When I look back over the past year or two the one thing that jumps out at me as something I could have and should have done sooner is formal training.

I think we can all agree, champions become champions through practice, execution, training, and focus. The thing is, without a formal training program, there is nothing to practice, focus on, or execute against.

So why do so many sales leaders skimp when it comes to training? In my experience, it seems as though it is the thought that we can do it ourselves. The problem is that for most sales leaders, training is just one of many things we need to focus on. Beyond that, most sales leaders do not have the time or skills necessary to train their team adequately. The bottom line for me is if you are putting in the time necessary to train your team, you are likely neglecting some other key responsibility.

Over the years, the teams I have seen who are best trained perform better. A lot better. They are happier, and as a result tend to stay with the company longer given they are likely succeeding, growing professionally, and making money. Sales people appreciate the investment made in them helping nurture a better company culture, which of course is good for everyone.

The problem with most training investments, and perhaps why many tend to avoid investing, is that it just doesn’t stick. The team goes through a training for a few days, comes back all fired up, and 30 days later they are back to their old habits. Generally bad habits. I have seen it over and over again. So what do we do to ensure our teams are adequately trained to compete in what is an increasingly competitive environment?

Train early, train often, and train on an ongoing basis. It’s all about constant reinforcement.

Professional sports teams don’t train once and move on. They train each and every day, constantly working on their game. Looking for any and every advantage. Top sales teams operate in the same way. The good news is the sales training industry understands this challenge and has adjusted.

I have recently engaged with my friend Peter Oliver at SaleFish, which is the local Sandler training franchise located in Framingham MA, putting my team through their two day bootcamp with weekly reinforcement classes. The results have been immediate. My team is more engaged, applying the techniques and really enjoying having the Sandler team as an additional resource. The Sales Huddle Group is a company who gamifies sales or product training of any kind making it fun to learn in short bursts. I will be working with them to help make ongoing training more about short 5 minutes of fun versus hours long lectures. Lots of options.

So when asked what I wish I had done in the past that might have led to better results, the number one thing that comes to mind is training. Those teams who are dedicated to constant self improvement are winning. Those who think they already know enough or are smarter than the rest are destined to fail.

Some of my favorite inspirational quotes that spurred some deeper thinking and have helped to motivate me include:

“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” – Muhammad Ali

“Training is not to be done in front of a prospect or ‘under those lights,’ it’s best done with peers ‘behind the lines.’”

Now go learn something!