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Sales Training Doesn’t Work

September 28th, 2010

If you are considering investing in Sales Training in hopes of growing your Sales, please save your time and money.

Throughout my career as a salesperson, manager, corporate executive and entrepreneur, I have participated in dozens of well-known sales training programs.  I have run six businesses with great sales teams.  For the last 12 years, I have owned and directed a successful Sales Development company that has helped hundreds of excellent companies to build consistent, scalable, world-class sales teams.  I’ve created many training programs and have experienced sales training as a student, creator, teacher, and coach.  I have personally trained thousands of salespeople and sales managers.

I am writing to tell you that sales training programs rarely produce desired results

So whenever a business leader contacts me to ask if we can train their sales team, I ask them:

“What results are you expecting from training your salespeople and sales managers?”

Companies invest millions every year in sales training.  Some want to improve skills.  Some seek to educate.  Some feel an obligation to provide training.  Some leaders hope to improve morale.  Others just wish to feel good about making training available. 

Most provide sales training in hopes that it will improve top line results. 

These are all reasonable thoughts and objectives.  Unfortunately, training alone almost always inspires hope but typically produces very disappointing outcomes.   And with very good reason…

Most salespeople and managers, especially “experienced” ones, hate to leave their comfort zone. 

So the primary objective of training salespeople should be to change your salespeople.  This single issue will determine success or failure.  In order to produce real, quantifiable results, your salespeople must:

  • Change their Beliefs & Attitudes
  • Change their Strategies
  • Change their Behaviors
  • Change their Tactics

And unless they change, their beliefs, strategies, behaviors, tactics and results will not change.  Another waste of time and money…

Many large corporations believe they have internal resources such as trainers, sales managers, HR experts to provide training.  They may even remove their “best” salespeople from the field for this purpose.  They purchase train-the-trainer programs, have companies develop curriculums for them, and deploy their own personnel to attempt to train.  If they measure results by education, obligation, morale and feelings, these programs may achieve their goal.  However, if they expect to see results in the form of improvements in revenues, market share, new customers, or profit (all by-products of changing their salespeople’s behaviors and activities), they will fail.  These failures often come at enormous expense in time, money and lost opportunities.

To change a sales professional, a trainer must be able to do much more than recite a script, teach curriculums, demonstrate strategies & tactics and perform role plays.  Effective sales trainers must possess competencies far beyond selling skills and training.  There are common, recurrent, underlying reasons why salespeople behave as they do– why they only do what’s comfortable versus doing what their employer needs them to do.  In the absence of this understanding, all training will go for naught.  

These hidden insights can be uncovered quickly by using an effective sales force evaluation instrument.  But trainers must be able to go further than understanding the beliefs, self-talk and sales specific weaknesses that prevent salespeople from consistently doing what they should.  They must also be able to get salespeople to understand that their lack of success and inability to execute a plan and process has more to do with those hidden weaknesses than from not having the right strategy or tactic. 

An effective trainer must also understand how to help people systematically eradicate their weaknesses.  So a stand-alone training program, or even multiple programs offered over the course of a year, will almost always fail.  Salespeople must be changed via consistency in training and coaching, several times per month for at least six months.  Overcoming long-held weaknesses and head-trash requires as much attention as strategies and tactics.  Even then, if sales management has not been trained to provide effective coaching and hold salespeople accountable to these changes, it still won’t work!

So why does so much training not achieve the desired result? 

  • The wrong people are delivering the training.
  • The participant’s trainability, coachability and hidden weaknesses are not assessed in advance.
  • There is not enough reinforcement.
  • Salespeople sense a lack of true commitment or support on the part of management.  They sense that management will continue to tolerate their mediocrity. 
  • The message hasn’t been delivered holistically, with enough frequency in the context of a congruent Sales and Sales Management development program.

    Copyright ©   Joe Zente  2010.   All Rights Reserved.

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