By Mike Jacoutot, Managing Partner
No change. No change.
If you haven’t done a complete overhaul of your client development training programs in the last two years, then do not expect your team to hit budget. Times have changed. Buyers have changed. A Corporate Executive Board study of more than 1,400 B2B customers found that those customers completed, on average, nearly 60% of a typical purchasing decision – researching solutions, ranking options, setting requirements, benchmarking pricing, and so on – before even having a conversation with a supplier. Does your client development training address the changing behaviors of your customers and prospects? Here are ten tips on how to make your client development training stick:
Start with the customer first. You want to acquire and retain more customers and sell more products and services to your existing customers, right? So, it only makes sense to start any training endeavor by understanding the needs and wants of your customers. What is your value creation strategy? Who is your target profile and who are their key decisions makers? How can you help them see their challenges in a new or different way?
Assess your client development team. Not just the “sales” or “business development” people. You need to assess your client services people as well. Remember, not everyone can win a customer, but anyone can lose one. Complete a skill set inventory of your staff and segment your training accordingly.
Customize your training program for your culture, your mission, vision, values and your industry. Today’s learner wants meaning in their work. Customization is a cost effective way to increase absorption and “stickiness” of the training. Role plays and situation “scrimmages’ should address common challenges your client development team faces on a day-to-day basis.
Use an “agile” approach to training rather than a waterfall approach. Remember college where you took a course, earned a grade and moved on to the next course, rarely applying anything you learned? That is a form of “waterfall” learning. Agile training is where knowledge is layered, subjects are not covered completely in one session. Enough information is learned to support learning of the next subject and the process is an iterative one where content is sequenced to increase absorption and stickiness. Think of playing a video game. You learn, apply and hit a wall. You start over: learn, apply, advance and hit a wall. Start over. You have seen the obstacles and now know how to overcome them.
Create “hot-seat” learning. After teaching and role-playing different techniques, put them on the phone and let them try what they have learned. This can be highly beneficial in areas from securing an initial meeting to handling an irate customer.
Executives and managers must complete the training. CEO, COO, CFO—anyone that would interact with the customer, should go through the training so that the approaches, methodologies, jargon starts at the top and is woven into the fabric of the company. This enables improved communication and support from management.
Coach, coach, coach. It is critical the managers reinforce the training by not only “talking the talk” but also, “walking the walk.” Having weekly one on ones with your client development people and working through training techniques are critical to making the training stick.
Utilize subject matter experts (“SMEs”). SMEs are your top performers who have embraced the training and can now teach modules of the training. They bring credibility and stories to the training that increase acceptance and absorption.
Recognize and reward. The psychological paycheck is often more important than the paycheck. Ask for stories where people used the training and it worked. Highlight and recognize their efforts. Recognized behavior gets repeated. Unrecognized behavior goes away.
Leverage a Continuous Improvement Series (“CIS”). CIS is a series of six monthly 60-90 minute sessions where the employees log in virtually and work with an instructor to review success and challenges they have experienced with the training.
No change. No change. How does your client development training stack up?
At Butler Street, we bring the best of what management consulting firms have to offer and the best of what training firms have to offer. We leverage a Diagnose, Develop and Perfect approach to learning; we diagnose gaps in your current training and build a system of reinforcing activities aligned with your culture, mission and values to ensure your training sticks. Our client development diagnostic tool can rapidly assess your current training and provide a roadmap to perfect it – just click on CONTACT to start the conversation.