About Nicolas Dejehansart

Nicolas assists companies in driving their commercial performance to the next level. His pet projects are about enabling sales teams to win more deals, secure higher margins and lower the cost of sales. Get in touch with Nicolas to gain competitive advantage: nicolas.dejehansart@perpetos.com.


Last week, I had another meeting with a Head of Sales in order to determine improvement opportunities within his sales team. Once again, the Head of Sales expressed to me the closing skills of his account managers should better. 

While this might be true for some, the reality is that this is mostly the symptom of another problem.  

While conducting several assessments to determine skill and proficiency levels within and across sales teams in several organisations, we noticed a recurring pattern: sales professionals induce the difficulty of closing themselves

How? They often go for the kill too soon in the selling process.  

Let me explain. We all know buyers go through their own buying journey. After being triggered by something, their interest is raised, they become aware something should change, start exploring,… to finally end up deciding what specific solution they need and whom shall be the best provider of this solution.  

If, as a sales rep, you start proposing a specific solution while the buyer just became aware something in his current situation should change, or worse, if you start telling him why he should collaborate with you, you will create a lot of friction.  

When you think of it, it is no rocket science. It all has to do with the mental phases we all go through in our decision process towards change. This mental journey is illustrated by buyer journeys. This is something your sales reps should be aware of so they can determine what they should and should not do, and when to do it.  

So, what about your sales reps’ closing skills? It is quite simple, really. If you want them to be efficient in applying their closing skills, first ask yourself if your selling process is aligned to the buyer journey. If so, your sales reps are able to identify the buying readiness of prospects, know what to do accordingly, and when to close.  

Want to know if your selling processes is truly buyer aligned?

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Probably you have seen this quote passing by several times on your LinkedIn feed: 

“CFO says: What happens if we invest in developing people & they leave us? 

CEO responds: What happens if we don’t & they stay?” 

Now I ask you: How do you make sure your investments in learning & development are effective and pay off? Simply put: How do you make it stick?  

The major pitfalls of sales trainings are the following

  • Lack of reinforcement  
  • Lack of engagement  
  • Lack of business relevance  

Competency does not come from periodic, one-time training. According to Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve, learners forget 90% of what they learn from an event-based approach within 30 days, with most of the new material being forgotten within the first few hours after the training.  

Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve

True though; there is not a single, absolute learning curve. Several factors contribute to learning retention, like individual ability and prior knowledge. But the risk of forgetting fast is real for most of us.

A first solution to promote knowledge retention is spaced learning (1). In short, i.e. multiple training opportunities. Many figures like this one show how less is forgotten after each review.

Rate of Retention with Repetition

Repetition is indeed the mother of learning. We also notice great results by combining spaced learning with micro-learning (2)! Micro-learning breaks down complex courses into smaller manageable learning content. Not only do we enhance retention rates through repetition, but we also speed up the learning process because trainees avoid the phenomenon of mental fatigue.

Of course, transfer to the job (3) is equally as important. In the end you are aiming for measurable business results, are you not? Knowledge of concepts is one thing, the capability of applying them another. So, if you want to see impact on your sales results and implement lasting positive change, you will want to change habits and behaviors. 

That is where the design of the training matters and on-the-job learning and coaching come into play. Think about group coaching, peer learning, in the field coaching done right (i.e. where the coach does not intervene) and using mobile technology with scenario-based challenges. 

By genuinely including your team in continuous training opportunities, you can make lasting changes in sales behaviors and positively impact performance. 

Next, make sure trainings are relevant to the business and your team’s objectives (4).

Do you remember those compulsory courses you had to follow in school which were nowhere close to your field of interest? Probably not your absolute best. It is the same with business training. Making it business relevant and aligned to individual and team objectives will generate higher engagement, increase on the job practice, and generate tangible results.

A good way to gauge this, is whether people within your sales team take ownership of their day to day activities and proactively ask for feedback about their successes and challenges, encountered while consciously trying to apply what they have learned.

Finally, think about building a performance dashboard (5) measuring proficiency, adoption, and the link to commercial performance. It will enable you to do two things:

  • See how competency levels are evolving within the group in order to put your time and effort where it matters most
  • See the direct link between your investments in L&D and business results.

Want to read more about this topic?

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