The 5 Deadly Sins of Sales Training

Sales TrainingSales training initiatives are launched with the intention of increasing sales and margins by improving the performance of the sales teams through transference of skills and knowledge. The typical approach is to expose participants to new and/or different techniques, processes and methodologies through instruction; behavior modeling and participant role-play with tests for retention and proficiency. By the end of the session, in most cases, sellers adequately demonstrate proficiency with new knowledge and skills. Then, they return to the field and continue to sell the way they did before. WHY is that???

Reasons Sales Training Initiatives Fail

According to a study conducted in by McKinsey & Co. in 2010 they projected organizations will invest over $100 Billion in 2011 to train employees on Sales Techniques, Communications and Performance Management. Of the organizations included in this research only 25% of the respondents said training improved the business results. That means that 75% of training offered in those organizations failed to produce the intended business impact and in fact, the training negatively impacted the organizations by:

  • Decreasing productivity and efficiencies due to time out of the field spent attending these training sessions.
  • Impact to operating expenses for training materials and travel and expenses for participants traveling to training sessions that proved no business impact.

Can your organization afford to fall into the 75% of organizations realizing a negative impact from training on your business?

What’s causing these sales training programs to fail? Are these training programs flawed or are sales people just not taking the time to implement their new selling skills? The reason why so many sales training programs fail is because organizations implementing the programs commit one or more of the following 5 Deadly Sins of Sales Training.

No Ownership

The first deadly sin of sales training is the lack of ownership required to embrace the new skills/processes. In order for sales people or managers to behave differently, they must first decide for themselves there is a gap between their current behavior and their desired behavior – they must own it. Senior leadership cannot simply decide that sales people and their managers must change and then dictate what the new behavior will be. Driving improved behavior requires the exposure of current behaviors that are not producing the desired results. It is only when sellers recognize their weaknesses and the resulting impact that they are open to new ideas that involve behavior change. By focusing on and securing ownership for selling skills you can develop a selling culture that drives continuous improvement and delivers exceptional results for the company, your customers and your sales team.

  • Are you holding your sellers accountable to the selling skills, processes and concepts you are driving to achieve your desired business impact?

Poor Methodology

The second deadly sin of sales training is the lack of a clearly defined process and structure enabling sellers to achieve their targets. The primary obligation of any business is to develop the concise, clear processes and structure by which their people can transform and succeed. Without a clearly defined process and structure, we take good, capable, well meaning people, leave them to figure things out on their own and set them up to fail. Then we place blame on them for our failure to meet our sales goals as an organization.

In a study conducted by CSO Insights, 71% of companies not attaining a “Trusted Partner” status utilized random or informal sales processes while 29% of the companies attaining a “Trusted Partner” status utilized either a formal process or dynamically altered their formal process in response to changes in the market conditions, competitive landscape and/or shifts in the economy to earn and maintain their “Trusted Partner” status. The processes and structure implemented and managed by the organization drive the performance and business impact.

  • Are you leaving your sellers to figure things out on their own? What impact is that having on your ability to transform from Vendor to Trusted Advisor with your customers?

Lack of Management Engagement

The third deadly sin of sales training is the lack of management engagement in the initiative. . Each level of management has a responsibility for driving the adoption of new behaviors and the development of new skills. If true behavioral change is going to take place, everyone has to be held responsible and accountable for his or her role. Coaching is the key to success! A study of a Fortune 500 telecommunications companies by MetrixGlobal found that executive coaching resulted in a 529 percent return on investment. If your organization began engaging and coaching seller’s performance in applying the skills and processes imagine the ROI impact potential to the business.

  • Are you holding your leadership team accountable for coaching and executing on the selling skills, processes and concepts you are driving to achieve your desired business impact?

Poor Tools

The fourth deadly sin of sales training is the lack of quality tools and resources provided to enable participants to apply the skills and processes post training. What many organizations fail to recognize is that training is an initiative, not a single event. We can’t teach people everything they need to know in a few days or even a couple weeks in the classroom. What happens AFTER class in the field provides the most critical learning opportunities and greatest potential benefit.
To enable sellers to apply the skills and concepts learned in training, we must provide them with user-friendly tools and readily available resources to reinforce the key skills and concepts of the initiative. This includes but is not limited to aligning marketing collateral with your sales methodology, manager coaching, tools, resources and reinforcement training.

  • Are you providing sellers with all of the tools and resources they need to support the implementation of and execution on the selling skills, processes and concepts you are driving to achieve your desired business impact?

No Measurement or Tracking of Behavior and Correlating to Results

The final deadly sin of sales training is the failure to measure results. Many organizations launch programs, invest time, money and resources to implement the training and when asked about the impact of the training, the only results that can be reported on are completion rates of training. How does this indicate business impact of the training? How can success or business impact be determined if you don’t measure and track performance? From the very outset of the program, desired impact on business results must be identified and the ideal behaviors for sales people and leaders must be defined. This requires tying the training curriculum to key performance metrics and then measuring impact. As training programs are implemented and tools and reinforcement are provided, the organization must measure changes in behavior and their impact on performance. This helps validate investment, but more importantly identify the characteristics of training and the performance systems and work environment that are impacting success so that challenges may be addressed generating greater value from training programs and insights to improve programs constantly.

  • Do you know if your training programs are achieving their desired business impact? What ROI is your organization achieving with current training programs?

It’s time to get the most out of your investment in sales training programs! To avoid the 5 Deadly Sins of Sales Training, when developing or evaluating sales training solutions consider the following questions:

  • What is the intended business impact of the initiative?
  • What will success for this initiative look like selling skills, processes and concepts you are driving to achieve your desired business impact? (must be measurable)
  • What business performance results will you hold participants accountable for?
  • What do the learners need to know/be able to do as a result of this training?
  • Do all levels of leadership support the initiative?
  • Have you identified the structure and processes required to support successful implementation and application of the selling skills, processes and concepts?
  • What are you going to do to ensure sales leaders are applying and coaching to the skills and concepts required to impact their team’s selling behaviors and ultimately impact business results?
  • What are you going to do to ensure sellers are owning and applying the skills and concepts required to impact their selling behaviors and ultimately impact business results?
  • What tools and resources have you created to support application of the skills and concepts?
  • Will these tools/resources help or hinder the process?

In summary, transforming your sales organization can be a daunting challenge but for organizations that are mindful of the 5 Deadly Sins of Sales Training the effort can be less painful and far more rewarding.

Axiom Sales Kinetics LLC Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250