10 Reasons Why Most Sales Training Doesn’t Work

Sales training can be highly effective. It can also fail to provide the ROI you expect. Here are ten items to help you implement a successful sales training program.

You’re ready to train your sales team. They need a standardized process, universal language and defined steps to guide their efforts. The sales training firm has been selected and classes are underway.

Six months later you wonder why sales have not improved. This is not uncommon. In order to shed some light on why so many sales training implementations do not succeed, I’ve created a list to assist you in your selection process.

Here are 10 reasons why sales training does not work:

1. Too much content, too little time

The human brain can absorb only a certain amount of information in a day. But training requires the individual to process and apply that information. Too much content overloads the brain, regardless of how good it is, and leaves the sales rep overwhelmed. Don’t data dump on your sales reps in a day. Break up the sales training into manageable parts.

Solution: Focus on the most important steps of the sales process first. Stretch the training out over time to ensure primary skills are adequately developed before moving on.

2. Teaching is different than training

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. Don’t get teaching and training confused. You won’t get the results you want.

Solution: Use the 20/80 Rule as a guide. Invest 20% of your sales development time teaching your sales reps specific skills. Invest 80% of your time training (conditioning) your sales reps through repetition and feedback.

3. No Practice

This is the next step from the previous item. Only when new knowledge is practiced repeatedly does the brain create new pathways that convert that knowledge into correct action (just like playing the piano). Professional athletes practice far more than they play. So do musicians. So do actors. So, why shouldn’t salespeople?

Solution: Schedule your coaching time each week before you schedule anything else. Make practice with your sales reps your top priority. Role-play the areas they need developed most. If qualifying, then you be the prospect and have your rep qualify you as a buyer – over and over again. Days, weeks or even months… until they master it.

4. 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 say to themselves – “How does this relate to me and my job?”

Solution: Invest in customizing the training to fit your 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 sales reps. The process should match the real world your sales reps face each day.

5. 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 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.

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” program. Instead, take your time selecting the right sales process to implement and then stick with it until it is assimilated into your culture.

Solution: Make sure senior executives buy-in to the program and support the sales managers as coaches. The key is to make it a part of your sales culture  That can’t happen without top down support. Senior executives cannot be indifferent to the sales process. Endorsement and support are critical.

7. It’s only an event

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.

8. Training the wrong people

I’ve seen new sales rep training classes where 50% of the attendees should never have been hired. Just 30% were moderately wired for success and only 20% were a good fit for the sales role. That means up to 80% would either fail or struggle to meet quota. Sales training will not fix poor hiring practices. Instead, you’ll waste your money.

Solution: Avoid training the wrong sales reps by using an in-depth sales assessment. It will help you identify the true capacities of your reps and managers. Some may be better suited for a completely different role and should not be trained in sales.

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 attend the reps program.

10. Confused with product training

I’ve asked plenty of sales leaders if their company conducts sales training. Most say yes. When I follow-up with “Can you describe the training?” Many will 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’ll want to 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 figure it out for themselves. Some, instinctively excel at it, 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 training program that yields the results you want.