Why Sales Training Programs Fail
One of the primary reasons a sales training program fails is that management and leadership are not completely sold on the selected training program or even the idea of doing any type of sales training at all. And when there is a lack of buy-in at the top, there is an absolute erosion of adoption within the sales organization.
When organizations look for a professional sales training program it is typically because there is either an acute and painful need that needs to be addressed or there has been an ongoing loss of revenue, market share, or margin, and it is time to stop the losses and do something to fix the problems.
For top-performing organizations, it is different. They don’t wait until there is an identified pain or need, top-performing companies are consistently developing their people to become high achievers. And in an environment or culture where continuous learning is not only supported and appreciated, it is mandatory throughout the organization. So when we look at both types of organizations, one where sales training is a response to a loss or losses of some kind, and the other where sales training is seen as a competitive advantage, it is easy to identify why a sales training program might succeed or fail. The company that sees sales training as an investment in continuous learning and improvement will support that training from the very top. They will embrace the language, processes, and selling system where the company has made a significant investment. But in organizations where sales training becomes reactionary, oftentimes there is a lot of excitement around the idea, and there is a significant amount of time and energy put into identifying the right training partner.
However, as time goes on and the training initiative comes closer to implementation, the buzz and energy that was created in the beginning lose momentum as leadership and management move on to the next project. And what that looks like, feels like, and sounds like to the sales organization is that if leadership and management aren’t going to participate, why should they? Every day the competition becomes increasingly fiercer. Every day salespeople are looking for that advantage and differentiator to win more business for themselves and for the company. When the sales team is asked to take time away from selling so that they can learn new skills, attitudes, and behaviors that will help them to improve, they are expecting that their management and leadership will also invest the time so that the entire company is speaking the same language. A scenario that is played out over and over again is one where a sales team goes through a sales training program, but management doesn’t participate. Or they pop in and pop out of the classroom. Following the training and while going on a sales call together, the salesperson begins to use skills that they learned in class. The manager and salesperson are not in sync, and it becomes evident, uncomfortable, and unproductive in front of the customer or prospect. And then what happens? The sales manager tells the salesperson not to worry about that “new” stuff they learned during training, just focus on the way they used to sell. The most effective sales training programs are the programs that leadership and management will buy into, support, participate in, coach to, and reinforce with their teams.
Best Practice #1: Leadership and management should go through the program first so that they become versed in using the system before their teams participate in and experience the same training. It will become easier to coach and reinforce while setting the proper example and expectations, and that there is complete buy-in and support at the top.
Best Practice #2: Have someone from the leadership team welcome the sales teams and the training organization before the training begins. Let everyone on the team know just how important their success is to the company.
Best Practice #3: Clear your calendars. Popping in and out of the training sends the wrong message, especially during times of role-playing. Make it a point to go through every step of the training with the members of your team and let them see you are all in this together. Never be “too cool for school” especially sales school.
Remember, sales training programs never fail or succeed because of the salespeople, sales training programs fail or succeed based on the buy-in and support from all levels of leadership and management.