Why Sales Training Programs Fail
When there is a perceived need for sales training it usually is driven by someone believing there is a lack of skill or technique in certain areas. Some might believe that parts of the sales organization struggle with the front end of the process, meaning pre-call planning, account planning, preparing, or prospecting. Other companies may argue that their team struggles in the middle part of the sales process such as qualifying and questioning skills or presentation skills. And then there are other sales leaders who believe that their salespeople struggle the most with the end of the process, negotiating, closing, and follow-up. And although there are other skills we could include here such as communication and listening skills, time management or managing the game clock during the sale, account management, etc., and, the above sequencing may be slightly different or the process different from one training company to the next, what gets missed all too often is developing the person.
We cannot train with blinders on and believe there is a quick fix by throwing some skills-based training at our professional sellers, without giving them some of the other important concepts around motivation/attitude, actions/behaviors, and goal setting.
Some of the greatest salespeople we have known or worked with demonstrated strength and highly developed skills in:
- Building a healthy self-image
- Developing and maintaining a positive attitude
- Building winning relationships at home and at work
- Using “Hope” as a tactic and activator
- Setting and achieving goals
This is an example from a Zig Ziglar program, Strategies for Success, that has been updated and modified to meet today’s learner. And it is the type of content and concepts that provide the confidence to seek and achieve selling success. For people who are new to sales, an argument can be made that this type of program should be what they go through first, before entering a professional sales training program. Just imagine how we could accelerate success and reduce turnover if we had our new, or new-to-sales folks achieving greater success earlier in their career.
Best Practice #1: When thinking about a sales training program, do not just focus on skills and techniques. Salespeople have 24-hour lives. We expect a lot from them and sometimes they come to us with a lack of confidence or a poor attitude. Sometimes they come to us not knowing what a successful cookbook is or the behaviors they should be doing as opposed to just focusing on a skill or selling technique.
Best Practice #2: Assigning quota is translated differently for high performing salespeople. High performing salespeople set goals and have behavior plans to achieve those goals. They have playbooks so they know what to do in specific situations. A best practice when speaking with sales teams and to people on our team about performance expectations is to talk in terms of goals, not quotas. A quota is something the company wants them to achieve, a goal becomes personal and that means someone with a goal that is personal will work harder to achieve that goal.
Best Practice #3: Some of the top learning and development organizations look at sales training more holistically. These teams place a high value on all personal and professional development. They equip salespeople and the rest of the organization with skills that will help them achieve their goals in all areas of life. They know that giving people tools, attitudes, and behaviors to deal with change, communication, stress, and selling will help them in so many areas outside of work.
Remember, people buy for their reasons, not ours. That also means that people buy-into something for their reasons and not ours. The same holds true for training. If someone knows where they have a gap, or is assessed to help them find those gaps, they will be more likely to actively participate in the training. And when continuous learning is seen as something the company values, prospective employees will want to come and work with your organization. And when we help them become better in all areas of life, we will build a better business around them too.