Four Reasons Your Sales Training Fails

Have you spent money on sales training without seeing rewards? Are its promises of increased revenue and the vision of stress-free management evaporating? Well, you are not alone. And here are four reasons why:

1. Methodology Only

Many sales training organizations focus on tactics and strategies only. They teach a repeatable process which in and of itself is fine. In fact, getting everyone to use a repeatable process is essential and it absolutely will increase revenue some. Mapping out who the stakeholders are is also important. And establishing a sequential flow to any sales conversation is critical. These all make complete sense within the framework of a sales workshop or a sales kick-off.

But, if success in sales was just about laying out an account map and telling sellers what to say, everyone would be crushing their sales goals. The sad truth is that roughly half of salespeople miss their quota. And that statistic doesn’t seem to be improving, even though there are numerous sales training options, sales enablement systems and varied selling avenues such as social selling.

There is more to the story…

2. Inadequate Reinforcement

Too many times management believes that bringing in an outside voice will change everything. Or that having a high-impact two-day event will make a difference. I am sorry to tell you but one or two-day events are more entertaining than impactful.

Sure, there usually are some nuggets that can be gleaned from attending a workshop. The hard part is putting them into practice – or sticking with the newly taught tactics when the going gets rough. It is far easier for an individual to “try” something new, only to dismiss the skill as “not appropriate” for their clientele. Usually, it is just because they aren’t proficient at it yet.

Any money you spend on training must be reinforced with these elements:

  • Managers must be trained how to coach the new skills. They must practice the coaching and must be committed to doing it. They must also learn how to help the seller practice the skill, give feedback to the individual and hold them to a new standard.
  • Unfortunately, most training solutions expect that managers will be more skilled at implementing new tactics than the team they manage. The truth is that managers must have different skills of coaching, motivating and holding salespeople accountable than the sellers reporting to them, and these are skills that most managers are likely never taught.
  • Sales enablement tools should reinforce the process and tactics being taught. Most CRMs are woefully inadequate at helping salespeople sell more effectively and efficiently. They don’t integrate what was taught in a sales training workshop into the salesperson’s everyday life. So, the training lives in a bubble, only to be practiced in a workshop.
  • No matter what CRM system is being used, you must integrate the sales process being trained, the questions to ask, the requirements for qualifying an opportunity and tips about what to do next into it. And there must be leading indicator dashboards, so the salespeople know what they need to do to produce results. If not, you are wasting money not only on sales training but also on your systems.
  • Development plans need to incorporate an improvement in the individual’s craft of selling. Gone are the days of just evaluating sellers on their historic sales. To keep up with the rapidly changing marketplace, your front line salespeople need to be held accountable to continuous improvement. If not, the selling world will pass them by.
  • In other disciplines, such as accounting or operations, there are designations and continuous education requirements. There are also required re-certifications. The problem with sales training alone is that it’s mostly a feel-good activity and individuals are rarely held accountable for absorbing and applying the elements presented.
  • Unfortunately, the biggest indicators of sales success are commitment to growth, continuous improvement and the ability and willingness to adapt*. These can be affected by holding individuals accountable to overcome their gaps in skill and their blind spots in selling effectiveness. Refer to my first two bullets above for some ideas on how to help them.

3. Unrealistic Expectations

When you embark on sales training, are your expectations real? There are three elements that go into analyzing whether you are living in the real-world or not.

    1. Behavior change takes time. Since people are not typically able to change what they are comfortable doing immediately, it takes practice, reinforcement, failing and then trying again. Like learning to ride a bike, most people need to suffer through some pain to really grasp a new skill. The longer-tenured and historically successful your people are, the more difficult change may be for them. Look for glimmers of behavior change before you will see output from the new skills in the form of increased sales.
    2. Sales cycle matters. Once behavior change is noticed then you must consider your sales cycle. Sure, improved sales skills can speed up the process, but you basically must add together the time it takes your people to change their behaviors to the time of the average sales cycle before you will see measurable results. By implementing the reinforcement elements listed previously with a vengeance, you can speed things up, but just be mindful that your salespeople cannot force anyone to buy your products, no matter how skilled they become. They are still impacted by external budgets and changing personnel within prospects.
    3. Your salespeople are not you. I see leaders frustrated that the salespeople cannot immediately implement items that resonate with the leader. If salespeople operated the way you do, they would not be in the role they are in. Quit projecting the way you operate onto your sales team and help them improve in a manner that resonates with them.

4. Mindset

Finally, the biggest problem with the inability to apply what is taught in sales training is the sellers’ mindset, or what we refer to as their Sales DNA. Too often sales training workshops are focused on “how” to do something. Training participants sit in these workshops and believe they can do it. They might even be asked to practice while attending and all goes well. So, they are sent to the wolves.

Guess what happens when these salespeople are in front of a real live prospect? Their mindset kicks into high gear. They get too consumed with how they are coming off as a pushy salesperson. Or, their pre-conceived notions of the situation prevent them from asking enough questions.

There are five primary elements that we have found either support the tactics and strategies that are typically taught in sales training or sabotage salespeople’s efforts. These all can be coached and improved with training, but most programs do not know how to address them.

I highlight them here with statistics from a database of 550,000 salespeople around the world*:

Need for Approval: 58% of salespeople suffer from a need to be liked more than they need to close the business. This causes them to let prospects off the hook and refrain from probing better. They are then perceived by the prospect as a typical salesperson rather than an advisor, and a necessary one.

Non-supportive Beliefs: 84% of salespeople possess self-limiting beliefs such as “It’s okay if my prospect shops around.” Or “Prospects that think it over will usually buy from me.” Or worst of all, “Prospects are honest.” These beliefs frequently derail the sale before it can even begin.

Non-supportive Buy Cycle™: This term refers to salespeople that possess personal purchasing habits that are not conducive to quickly closing the sale. 72% have this problem that causes them to accept put-offs and stalls.

Money Issues: When salespeople are not comfortable discussing money or have self-inflicted ceilings regarding what constitutes “a lot of money” then they have difficulty selling value. They waste time with the prospects who can’t or won’t pay their price. Fully 60% of salespeople are not comfortable discussing money.

Lack of Emotional Discipline: While it is important to get the prospect emotionally engaged in the purchase, many salespeople lose emotional control by listening too much to the voices in their head. Fully 63% of sellers lack emotional discipline in selling situations, which means they hear what they want to hear and believe what they want to believe about an opportunity. This results in a pipeline that is bloated with deals just hang around and never close.

The Solution

If you embark on sales training be sure to implement the reinforcement strategies identified above. And, rather than just focusing on strategies, tactics and account plans, spend energy on mindset issues.

Just to be clear, your managers likely have some mindset challenges as well which need to be dealt with or they will not be able to appropriately coach and motivate. They also won’t be able to adeptly hold sellers accountable to new standards of behavior.

If I have thrown you into a tizzy about the wasted training dollars being spent, let me know. We can help you implement any of or all these elements.

*Data compliments of OMG