The missing piece in your team development program

Companies spend over a billion dollars a year on team development programs for their sales and support teams trying to find and create sales and service superstars.  And yet every week you lose opportunities you should win and customers who should “love you,” who do not. Your team development programs are not turning those that could be superstars, into superstars.

Why? It’s not the wrong programs.  It’s the wrong learning strategy.   Customer Engagement Training is what is missing from 99% of the team development programs being run by companies today.   Sure, most programs try to include a role play component, but they are stiff and often ridiculed by your sales and support teams – a box we need to check on a page in a 2-inch notebook.    Check out your program.  Look for the pages with the “and now do some role plays to practice this concept or skill.”  Does that ever happen effectively?

Next week your sales and support folks will engage with a prospect or customer and a significant percentage of your team will not engage as effectively as they could have.  Every new opportunity and customer satisfaction battle is won or lost in the short time in which your team is on the phone, in a zoom session or in front of that prospect/customer.   The amount of customer engagement time that any one person actually spends per week is insanely small.  But it is the only time which really matters.  Everything else is simply getting ready for the battle and following through on the results of the battle.   What you have to do is focus on helping them get better in that precious customer engagement moment, a skills development challenge that has historically been very hard to do. 

Customer engagement is as dynamic a situation as you can imagine.  Ask a fighter pilot what its like to be in a dogfight?  They look back at you with a blank stare – its not describable.  We know this from our own experience.  All the preparation for a key meeting, the goals are set, the strategy is defined, the questions and curiosities are anticipated, and then the moment comes and its real. And it never goes as expected.  There are always moments you look back on where you missed a path that opened up for you, an opportunity to further your mission, maybe a wrong move that increased risk of not being successful.  How do you teach someone what you did, and why you did it at every twist and turn in the customer engagement.  It would certainly help when you are in a team engagement situation to take the time to have an extended debrief discussion that tries to cover that subject, but no one has the time, and it never happens. 

Sales and support superstars have learned by going through real customer engagements and having the discipline and mental acuity to review what happened and figure out what to do differently next time on their own.  That is how you got to be a superstar.  That is why you try to hire experience – because no matter how great the raw talent is, the willingness to work hard, the great personality and CPU, they will not be successful until they learn how to navigate that precious moment.      

When you sit in sales and customer meetings, you often observe folks not execute effectively.  You make a point to your leaders that we have to do something better in those situations.   They pull out the chapter on that topic in your team development program and it gets reviewed in the next meeting(s).  Everyone nods their heads that they understand.  And they don’t get better?  They got educated on that skill.  But they did not get experienced in that skill. 

You need to have a Customer Engagement Trainer, or a company that will do it for you.  Their job will not be to shape your sales methodology or customer service training program.  Their job will be to deliver a customer engagement training program that certifies folks can do what’s in your current program – everything you know has to be done effectively to win a new opportunity or have a customer love you.

At Finding Winners we give them real situations to practice in and record those sessions so they can go back and try to see those critical moments when an opportunity to further the mission was missed, or perhaps recognized but not taken full advantage of.  When a failure to build a solid information foundation came back to hurt them later in a curiosity or objection moment.  When a failure to get buy in each step of the way in the engagement, left them with a loose end that blocked them from success.  We want them to see when how they execute erodes their connection position with the customer/prospect, or dramatically improved it.  We want them to have to deal with the worst curve balls imaginable – the kinds of customer behavior or positions which annihilate those who don’t know what to do.  We want them to be able to see how a pro would handle the exact same scenario they just struggled in – to know it could be done better and how that better way of doing it changes the results of the engagement.  We want them to experiment with their own ideas and maneuvers and see how they play out – something most would never try in front of a real customer.  And we want them to compete to see who the best really is – we want them to have fun in the process of becoming superstars.

Battle simulation is the only effective learning mechanism for customer engagement skills.  You have to have real scenarios, in group sessions lead by professional customer engagement coaches.  These sessions have to be recorded so folks can go back and see what they or others did with the benefit of coaching feedback.  The learning groups have to be competitive so folks are motivated to practice and try new things, there has to be a Top Gun.   You need to work to evolve what you are doing today in your sales and support team development programs, into a customer engagement training program.

About the Author: Scott Martiny is the CEO of Finding Winners Inc.   Finding Winners is a company dedicated to using customer engagement testing and training to make sure you hire and develop customer engagement superstars.   www.finding