We are all aware that training budgets have always been under pressure, and that will always be the case. Sales training budgets are no different, so it is a case of continually doing more and more with fewer resources. To be successful, training managers must continually monitor emerging trends and implement winning strategies early enough, to keep their company’s nose ahead of the opposition.
If you are currently putting together a sales training strategy for 2017, here are three trends you should not ignore.
#1 Subject matter experts (SMEs) will be the new generators of business.
In today’s B2B scenario, buyers and influencers have access to all the information they require, and there is not much ‘information’ that a sales rep can provide them with. A session with an SME however, would help a buyer identify the specific information relevant to their situation.
The trick therefore, will be to build a team of qualified SMEs who possess both professional and interpersonal skills. The team will be built from the existing salesforce, through effective training. This will be possible when companies:
- Provide sales reps with access to the right data at the right time
- Do not treat training as a one-off event, but as a continuous process
- Realize their limits and glean training content from third parties for better training
- Build a team that understands sales from a customer’s context
- Understand that technology-enabled learning (e-learning, gamification), is necessary for longer retention of all that is learned
#2 Machine learning will continue to create waves.
This one is not just another run-off-the-mill training trend. Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence (AI) that enables computers to learn without being explicitly programmed. It’s not new, but over the last couple of years, there has been a renewed interest in it. An example of machine learning is the algorithm that Amazon uses to send out recommendations to customers, based on their buying history.
In a sales scenario, the computer generates information on a prospective customer’s needs based on the information stored in it. This information would include current trends in the industry, information on past deals, and information on the sales at hand. So, the sales rep approaches the prospective customer fully geared with this relevant information, and with a greater chance at making a sale. This predictive accuracy will in turn lead to greater sales.
#3 Millennials will be groomed to take on leadership roles.
Baby boomers have been replaced by millennials who now make up most of the American workforce. There is the big question as to whether they are ready to take charge. According to a CNBC interview (with Jeanne Meister, Future Workplace partner, and author, Dan Schawbel), the answer to this question depends on who you ask. Baby boomers believe that millennials are not ready to take charge, while the millennials firmly believe they have everything it takes to be leaders.
Millennials are flooding the salesforce, and baby boomers are retiring; so whether they are ready or not, it looks like millennials are going to have to climb up the ladder sooner than later, and take on new and added responsibilities.
Because many of them have the qualities to become future leaders, companies will start seeking out the bright and promising ones this coming year and immediately groom these potential leaders for the future.
The one thing that is certain is that change will continue at a relentless rate, and the good HR or training manager will continue to react early and embrace new trends as they emerge, and keep their company on the front foot.