The Sales Behavior Advantage: Why Reps Need More Than Skills

May 18, 2016

You’re comparing the numbers for two sales professionals on your team, David and Serita. David’s are all over the board, while Serita consistently meets or beats her targets. You look into the possible variables: her territory, her goals, her experience, and the hours she puts in. No glaring differentiators there.

So, what’s Serita’s secret? After a little more digging, you realize this: Serita’s success is a result of her behaviors.

Sales behaviors drive results over time, for better—or for worse. If you want to develop your sales team, improve your customer experience, and consistently meet and beat your targets, behavior training is one of best things you can invest in.

Sales behavior training to apply knowledge and skills

What is behavior training?

Behavior training focuses on the choices sales professionals can make throughout their week, and it encourages them to make decisions that will achieve the best results.

Take your needs analysis for example. David can conduct a needs analysis with every prospect, or he can skip it and go straight to the recommendation. He has a choice to make. (We’re hoping he’ll conduct a needs analysis with every prospect, right?!)

Behavior training also builds on knowledge and skills. First David needs to know what he’s selling and why it’s important. Then he needs to know how to sell it (this is where skills like building rapport and overcoming objections come into play). Once he’s learned that, then he needs to choose the actions he’ll take day in and day out—his behaviors.

Think about it this way. You can organize most training content into three buckets:

  • Knowledge: What it is and why it’s important
  • Skills: How to do it
  • Behaviors: The action taken

How to train knowledge, skills, and sales behaviors

Behavior training is David’s chance to think critically and apply the knowledge and skills he’s learned. It’s the capstone of your onboarding program—the course that ties it all together.

Why is behavior training important?

Sales behaviors drive sales activities, which in turn drive results. When you’re David—doing your best to keep up with orders, contracts, and Salesforce—it can be hard to step back and analyze the connection between your choices, your sales activities, and your results. But, it’s clear: behaviors are at the heart of his results.
Sales behaviors are at the heart of resultsAs we’ve learned from our work with sales organizations like BH Media Group, you can’t coach results, but you can coach the behaviors that influence them. Norman Behar of the Sales Readiness Group puts it this way:

A good analogy that demonstrates this point is weight loss. Someone who wants to lose weight cannot simply get on a scale daily and record their weight. While there is likely to be some fluctuation day to day, the results are not meaningful unless they are taking specific behaviors (e.g., modified diet, exercise) that will impact these results.

Behavior training moves the focus from what might be outside of David’s control (market volatility, season, pricing) to what’s within his control (the actions he can take to accomplish his goals).

How should I train sales behaviors?

To create a behavioral sales training strategy, put your analyst hat on. Find out who your other high performers like Serita are, and then ask open-ended questions to figure out their shared best practices.

From there, align their best practices (a.k.a. their behaviors) with your sales process. If the first stage in your sales process is Greet, what are the specific behaviors that characterize an effective greeting?

Socialize what you’ve learned with your frontline, managers, and key stakeholders; get feedback; and refine your design. After that, you’re ready to develop your training.

The key is to give your learners choices. If they choose the right behavior, affirm their decision and reinforce why it was right. If they select the wrong behavior, help them understand why it’s wrong and why a different decision would get a better result. When designed the right way, a simulated, scenario-based approach can work extremely well within an instructor-led context or a self-paced eLearning context.

Remember, it’s easy to focus on results, but you can’t coach results. If you want your sales professionals like David and Serita to apply their knowledge and skills in a variety of real-world situations, let them practice making decisions. Show them how their sales behaviors impact their customer relationships and their numbers. It’s the day-to-day behavioral choices that help them achieve consistent wins.


About the Author

Lacy Barker is a Director on our Content Strategy team. She believes all people and things have stories to reveal if you do a little digging. Lacy brings this spirit of excavation to her Unboxed projects. She quickly and thoroughly mines large amounts of information to produce just the right content to fit our clients’ needs and provide real value.


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