Training day

All the sales training in the world won’t do any good if your sales manager doesn’t follow through, says John Eltzroth, owner of Effectium, a sales training firm.

“The management team is critical to deployment,” Eltzroth says. “It’s easy for a company to say, ‘I’m going to send you to sales training, but if the sales manager doesn’t know the process, it’s going to fall apart. It has to be throughout the organization,” from the sales manager to the sales support team. “Everyone involved has to be following the same process.”

Skilled salespeople may be reluctant to attend training, preferring to use the same techniques they always have, says Eltzroth. But even your best salesperson needs occasional formal training.

“You get into a routine,” he says, “and you sometimes forget tactics. Sales training almost always enlightens every person. In every class, you have people who say, ‘I know that, but I’m not doing that.’ It’s a very good reminder.”

While some companies rely on their top sales staff to train other salespeople, that is not always a good idea.

“Even if someone has very natural talent and they’re very successful, it’s still very difficult to explain it to someone else,” Eltzroth says.

Sending salespeople to formal training programs can help you reduce proposal time, increase the number of salespeople hitting quotas, reduce the cost of sales, optimize customer satisfaction and revenue and improve your ability to accurately forecast sales.

Eltzroth recommends sending sales reps to a formal program every two to three years if there isn’t much turnover, and that you always send new salespeople to a training program “that is consistent with what the company has adopted.”

“Sales training takes the mystery out of sales,” he says. “It’s really a process. It doesn’t need to be a mystery.”

But just putting your sales staff through training isn’t enough. After the program, reinforcement is vital.

“It’s an ongoing, day-to-day process,” Eltzroth says. “Management should encourage the use of those skills that they’ve been taught. Otherwise they will not use them, or will forget them or ignore them.”

The kind of training you choose to send your salespeople to depends on what your goal is. While Effectium caters its training to companies in difficult selling markets — intangible products, complex products, those of large value or those which may not be clear to the buyer — other programs, such as Carnegie, focus on communications skills, which are useful in all types of sales.

When choosing a program, Eltzroth recommends that you not only investigate the program but also to talk with the instructors to determine whether they think their process will be effective for what you want to accomplish. And avoid instructors who are condescending.

“That turns students off,” Eltzroth says. “And once students shut off, they may never come back.”

When searching for a program, also look for a small teacher-student ratio, which allows students to practice the tactics they’re learning.

“If you want them to practice what they’re learning, it’s easier to learn in smaller groups,” Eltzroth says. How to reach: Effectium, (877) 452-8387 or