Why your Sales Training isn't Producing Results

By Trevor Coltham

Recently, I engaged with a passionate GM of a medium-sized company. She had invested in sales training though it had failed to produce expected results.

She mentioned her team showed some early signs of improvement. But within six weeks, the whole team had returned to their previous habits and limiting behaviours.

In short, the GM’s belief was simply that: Sales training doesn’t work.

Why does this GM have this belief about sales training?

Here are several common factors influence the failure of a training program:

1. The sales training doesn’t focus on the root of the problem/s: The GM can see revenue is down and has reacted by running a quick fix two-day standalone workshop.

2. The desired outcomes are not clearly stated: There is no clearly defined criteria for the sales team to follow. This simply won’t produce results or hold salespeople /leaders accountable.

3. Learning new knowledge will fix the problem: People naturally resist change as it’s often too hard or uncomfortable. New knowledge must be used in a productive way or else the sales team can slip back into old habits.

4. The leaders are not skilled or held accountable: without leaders who have up-to-date sales skills and knowledge, they can’t embed frameworks, skills and required processes to their salespeople.

What is required to change?

A reason that sales training alone doesn’t work is that it’s only one part of the improvement puzzle.

As a leader, you can’t just simply impart a new skill or knowledge without following through on the process from the sales team on an individual level. A salesperson on their own won’t just run with it without direction and encouragement from the leaders.

Majority of people learn by repeatedly practising until the skill is second nature

Remember: Action is Power. Knowledge is only potential power!

A structured improvement program is required to acquiring a new skill as second nature. It must include the following:

1. Clarity required from leadership

Full leadership engagement on desired outcomes and expectations.

Change is more likely to happen when people involved know it’s happening and are regularly reminded what’s in it for them.

When the salesperson understands why the program is important to them and to the company, their internal motivation will increase.

Additionally, salespeople who are keen to be coached and know why they will be measured on the subsequent actions they take in the field; they are much more likely to embrace the challenge and improve their sales capabilities.

2. There’s a holistic focus on sales activity

New and improved habits will form when each salesperson develops a clear and concise personal action plan with their leader. The leader must actively be involved in holding them accountable to it, on a regular basis through catch ups and sales dashboards.

3. A coaching framework is implemented

When the organisation adopts a coaching culture from the top level down, all salespeople are coached and mentored at least every few weeks. A coaching framework will encourage active learning and communication.

When salespeople are given support and feedback from their activities (not only results), they will thrive because coaching goes beyond reinforcing the required skills. Coaching looks to explore below the surface of each salesperson’s beliefs, values and identity.

A coaching framework will assist your organisation to improve results. Frameworks, accountability from sales leaders and regular coaching will go a long way to getting the best out of your sales team.