About a year ago, B2B research firm Aberdeen Group published a report titled "It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint: Best-in-Class B2B Sales Training for an Ever-Changing Market." The overall theme of the report was that making the sales cycle more efficient involves embedding educational efforts into long term methodologies that get long term results.
The clearest result of the study of 260 respondents was that top performing companies that deploy formal sales training lead lesser performers in terms of reaching team sales quotas, retaining customers, and individual sales reps achieving their quotas. But this overall theme can be broken down into more specific actions that help shorten the sales cycle. Here are 5 of them.
1. Improve Training for Engaging Senior Level Decision-Makers
Top-performing companies understand that engaging senior level decision-makers has become more important and that presenting a standardized message has become less important. What this means is that sales training has to go beyond the basics so reps can interact with senior level executives while presenting customized sales messages that are relevant to each individual sales conversation. This makes sense for pharma sales training, since sales reps are more likely to converse with formulary managers and decision committees than in years past.
2. Train Team Members Specifically in Up- and Cross-Selling
Up-selling and cross-selling to existing customers is faster and less costly than acquiring new customers. While naturally you don't ignore potential new customers, improving the sales cycle includes anticipating and meeting the needs of customers you already have. The problem is, not all sales professionals have sufficient training in up- and cross-selling. The "best in class" performers in the Aberdeen study were significantly more likely to train reps in up-selling and cross-selling than were those with less impressive performance.
3. Follow Up Training With Coaching
Top performing companies don't simply send their sales professionals to training and assume it's done. Rather, they formally follow up sales training with reinforcement, typically through one-on-one coaching. Exceptional companies know this works. Companies that include coaching and reinforcement with sales training have higher rates of customer retention, higher team achievement of quotas, and a higher percentage of individual sales reps achieving their quotas. These companies are also more likely to turn to external trainers or consultants for assistance.
4. Use Assessment Tools and Act on the Results
Defining sales performance metrics is one thing, but actually measuring them and acting on the results is another. The Aberdeen study found that best in class performers were significantly more likely than others to use assessment tools both before and after training. They were also much more likely to use assessment tools to match sales professionals with the most suitable roles. The strategic use of assessment tools resulted in shorter sales cycles and shorter time-to-productivity averages among their sales professionals.
5. Include Non-Sales Employees in Pharma Sales Training Activities
How can inclusion of non-sales employees in sales training shorten the sales cycle? By making it possible for people other than sales reps to help ensure customers get the product, service, or resolution that they want when they want it. Previously sharp lines between marketing, sales, and customer service are more blurred in many of today's companies. When non-sales personnel have some sales training (such as in up-selling and cross-selling), they can play a bigger role in making the most of the customer experience.
The Aberdeen study makes clear what many have long believed: that training, coaching, and assessment have a measurable positive impact on the length of the sales cycle and achievement of sales objectives. To learn more, please contact us at any time.