Sales Training in India: Setting the Pace

India's sales culture has traditionally been very relationship-based, but as the country's business landscape becomes more competitive, companies are turning to sales training and tools to gain an added advantage. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> To stay ahead of the game, companies want to understand the individual selling strengths and weaknesses of their sales reps, then strategically determine how best to design a targeted training program emphasizing those strengths, developing areas of growth, and providing managers with the ability to directly measure ROI.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> While the rest of the world contends with the economic slowdown, India's economy is projected to grow by 7.5 percent this year. Major industries needing sales training include pharmaceuticals, automotive, retail, finance, and insurance. Across sectors, the major challenges are growing competition, a gap between skills needed and skills available in the workforce, and high attrition. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> For example, retail alone counts for 10 percent of India's GDP and is expected to grow at a rate of 25 percent annually, yet the industry is currently working with a huge but less qualified workforce. Meanwhile, in pharmaceuticals, the attrition level in the field is 30 to 40 percent&#x2014;8 to 10 percent at the managerial level.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> In order to address the demands and challenges of today's environment with ongoing sales training investments that deliver data, speed and results, sales managers are asking these three questions:<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> &#x2022; How can I get concrete data to tell me exactly where each of my reps stand?<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> &#x2022; How do I provide training that can be immediately applicable to performance?<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> &#x2022; How can I better manage my sales team to drive results?<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Making it Count</b><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Companies in a rapidly changing and expanding market like India's demand effective training, the kind providing the sales force with learning that makes an immediate impact on improved performance. This requires sales training that is relevant, contemporary, and builds upon the reps' existing knowledge base and experience. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> In order to ensure a valuable experience that translates into sales results, assessments can play a critical role. By first understanding the individual and collective strengths or weaknesses of a sales organization, training can be customized to the exact needs of the group. This ensures a powerful and relevant experience for all participants. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Leveraging Managers as Coaches</b><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> India faces a 20 percent gap between the demand for sales leadership and the skills of the current talent pool. Sales managers are the No. 1 leverage point an organization has to turn the insight and value of assessments and sales training into actual sales results. Companies are quickly learning how critical it is to equip sales managers with more effective coaching skills. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> The reinforcement, relationship building, and coaching a sales rep receives from their manager may be the number one competitive edge a sales organization has for attracting and retaining top talent, which translates directly into better performance and stronger sales results. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Data and Details</b><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Sales managers are looking for concrete data enabling them to know exactly where their reps stand. The old saying "Hire for drive, teach skills," is absolutely true, and today's sales managers need reliable information to show them where each rep stands in both areas. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> One important trend now emerging is the increased desire for sales assessments to provide critical insight on sales behavior and selling skills. Armed with the right data and a benchmark of where each rep is today, the sales manager is ready for accurate coaching, significant performance improvement, and robust sales training. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Flexibility Still Key</b><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> In a diverse business environment such as India's&#x2014;where industries, customs, and training approaches change from region to region&#x2014;the flexibility of data-based assessment tools to provide sales managers with customized data is a significant advantage. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Any tools or training solutions need to be sensitive to the diverse cultures of a region, instead of trying to force "Western" training into what can be a very different business culture. The scientific nature of assessment tools makes them culturally agnostic, as opposed to just offering Western management techniques and trying to make them fit. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> With some of the world's largest sales teams, companies in India are finding tremendous value with a powerful combination of personalized assessments and sales training approaches. Such a combination is perfect for pinpointing and then addressing the team's individual and collective strengths and weaknesses.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <i>Nancy Martini is president and CEO of <a href="" target="blank">PI Worldwide</a>.</i>