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Why Sales Training Fails

by | Oct 10, 2023

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Achieving better ROI on sales training

While it’s true that effective sales training can be transformational for sales teams, in reality, the majority of sales training falls very short of expectation. Typically, leaders seek training to help lift results. By helping the team improve, you will grow capability and in turn, grow sales. So, you take the team away on a 3-day course, or maybe purchase an in-house training package. None of this is cheap, but you have hope, don’t you? And the team seems to enjoy it. They tell you they do. Their win rate may even improve right after. The problem is, for 85-90% of salespeople, sales training fails to produce a lasting impact beyond 120 days.* Sales and Marketing Magazine recently termed it the “sales training black hole.” It’s real, and it will suck you in if you let it, and we do.

The latest Salesforce State of Sales statistics showed training staff is number 4 on the list of success tactics for Australian businesses this financial year. Often when I meet new clients, they have already spent plenty of money and time on off the shelf packages, guest speakers, retreats, online training, the list goes on. Invariably, the sales team is still not producing goods results across the board. So why doesn’t sales training deliver lasting results? Most times, it’s because we are trying to deliver it in isolation of other critical factors that support sales success. Here’s four reasons why sales training fails, and how we can make it as effective as it should be for maximum return on investment.

Four reasons why sales training fails

1. It isn’t tailored to your business.

Much of the sales training out there is incredibly prescriptive, and when this doesn’t fit the business to a tee, sellers will usually throw it out and do their own thing. (Right or wrong as it may be). If a closing script feels unnatural, if a suggested way of interacting in the field doesn’t take into account the nuances required, it is doomed to fail. In my experience, a customised body of sales training that is tailored to your business and your target audience. Is the only way to get meaningful and lasting results. The best training is acutely aligned to how sales is done well in your business, not someone else’s. The best way to know this, is through a comprehensively documented sales process. Which brings me to my next reason why sales training fails.…

2. The business hasn’t documented their sales process.

There is little to no relevance if sales training isn’t anchored to a documented sales process. Some businesses have never thought about their sales process. For others, it’s sitting on a shelf somewhere collecting dust. A good sales process is up to date and used often. It’s borne from a whole range of factors. It is not created from the top down; it includes the data from your sales interactions with your customer. As well as the expertise of your top performers who are modelling success. The information should be transferred into an adult learning framework, a sales playbook, that becomes a practical, meaningful guide on sales excellence. Training can then be tailored for the needs of your sellers at different points in your sales process, therefore making complete sense to your team.

3. There’s no coaching component to the learning.

Learning in theory only is often why sales training fails to resonate with your sellers. It is also the #1 reason why it doesn’t stick. For training to create permanent change, it has to be made tangible. Otherwise, it’s just the stuff of dreams. If we can’t bring the training down into an everyday application, then it probably isn’t worth training on in the first place. Therefore, the best sales training is supported by real-time coaching from your sales leader. That coaching should be continual, interactive, and tailored to the individual salesperson. It’s about building strengths and filling in the gaps in knowledge and application.

Perhaps you conduct short, one-to-one sessions where you break up that large body of work and apply it to individuals on a need’s basis. Going out on the road with them or coaching them through phone calls or mock presentations. This can produce significantly better results than standing behind a lectern ever can. It’s about your sales manager, or you if you’re an owner leading sales, finding ways to disseminate the training for your individual sellers. If you can do that, they will embody what they’re learnt, and the training will become part of their DNA.

sales training is improved by coaching one to one _

4. Sales leaders aren’t receiving coaching and training themselves.

You can’t fill from an empty vessel is the old saying, and it definitely applies here. To bring out the best in your people, you need to be developing and expanding your sales leadership. Especially, In this new age of selling where the landscape has profoundly shifted. Too often, we stay doing what we have always done, and then expect our people to grow and change. Part of great sales leadership comes down to modelling the change we want to see. The other part is about opening up to new mindsets that allow us to push past fears that can hold us (and therefore the business) back. Both are profoundly important if sales leaders want to stay flexible, and usher in that new phase of growth.

It takes a whole-business approach to developing sales capability.

In order to develop our sales capability and really get the most from any sales training, we can’t train in isolation. It needs to be based around that specific framework for how sales is done well in the business – the clearly defined sales process. This allows sales leaders to move away from generic training, and offer the right training for this team, with the right delivery.

Furthermore, we should ensure training is always distilled into one-to-one coaching – personalised to the individual seller and the gaps that need filling for them. While taking into account different personalities and learning styles. Finally, any training or coaching is always received best from a gifted sales leader who receives training and coaching themselves. This is how we get the best return on investment from sales training, and ultimately, how we rise towards the top 2% of small to medium businesses.

* Source: Stein, David. The 120-Day Curse, ES Research Group, 2011.

How do you take your team from good to great?

Offering sales training that ticks the above boxes, while developing individual sales capability is transformational for teams when done well. If you would like some guidance in this area, check out a bit more about what we do differently that helps you move the needle. You can also reach out to us any time, always happy to help.

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