Every sales person has a way to develop their skills. As an example I like to watch training videos and learn how to do things differently to be more effective in sales.
I am wondering if it is more effective to have a strict regimented sales training strategy or would it better to allow my sales team develop their talents and look for metrics of their effectiveness.
Part 2 of the question: has anyone had experiences with sales coaches? Anyone that they recommend?
The answer, as in many other scenarios, is that "it depends." There is no one right way to advance sales skills. And sales cannot be isolated from other aspects of the business like marketing and operations. It's marketing's job to enable sales, to set standards, and to develop the language and methods sales will use.
First you need to pick your philosophy of marketing before you know how to build your sales team's skills. If you have two different philosophies (what sales believes and what marketing believes), the two departments will not be very compatible or supportive of one another.
Secondly you need to understand what motivates your salespeople, and also in what mode they learn best. Are they auditory, visual, or tactile learners? You cannot expect salespeople to be the same type or to be personally motivated by the same things, even if they're very teachable.
Training salespeople in general is not a one-and-done process. Sales needs to be engaged in continuous training, which also requires sales to be involved heavily in the feedback loop that informs marketing of what's going on in any sales call. If the feedback loops is weak or absent, there is no way for marketing to adjust the tools that enable sales.
No, you should never let your salespeople do whatever they want. You must incentivize the behavior you desire from them, look to motivate them (individually), and train them to follow your standard. You want the sales experience to be the same (as close to identical as possible) for any customer no matter who the salesperson is. Ideally you should be able to hot swap a salesperson if necessary, and the customer would not feel any disruption.
There's nothing wrong with sales coaches, but you need to select a single philosophy that works for your market and stick to it. Management should participate in sales training just as much as the salespeople, because they will have to uphold the standards after the coach leaves.
I have noticed that the vast majority of sales and marketing people do NOT keep up with contemporary techniques and philosophies. This is unfortunate, because skills development does improve business. Congratulations on being eager to continue to learn. It's important. Even 16 years into marketing, I still remain curious and work to advance my understanding of contemporary practices. It keeps me in a leading position.
Afi - I coach many sales leaders as well as CEOs and others. For sales, here is list we work from to build the best team and scale the business most effectively and efficiently.
I am happy to talk further if you like.
One last thing - I believe that we all have innate abilities that we are best at, we can definitely improve skills but you cannot make a marathoner into a world class sprinter however you can probably get him to run short distances a little bit faster but that is it. Bottom line- Make sure that you have the right person in the seat and have set expectations appropriately.
Given the choice of the two options, it's better to go for the strict regimented approach because it is more scalable. In reality, you will have a standard sales training strategy and allow some leeway within that for each salesperson to develop their skills.