Training new business development consultants is a challenging task. It’s an intense, high-pressure job that requires a deep understanding of both the business or government agencies being targeted, as well as plenty of soft conversion skills. Also, top business development consultants have superior analytical and “trendspotting” skills, allowing them to be among the first to capitalize on new opportunities.
Based on our own extensive experience training on business development, we have some suggestions to make the most of your training programs.
Sales development isn’t a job that can be learned from handbooks and process manuals, though they can help. “Learning on job” is the best way for long term development but there are ways to speed that up if you have a formal training program that gives new consultants a list of practical hands-on things they need to experience. For new groups, role-play can really speed up training on specific situations they will encounter with customers and in other networking situations. Formal “sales skills” training can be very beneficial in getting the basics of sales learned quickly.
Few tools for training business development consultants are better than role-playing, when you have experienced people playing the other side of the conversation. Pick some of your existing top performers and have them hold role playing sessions with the newer consultants. If you work from a list of your “Top Ten BD Situations”, they can be exposed to a lot of learning in a short period of time. They learn how their prospects talk and can simulate realistic conversations. Switch between playing “good client” and “bad client” so trainees become comfortable with both types of interaction.
“Shadowing” with dual-headset setups on phone calls is a great way for trainees to see the boss in action, first-hand, without risking any big mistakes themselves. Likewise, in their first weeks on the job, try to have monitors listening in on their conversations and offering advice. Large companies use phone training as a core part of their sales and customer service on-boarding for good reason, it delivers great results in customer satisfaction.
Every business development or sales job, in any industry, will have questions they hear from leads and clients over and over. Create a standard FAQ to use as reference. This can be fun to document all the questions and client objections and write them down with great answers for reference. For the more public facing questions, post them on your website for reference there.
Once new business development consultants are actually ready to work, it’s important to discover which ones are willing to go above and beyond. Have stretch goals past their daily, weekly, and month targets, specifically so you can spot the ones who are constantly achieving great results. This also helps the new consultants understand what you want to measure, what’s important to you as a manager.