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Selling Skills for Contemporary Professionals

By Joan Paul

Matthew logs onto his laptop at 8 p.m. Sunday evening as he starts preparing for Week number three as a new sales representative at a well known high tech company. He is preparing for a meeting with a large pharmaceutical client and wants to retrieve some of his previous notes in order to prepare himself. Earlier the same day, Linda, a consultant in a small professional services firm, a solid relationship builder and rainmaker for years, logs onto the same program to try a new way of writing proposals.

This is how traditional sales training and for that matter, all learning and development is reinventing itself. No longer three days in a classroom with the same old role plays, learning the same skills with the same people. Matthew and Linda now have the privilege of learning what and when they want to simply by logging on at any time of day, wherever they left off, to a content rich, interactive and contemporary sales training program. Not only that, but they have immediate access to an online tutor who checks in with them regularly, looks at their assignments and dialogues with them at all times of the day. This is just one of the many ways training and development is beginning to catch up to today's business environment, where young, savvy professionals are coming onboard prepared to learn at their own pace. Couple this unique online training with more exciting classroom learning as well as one on one coaching and watch out. Companies can now achieve and measure considerable results from training investments. Imagine dusty binders asleep on employees' bookshelves becoming laptops dancing on and off at their owners' leisure, at work, at home or at the local coffee shop.

To capture and sustain the attention of today's professionals, speakers and facilitators are forced to notch up the excitement. Generation Y, accustomed to immediate and fast paced applied learning, and those of us who aren't so new but definitely weary of the same old seminars, are looking for ways to learn and be engaged every day and not just once a year on a two day leave from the job. I've heard of motivational speakers who do magic tricks to get their point across, and facilitated workshops where actors play the role of clients. Last year I became intrigued by a sales management system developed in the United Kingdom that includes two board games, one on prospecting, lead generation and account planning, and another entirely focused on consultative selling skills. What a great way to integrate teambuilding, and customized learning to immediate situations, not to mention taking the pressure off sales managers to excel as sales coaches. It's great to see what happens when participants get to compete in a game where they learn and have fun - a welcome change for the "regulars" and great insight into accommodating entrants into the workforce.

If you are responsible for the development of others, or yourself for that matter, here's what you can do to liven up the learning and distinguish yourself in a workforce competing for high quality talent.

  • Introduce highly interactive, experiential learning into traditional workshops. Provide real case studies, simulations and hands on problem solving activities where learning can be applied immediately on the job.
  • Invite your clients to participate in the training or lead a Question and Answer session. There is really no one better to tell you what you need to learn than your clients. What a great way to demonstrate how much you value their opinions as well.
  • Find innovative training games, like The Sales Activator@ to make learning fun, ongoing and relevant.
  • Utilize highly evolved online learning such as WinWin Selling® to either replace or supplement traditional training environments.
  • For goodness sake, do ensure any type of training you invest in, is followed by professional coaching and other developmental activities. Without coaching, what people learn in session drops significantly as soon as they leave the classroom.
  • Above all, remember "innovation" is a word worth remembering. I once worked for a Vice President of a very large company who said he came to work every day thinking, "If I was the new person replacing myself in this job, what might I do differently?"

Joan Paul is the owner of J. Paul Training Inc. and is a Certified Executive Coach, Facilitator and Sales Strategist.