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Why Sales Training Doesn’t Work

Sales Management

Here are two situations that sales organizations frequently face:

Situation One:  You have an under-performing salesperson.  One day, you receive a brochure in the mail for a public sales training seminar.  “Aha!” you say to yourself.  “This is a quick and easy solution!  I’ll just get approval to send Johnny to training and then he’ll be up to speed just like everyone else.”

The Reality:  Johnny attends training.  Yet six weeks later his sales numbers still haven’t gotten any better.  So you ask Johnny, “What happened?  I spent money to send you all the way out to California to ‘fix’ you, but you are still ‘broken.’  What’s the deal?”

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Situation Two:  You have a new sales staff, or the entire sales staff needs help.  You hire a consultant to deliver sales training.  Or maybe, to save money on sales training, the corporate office sends the materials to all of the branch sales managers and expects them to conduct the sessions for all of the sales people.

The Reality:  The sales staff discounts the training the outside consultant delivers, thinking, “This training is canned, off-the-shelf and formulaic.  Sure, it may have worked in the past or it may work someplace else, but you don’t understand our unique challenges.  It certainly won’t work here!” 

For the internal training, even the sales manager may resist, by thinking, “Who is Corporate to be telling us what to do?  We’ll show them!”

For instance, I once worked for an organization that spent a half million dollars on sales training, but nothing happened as a result.  Why did it fail?  The sales managers were never consulted in the process, so they undermined the effort.  As a result, the salespeople were more than happy to disregard all that they had learned and to simply return to “business as usual.”

Effective sales training is actually behavior modification training.  Just receiving information alone will not provide sufficient motivation to cause most people to change the way that they act.

Most people will only change when the pain of staying the same is finally greater than the pain of change.  Otherwise, they will do what they have always done, and get what they’ve always got.

So why did these efforts fail?

In the first scenario . . .

The sales manager never took the time to learn what the sales person had learned and then to reinforce positive behavior that may have started to develop as the result of attending the session. 

Behavior that gets observed, measured and rewarded will get repeated.

In the second scenario . . .

Employees need to know that upper management is truly committed to the new process, and that it is not simply the current “flavor of the month.”  Once they are convinced that the executives actually buy in to a new way of doing things, then (and only then) will they change.

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  1. K Jordan says:

    Absolutely true! The entire sales organization within a company should participate in the training and live the program. Over time, and as new people are on-boarded it becomes part of the language of the company.

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