Missing Sales Strategy – Tip #265

Share this article

When we train salespeople, we need to align with organizational sales strategy, but what if it’s M.I.A.?

When a company expanded into a new market by hiring twenty new sales representatives, account development process and sales skills training were urgently needed. 

My assignment: Interview top salespeople for six case situations  — one to demonstrate the general process and use of selling skills, and five cases focused on products the salespeople considered high priorities for the new market.

I studied the company’s account development process and selling skills model and reviewed the sales training program that had produced top sales reps for years. This helped me develop: 

1. One Continuous Case with activities over four half-day Instructor-led group sessions (online, onsite, or both options for participants)
2. A series of 15-20 minute online microlearning units, each focused on one of five high-priority products selected by the sales reps. Each independent study unit would include 4-5 minute interactive segments for participants to:
  • Analyze client’s major business problem(s) and possible product needs
  • Adapt each element of the selling skills model to sales conversations

I scheduled meetings and armed myself with questions for weaving together: 

  • Real-world client challenges
  • Company’s account development process and selling skills model
  • Client psychology to force skill use (“Why might the customer, in this case, hide what they
          really think?… What objections?…  Which benefits can overcome the objection?) 

Six cases. No brainer, right?  I started interviews. One salesperson refuses to speak to me — no reason. Others ask me their own questions: “How can we give you case situations when we don’t know which products are high priorities?”, “We’re just throwing stuff at the wall and hoping we make sales. Just lucky.”,  “They give us a lot of talk but sales data and strategies are Missing-In-Action!”, “What if we don’t have any competitive advantages?”, and unrepeatable anger at the corporate office.  Oops.

The salespeople were too afraid of losing their jobs — or worse, sounding stupid —  to tell the emperors in the corporate office they had no clothes. What’s a sales trainer to do if the leaders don’t know? My strategy – I asked my L&D manager to call a meeting with the corporate office for advice. Why? “So many different possibilities –  we need to know what executives want not what sales reps want.” And never say the sales reps don’t have a clue. Just my lack of knowledge and my respect for company leaders’ valuable insights. 

So there I was in the boardroom, asking for advice from the heads of Sales and Marketing. Even the CEO. “I’d really like to hear your insights and preferred strategies before I ask sales reps for their opinions.” I asked simple What-Why-Which-How-questions; the senior people, unable to shame themselves with “I don’t know,” figured out answers to pass on to the troops. 

L&D may not get revenue-producing respect, but our focus on specific behaviors to produce needed performance results, if diplomatic, can impact the bottom line.


Tita Theodora Beal

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
“Helping Learners Learn Their Way”

Vignettes Learning Workshops
1. Developing Critical Thinking for Modern Learners
2. Microlearning for Disruptive Results
3. Instructional and Experience Design for Workflow Learning
4. The Masterful Virtual Trainer Online Workshop
5. Hyper Story-Based eLearning Design Workshop
6. Training Frontline Leaders as Learning Accelerators
7. HYBRID Remote and Hands-on Training
8. Advanced Skills in Webinars