sales training fails




Companies spend big on sales training every year. But, too often training ends up being later proven to have had little value. When the effects of sales training have proven to be too weak to last, it’s usually due to one or more of the reasons described below.

Correcting these shortcomings in a sales training program will result in stronger rates of attendee satisfaction with the training, and it can lead to long-term revenue growth.

Most professional salespeople have, at some point, been in a sales training class, workshop, or seminar that was disappointing in some way. Common training deficiencies can leave salespeople thinking they’ve wasted their time and their company’s money.

4 Reasons Sales Training Sometimes Fails

Sometimes, sales training failure may only be discovered weeks or months after the training, when it becomes clear that no measurable results have been generated from it.

Here are some of the most common complaints sales professionals offer on evaluations of sales training they attend:

1. It Wasn’t Memorable.

Instructors who fail to engage their sales training students end up with comments in their class evaluation results like, “It was too boring,” “The training wasn’t relevant,” “Nothing new was offered,” “The instructor wasn’t very good.” Give training attendees opportunities to exercise their newly learned skills on the spot (vs. watching them stifling yawns and trying to stay awake).

Selling is arguably the most intensively interpersonal of any business activity. So, sales training should not be conducted only by hearing some distant person across a large room delivering third-person perspectives on sales methods.

The most memorable sales training is much more hands-on. Students need to be able to get into some exercises first-hand.

Just some of the endless options for increasing engagement include:

  • Provide role-playing opportunities with the instructor and with neighbors seated to the left and right, when possible.

  • Using hand-in note cards that let participants suggest sales presentation and objection-handling scenarios as exercises to work on, and let the whole group offer solutions.

  • Plenty of Q & A.

  • Asking questions to random members of the audience, inviting people to come to the front for role-play, or to demonstrate exercises.

Find sales experts who offer trainings that feature these things, and bust the boredom.

2. It Was Not Tailored to Your Needs.

Recognizing attendees’ particular sales challenges and unique learning needs in sales training is fundamental to providing them with key solutions. Providing the kinds of specific changes and enhancements they need is the most efficient way to help them optimize their sales presentations and closing strategies through sales training.

There’s little likelihood that training will produce long-term results, if attendees don’t take away some concrete methods they can apply to their selling process.

Sales training instructors must do meaningful research and analysis, prior to sales training sessions. Otherwise, all expectations of training results are baseless. The sales trainer must understand be clear on what trainees’ need to be able to apply as the specific outcome of the training and what needs to be done in the training in order to achieve that.

Otherwise, the training initiative is directionless and doomed to failure. Sales training instructors must understand:

  • The actual learning needs of the sales team.

  • What skills they already have.

  • Where their pipeline weaknesses are. (This includes understanding their lead qualification, appointment setting, warm up, presentation, close, objection responses, reclosing, paperwork execution, post-close processes.)

  • How to build a sales training program that’s relevant to their industry’s unique selling process.

3. It Didn’t Help Build Sales Skills.

Most sales training actually does focus on sales attribute development. However, sales people need the deepest possible knowledge of what they’re selling. Yes, building strong basic sales skills is necessary, and more advanced techniques are invaluable to sales reps in more complex selling roles.

But, building basic sales capability can only go so far, even for the most confident salesperson. Thorough knowledge of the industry, and of the company and its products is at least as important.

Two equal and separate kinds of sales training must both be adequate in order for either to succeed.

1.General Sales Skills Training

This training is the domain of sales experts. All salespeople need training to develop a deeper understanding of the selling encounter to perform their best. Learning about the customer buying cycle and its psychological components, the interpersonal nuances of selling, and acquiring proven sales and closing techniques elevate good sales reps to greatness.

All sales professionals need periodically updated general sales skills training, to continually build on core skills, refine methods, and refresh their repertoire of techniques with the best of updated practices in sales. Those who master advanced selling strategies can sell at the highest levels and are among any company’s most valuable contributors.

2. Specific Industry, Company and Product Training

Along with training to develop general sales skills, a company’s sales reps require the job-specific knowledge that empowers them to build optimal relationships with the company’s current customers and prospects.

This training must further provide the team with a prescribed process for moving prospects through to sales conversion and beyond in the customer lifecycle.

  • Sales reps conveying strong knowledge of their industry, company and products also serves to promote the brand to the target market and to top sales talent as one that recruits and keeps top-level sales reps.

  • Salespeople need to be empowered to communicate in the fullest possible detail about:

    • Your company’s products and services
    • The specific needs your company solves for its customers
    • Your industry and marketplace development to today
    • Your company, its history, vision, mission, goals and plans
    • Your competitive market, what’s offered, your firm’s position

4. There Was No Follow-Up By the Trainer.

Aside from on-the-job, side-by-side training, most of today’s formal sales training is done in short workshop events of two to three days. Salespeople learn new general skills and have opportunities to practice in groups. Things seem to have gone very well, but then the trainer dropped the ball on the reinforcement that was necessary to make the new learning stick long-term for attendees.

As good as training events can be for imparting new sales knowledge—as with any kind of new learning, at least some reinforcement is necessary to prevent its effects from fading away.

Humans simply require at least some periodic repetition in order to fully register new information for long-term application. Hence, the standard academic process we all learned in school. As adults we still know that we must:

  • Listen
  • Study
  • Review

But, after a sales training seminar or workshop, participants don’t usually study the training materials repeatedly afterward to commit them to memory. So, instructor follow-up is an effective way to reinforce learning, evaluate retention and proficiency levels, and ensure accountability of trainers and students after sales training.

Find Sales Training That Works

Experienced sales team leaders know that appropriate training is necessary for any sales team to maximize productivity. So, it remains for sales team leaders to follow the few basic guidelines above, to ensure that they provide their teams with a sales training that will actually benefit the company long-term.

For more information about how to avoid the common pitfalls that cause sales training to fail, or to discuss your company’s sales training needs, contact me!

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