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You don't need to train your salespeople, do you?


Why do you need to train your seasoned salespeople? Maybe you don’t need to. But why do we at Sandler train salespeople who have been selling for years, decades even? It’s because most salespeople have not been trained to sell, or if they have, it was a long time ago and the world of sales has changed out of all recognition. Gone are the days where pushy cold-calling would work. It used to be just a numbers game. Knock on enough doors and that would work, even with the worst sales script in the world (“You don’t want Life Assurance, do you?”)

I will never forget, after decades of cold-calling, schmoozing, doing deals, discounts, hundreds of proposals and business lunches, I finally sat in a Sandler seminar and realized that I wasn’t trained. And neither were any of my colleagues in the industry. Yes, I had a day of training here and there, I’d even helped write the sales training manual at a well-known brand, but was I properly trained in a sales process? No. I knew how to pander to the buyer, I knew how to handle objections, present my features and benefits, but I knew nothing about selling professionally. It was a shock to realize just what I had been missing.

So how can you know whether your salespeople have been trained? You could start by asking how much sales training they have had. They will probably say “I don’t need training, I’ve been doing this for years!” But press them further and they might come clean and say “Yes, I had some excellent, first-rate training at X company…how much training? Oh, at least a day!” Seriously? Can you become a professional in any field with just a day or so a decade?

Careful with the question, though; they might confuse training on the benefits and features of what they sell and handling objections as being training on selling. “Other then training on features and benefits, what sales training have you had over the last ten years?” Watch for the slight panic in their eyes. It’s not their fault; where will they have got that training from? There’s no relevant subject at school, there are very few university degrees in selling, and very few organizations have the time, money or inclination to spend on more than product training.

I am aware I have an axe to grind. So, to try to be more balanced I asked on LinkedIn how much training salespeople have had, over and above product training, over the last 10 years. 100% of respondents said one day or so a year or less.

So, unfortunately, but like almost every other organization, you’ve got untrained salespeople doing the one thing you need them to be brilliant at, and that is producing revenue for you. They might be doing great at that role, I really hope they are, but how much better could they be if they had a proper sales process and proper training? You wouldn’t hire an untrained accountant and hope their years’ of experience was enough to get them by, would you? Or an engineer? Or anybody else with a critical role in your business? Of course not.

So what can you do about the situation? You could ignore the issue, as they are doing fine, well enough. Or you could hire trained salespeople, if you can find them. Or you could train them. It’s up to you to work out what is the best return for your organization. If you think it might be to train them, and you are based in Surrey, Sussex, Kent or Hampshire, let me know and we’ll see if we can help.

Paul Glynn

Paul Glynn

Sandler trainer