Sales training can be highly effective. It can also fail to provide the ROI you expect. Here are 10 reasons why sales training doesn’t work, and the solutions to help you implement a successful sales training program:
Problem #1: Too much content, too little time – The human brain can absorb only a certain amount of information in a day. But sales training (as with other training) requires the individual to process and apply that information. Too much content overloads the brain. Even if you offer good the material, it leaves the sales rep overwhelmed.
Solution: Focus on the most important steps of the sales process first. Develop primary skills by stretching out the training over time to before moving on to the next skill. For example, role play in class the most important skills and then reinforce them through on-going coaching.
Problem #2: Assuming teaching and training are the same – Teaching is knowledge transfer. Training is conditioning. You teach someone how to cold call. You train them to actually cold call. Most sales training is really sales teaching. Training requires a coach, consistent practice, and time.
Solution: Use the 20/80 Rule as a guide by investing 20 percent of your sales development time teaching your sales reps and 80 percent training (coaching) your sales reps.
Problem #3: No reinforcement plan– This is the next step from the previous item. The brain creates new pathways that convert that knowledge into correct action when your sales reps repeatedly practice their new knowledge. Professional athletes, singers, and actors practice far more than they play or perform. So, why shouldn’t your salespeople?
Solution: Coaching time should be scheduled each week before anything else. Make practice with sales reps a top priority. Isolate the specific skills needed for each sales rep. Then focus on just one skill at a time (weeks or months) until they develop a strong competency.
Problem #4: Training not customized – All companies and industries do not function the same. Therefore, off-the-shelf programs do not always satisfy the demands of a salesperson or team. Never force your sales reps to make a mental leap during a sales training class, saying to themselves, “How does this relate to me and my job?”
Solution: Invest the time to customize training to fit your company’s approach to the market. Each step of the sales process should clearly define the activities that create the path of least resistance to more sales for your team.
Problem #5: Training not role-specific – Enterprise sales reps are unique from call center reps although they typically go through the same basic steps. But big differences emerge based on the complexity of the sale, the buyers involved, size of transaction, length of sales cycle, market factors, etc. Different sales roles require different sales training programs.
Solution: Be sure to customize the sales training not only for your company, but also for each sales role. Then, train your sales reps in classes that match their job functions only.
Problem #6: No top-down implementation – If the senior-level leaders do not embrace and support the new sales process being implemented, it will most likely fail. Too often sales teams become despondent with the “flavor of the month”. Instead, take your time selecting the right sales process to implement and then stick with it until it is assimilated into your culture.
Solution: Take the time to determine the best approach to selling in your market. You cannot be indifferent to your sales process. Look for one that includes an in-depth sales assessment, a strong trainer and sufficient follow-up and coaching.
Problem #7: Training is just an event (not a process) – Good sales training prepares your sales team to learn before the live event. It also provides follow up, tracking, and accountability. Stand alone sales training events rarely succeed long-term. Behavioral change requires time for adoption, correction, and repetition.
Solution: Use online training and controlled social media to support your live training classes. A blended learning approach accommodates for different learning styles.
Problem #8: Training the wrong people – There have been new sales rep training classes where the sales assessment results revealed that 50 percent of the attendees should never have been hired. Just 30 percent were moderately wired for success and only 20 percent were a good fit for the sales role. That means up to 80 percent would either fail or struggle to meet quota. Sales training will not fix poor hiring practices.
Solution: Use an in-depth sales assessment tool to identify the capacities of your reps and managers. Some may be better suited for a completely different role.
Problem #9: Not training your sales managers first – The sales manager should know the sales process better than anyone. After all, they are the coaches. But if the sales managers are not expected to coach their reps to follow the sales process, then what is their role?
Solution: Train your sales leaders on the sales process first. Then have them participate in the training program for the sales reps.
Problem #10: Sales training confused with product training – Plenty of sales leaders have been asked if their company conducts sales training. Most say yes. When I follow-up with “Can you describe the training?” Many will begin to describe product training. Knowing your products is important; knowing how to sell them is essential. Sales reps need both – product training and sales training.
Solution: In most cases, you should conduct product training first, then sales training. Tie product content into the sales training to make it applicable for your sales reps.
Sales training is a vital part of business development. Without it, salespeople will try to figure it out for themselves. Some instinctively excel at it, but most do not. They need a process to effectively achieve sales goals. By using these ten items as a guide, you can be sure to implement a great sales training program that yields the results you want.
Barrett Riddleberger, the founder and CEO of xPotential Selling Inc., is a nationally recognized expert on professional selling, analyzing sales performance issues and training sales teams all over North America. He is also the author of the book, “Blueprint of a Sales Champion: How to Recruit, Refine and Retain Top Sales Performers.”