SalesTech Star

How Effective Sales Training Influences Agility and Change Management 

By Julie Thomas, CEO of ValueSelling Associates

Due to a global pandemic and challenging economy, 2020 required a shift in how salespeople do their jobs and interact with customers. To adapt, many companies have reassessed how they approach both selling practices and necessary sales skills.

According to research findings by ValueSelling Associates and Training Industry, 87% of high-growth companies take a value-based approach to sales, as compared to 45% of negative-growth companies. Top-performing salespeople focus on helping prospects understand the value gained from the product or service through each customer interaction.

The ultimate purpose of sales training is to improve a range of outcomes for salespeople and the company at large, and our research points to the crucial ways in which effective sales training impacts business growth. When asked how much their sales training offerings positively contribute to a range of outcomes, the discrepancies between respondents from high-growth companies and respondents from negative-growth companies is stark.

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To conduct the research, ValueSelling Associates, Inc. and Training Industry, Inc. surveyed 256 U.S. sales leaders and learning and development decision-makers about the approach their companies are taking toward sales skills and managing change through a global crisis. Two distinct groups of companies emerged from the study — high revenue growth companies and negative revenue growth companies. High-growth companies’ leaders said 2020 was a banner year of growth, while negative-growth companies’ leaders said 2020 was the worst of the last five years.

Across the board, it seems, the quality of sales training is pivotal to revenue. It impacts employee satisfaction, employee motivation, employee retention, sales results, company culture and enterprise agility. Notably, sales training plays a bigger role in all outcomes in high-growth companies than it does in negative-growth companies — especially when it comes to agility, or the organization’s ability to manage and adapt to change quickly. Indeed, salespeople who were able to pivot and take the new workplace and selling situation in stride would have been a huge asset to their company.

To explore this idea further, we asked respondents about their approach to change management. Again, we found that high-growth companies are unequivocally better at managing change. These companies tend to be more effective at everything from identifying necessary changes to finding the right metrics to gauge their success once those changes were implemented.

Our research showed that companies across the board experienced many of the same challenges when it came to implementing sales training. However, negative-growth companies may have especially stumbled in their efforts because they didn’t know who to train and were unable to engage salespeople with their training.

Meanwhile, high-growth companies changed their business model, adjusted sales expectations and kept a mindset that sees change as temporary rather than permanently damaging their business. This data suggests that a willingness to change business models, as well as the ability to manage the multiple changes at once, played a significant role in buoying these companies through rough waters.

We’ve all had to change in response to unexpected events, and sales teams are no exception. But the teams that have adapted to change are better prepared for what’s to come. Those teams have enabled companies to excel and have a banner year despite the challenges they faced, while other companies have fumbled and reported low or negative growth.

A few key factors differentiate those high-growth companies and are important for all businesses to keep in mind if they want to succeed going forward:

  1. Companies that use a value-based approach to selling were more likely to have seen revenue growth.
  2. Salespeople’s skills need to shift to meet today’s needs, with an emphasis on positivity, empathy and presenting virtually.
  3. Companies must be ready to respond to change to keep their sales team operating smoothly and successfully.