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Reinforce the Skills and Behaviors that Will Help Your Sales Team Excel

By Rick Van Natta

Reinforce the Skills and Behaviors that Will Help Your Sales Team Excel

There are two critical functions an organization must have to achieve high performance. First is a desirable product or service and the other is a professional sales team. To build a high-performance sales team, most organizations will conduct sales training to set the stage for success by providing their sales team with the knowledge and skills necessary to improve performance.

Unfortunately, many businesses will see little to no change following the training sessions, even if they have chosen a highly respected training program with proven results. The reason for this is that training is only one part of the journey required to effectively gain knowledge and skills, but more importantly, transfer those new skills into repeatable behaviors which is what is needed to produce a change in performance. So, with that said, what is really required to be able to reinforce and implement these new skills and behaviors for our sales team to achieve excellence and to truly excel?

Training is absolutely a critical part of the process, but only one part. Before we embark on the training journey, executive support and commitment is fundamentally critical for success. Not only from a strategic and financial standpoint, but the organization’s leadership must be genuinely committed to ensuring that the desired behaviors become a regular part of the business. Leaders need to support implementation, but also expect that new behaviors are practiced as a routine approach to their business. Only after this commitment has been secured should we start the training process.

Effective training requires preparation. This begins with a good look at the business as it currently exists through a thorough review, then an assessment of where the company desires to be in the future, and next, a review of the business’s ability and desire to change. Then an informed selection of a training program that will fit with the needs and resources identified during this review can be made.

We recommend Wilson Learning’s The Counselor Salesperson as an established and proven professional consultative selling training solution. We have worked with this program in a multitude of industries and organizations that range from small to very large global operations and find that the approach is relatively easy to understand, implement, and produces positive results in sales performance. The program focus is on establishing and maintaining relationships built on trust, solid discovery of the customer’s true gap in achieving desired success, and a consultative approach to problem solving to ensure that the right solutions are presented. An additional step provided is customer support after the sale, which is often overlooked by many sales training programs.

Determinations need to be made up front about the organization’s ability to support the implementation and desired change following the training to achieve the desired results. Choosing a proven solid program is critical to setting the stage for high performance. Training might be conducted in-person, remotely either using instructor led or eLearning delivery, or perhaps, on-the-job training.

Some organizations view training as a “check-mark” event, simply getting through the training and moving on to the next task thinking that delivery of knowledge and skills will automatically produce results. Unfortunately, these organizations find themselves generally wasting a lot of time and resources on training that simply does not produce the change they were hoping for and then wondering why the training didn’t “stick.” The answer is that the skills were not reinforced, and people simply forgot what they learned when these new skills were not used and supported following the training delivery!

Multiple studies have been conducted and all have shown that people lose newly learned skills shortly after the training is completed without continued reinforcement of concepts, procedures, and actions within even a matter of weeks. This means that we need support after the training to learn how to apply these new skills and change our behaviors so that the new processes become habits.

The most effective approach to this support is through the coaching process. We need coaching after the training session to pick up where the session left off and continue the learning and skill development process in real-world applications. Therefore, a key element of the initial preliminary business review is to identify the coaches that will help others to succeed and grow along their journey to success. These coaches must be competent in the knowledge and skills presented in the selected training program and experienced in the application or trained appropriately to be able to support and guide others. Because of this need for expertise, coaches may be internal or brought in externally to support the implementation process depending on the resources available to the organization. Coaches are effective during the preparation for the training sessions and critical after the sessions have been completed.

Once this initial review is complete, the sales training program has been selected, and coaches have been identified, the formal development process then begins with the training sessions to introduce and deliver the desired professional skills to the sales team. It is then up to the participant to figure out how to apply these to their job. Some people are better than others at this step, but most of us could benefit from the help of a knowledgeable coach. People left to their own, will generally gravitate to the easiest way forward. Implementing new skills and processes is not the easy way to go. People usually prefer not to change, if they can, but with proper feedback and guidance, behavior change is effected in companies.

Coaching is the solution to transferring our newly learned skills and behaviors from training to our sales teams to enable them to excel. Sales team coaches establish an environment where on-the-job development can occur, gently guide the team in a direction that will produce success, help key people and high-performing members to best utilize the skills, and support the development of those that may be struggling, all with the focus of becoming a focused and efficient team. We don’t always get to start with a highly proficient sales team but as has been demonstrated in amateur sports teams and military units throughout history, these high performing teams can and have been developed with solid training and coaching programs.

SEG uses a solid and proven coaching model: Wilson Learning’s A-B-C model, where we focus on Aligning expectations, observing Behavior, and holding Coaching conversations. We find that this method provides the coaches and the participants a clear picture of what is expected of them, the ability to practice new skills in a non-threatening environment, and feedback for acknowledgement of good performance or suggestions for improvement in a positive manner.

We also recommend that refresher training be held periodically to address and refresh those skills that may have been overlooked or that can be applied in different ways than originally envisioned. This is especially true in the changing work environments we have been experiencing, especially recently. This training journey is led by a coach or a group of coaches that are focused on helping others to succeed, internally or externally, depending on company resources and expertise.

The primary and fundamental skills needed to be a good coach are a genuine desire to help others, ability to effectively communicate and provide feedback, and establish and maintain positive and confidential relationships with others. Without these primary skills, efforts to develop others will be challenging for both the coach and those who are being developed to perform better. External coaches can be especially helpful in providing guidance with respect to the training program content and general application, but internal coaches or support people need to be involved to help with the actual specific business application of skills and processes.

Some additional important considerations to consider for the coaching relationship are how the coaching will be conducted (in-person or remote), whether the sessions will address specific skills or general processes, and whether the sessions will be regularly scheduled or as-needed. Face-to-face meetings are generally preferred, but not always available. Effective coaching can most definitely be conducted remotely!

The purpose for conducting training is to develop knowledge, provide skills, and most importantly, implement behavioral change to produce better performance. Sales teams need the knowledge and skills to function at their best, but also the ability to implement their own behavioral changes to be able to excel. Executive and leadership support is critical to start the training process. A solid proven training solution is also necessary to provide the sales team the information and skills necessary to succeed. But critical to implementing and reinforcing skills and behaviors, is a solid coaching program to guide the sales team along the journey, and most importantly during the time right after the training program sessions. Strategic Enhancement Group offers coaching services to work with organizations to implement programs and offers training programs to help develop internal coaches to implement the behaviors more effectively for sales teams to truly excel.

Published: October 27, 2021

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Rick Van Natta

Senior Performance Consultant

Rick brings over 35 years experience in training and people performance. He has a “real-world, down to earth” approach to facilitation and coaching founded on his background in retail sales, specialty chemicals, marine drilling, and nuclear power plant operations having held positions ranging from Sales Representative through Director levels across the sales and operations functions in businesses. Rick also served in the US Navy nuclear power program retiring as a Master Chief Petty Officer after 25 years where he was a certified Nuclear Instructor. He holds graduate degrees and certificates in Engineering, Environmental, and Human Resources Management, Business Administration, Lean Six Sigma, and Project Management.

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