond well to effective coaching delivered by managers who understand the basics of “adult day care.”

Why traditional sales training is dead

Ken says that salespeople don’t want to sit in a classroom listening to a sales manager or a sales trainer lecturing salespeople on hypothetical sales situations that may never happen in the salesperson’s lifetime. The old approach of, “Here is how I made a lot of sales (ten years ago); do as I do and you will be successful too,” is going to drive salespeople to check their BlackBerrys or iPhones. What’s the best way to teach? Ken explains that to unleash salespeople’s potential we must begin with an objective assessment of their skills and compare the results to the skills of the topperforming salespeople. The resulting gap is the foundation for a prescriptive learning program at ADP. Following the gap analysis, salespeople are invited to learn online, earn credits, enroll in peer- learning programs, and get expert coaching from frontline managers who are, in turn, well trained coaching mentors.

How sales enablement creates a dynamic learning environment

To move ADP’s learning process from a “delay-based” system that required timeconsuming searching to a real-time online learning universe, the company reached out to SAVO, a leading SaaSbased, salesenablement service with which salespeople can collaborate, share best practices, access learning programs 24/7, and connect with subject matter experts. Tune in on Wednesday, December 9 at noon CST and feel free to ask questions. Ken is a salestraining and salesenablement thought leader worth following.

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Michael D Goodman

I am fortunate to have been in both the learning and technology space for most of my 35 plus years in sales. While it is great that ADP is adopting this mindset, the reality is this is and has been a big deal in corporate organization development for years and now is a raging monster in public education.

In Disrupting Class, Clayton Christensen defines the role of technology and innovation in changing the lives of struggling school kids. In the late 90's I worked with Org Dev leaders to define legitimate ROI for training and education and its value to the P & L statements of any company.

Then as now the only way to do it was to assess the difference in skill sets both Pre and Post intervention to discover the impact of training.

I wasn't able to listen to the program on Dec 9, but I can't tell you how glad I am to see companies taking the right approach to sales success in their team environments. ADP will only find higher and higher degrees of success with their efforts by simply understanding the world they operate in better and adapting their education methodology to fit.

My great curiosity now will be to see whether or not they are able to accurately assess and intervene in the will to succeed as well as the "how" to succeed. Frankly, that in my mind is the missing link in good sales training which seems to be rarely adequately addressed.

Thanks Gerhard for putting this magazine together for so many years and for all your work in promoting sales as an honorable and dignified profession.

Michael D Goodman
Revenue Kinetics, LLC

Josiane Feigon

Excellent post and very timely. Sales trainers have double duty now- they need to upgrade their delivery methods and skills and also teach teams how to sell in a sales 2.0 landscape. Great insights and analysis.

Dave Brookmire

Excellent insights about how sales needs to adapt to generations of the buyers. Sales training should be adapting not only to the millennials but also to the Gen Xer and Boomer sellers and buyers. We are in an unprecedented time in sales history, and have three generations of sales reps selling to three generations of buyers. Each of the sales and buyer generations have different preferences about learning, technology, attitudes toward relationships, etc. Our recently completed buyer survey showed that all generations are comfortable in different degrees with making purchases through email and phone methods and not just face-to-face based on the purchase price of the products and services. Developing the skills to compete in this technology based and generationally diverse customer base is critical to staying relevant.

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