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Why Sales Training Doesn't Work


I often ask potential sales training clients this question: “What is, hands down, the best sales process on the planet?" The answer to this somewhat trick question is "The one your sales team will all actually use on every sales call."

Based on research conducted by the Brooks Group, a seller consistently using ANY proven sales process is almost twice as likely to close a sale.

As a veteran of over nineteen years in the training industry I know that, in most instances, expensive “event-based” sales training programs simply do not produce the expected results on a companywide basis.

It isn't that sales training companies don't have the best of intentions; it's just that traditional "event-based" training does not produce sustainable, long-term, behavioral change.

To be fair, there are always individual sellers that "get it", use the system they were trained on, and produce great individual results. That group typically represents no more than 10 to 20 percent of the total population of sellers trained with an “event-based” model. Turns out the Pareto Principle applies to traditional “event-based” sales training installations.

So why doesn't training by some of the world's best-known providers produce sustainable systemic change? The answer is really quite simple. A one, two, or even three-day training event will cause people to be aware of a different way to sell and, in most cases, even gets them excited about the prospect. The problem is, after the training has concluded, the participants return to the field with a thin ability to apply the new methodology in every day selling situations.

The result is, without proper ongoing reinforcement, accountability to the process, and additional training, sellers will quickly return to their old system of “winging it”.

Every sales training company worth their salt will acknowledge that post-training reinforcement is the key to success. As a follow up to the event they typically provide clients with online tools, written tools, recording tools, and other methods for the client's management team to reinforce the training but therein lies the problem. Successful behavioral change becomes dependent upon someone else's sales management team to take accountability for making sure THEIR sales training actually sticks!

Shouldn't sales managers be held accountable for the performance of their sales team? Of course, they should but I haven't come across a company yet where sales managers are dropping other responsibilities of an already overloaded plate to coach and reinforce the appropriate behaviors of a recently trained sales process.

A busy sales manager is already tasked with other responsibilities that leave little time for coaching of any type. Add in a sales manager who has geographical diversity with his sales team, and you can forget about it. Unless an individual seller is highly motivated to change on their own, it probably won’t happen.

Does that mean sales training isn’t a good investment? Not at all. There is just a better way to maximize ROI. It is called the reinforcement training approach.

In this approach to sales development, the initial training sessions are reinforced by ongoing weekly classes with a “live” sales trainer, in the salesperson’s home market, where the process is practiced and learned at a deeper level for at least a year following the initial training engagement.

One on one coaching by the sales trainer combined with this weekly training and practice allows the individual sales professional to truly take the new sales process from “knowing” to “doing” in the field where it really counts.

If you would like to learn more about the reinforcement training approach, please reach out to me or you can read the book “You Can’t Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike at a Seminar” by David Sandler.

Chuck Terry, CEO/President

Chuck Terry, CEO/President

Sandler Training in Denver provides sales training, management and leadership training, and professional development for individuals and organizations. Let us know how we can help your team.