Is Your Sales Training Program Headed for Trouble?
You provide sales training because it’s what your sales reps want, your shareholders expect it, and you believe it will increase sales.
A careful analysis of the long term effectiveness of traditional training programs will prove that most of the time is does not! Most traditional training about sales provides the illusion of hope with no real substance on which to base the hope. It’s that illusion of hope that is will hurt you in the long term.
Traditional Training Misses the Mark
What usually happens is activities training – “do this, do more of this, do this when this happens, and fake doing this until this happens”. “It’s nothing more than a numbers game and we are going to show you how to get the numbers.” “Go for No! until there is no place to go.” The goal is lots of motion. Unfortunately the results are pathetic.
Some programs operate on the mistaken notion that product knowledge will increase sales. All that is really needed is a better understanding of the product and the sales will come. Training focuses on the features and benefits of the product offering including the latest marketing materials which is guaranteed to catapult sales. The goal is to educate the buying public. Unfortunately the results are great meetings and no money.
The real goal of successful program should be to change the sales person. Change is key! Nothing short of real change will produce the results being promised.
Without a real, deep and abiding change taking place nothing permanent will happen to the sales results. Activity is essential. Product knowledge is important. But these things without true change are simply a band aid on a bigger problem.
Change is a complete necessity. That’s exactly why you think you need training. If you were happy with the results you’re getting, you wouldn’t be looking for help. You’re reading this because you understand that something has to happen to boost sales.
Most salespeople and sales managers, especially experienced ones, hate to leave their comfort zone. They are comfortable doing things they way they were taught. They detest change. If that’s you, what will you get if you continue doing what you’re doing right now? More of the same, right?
Change is needed if you’re to get different results. You know that. The biggest obstacle you ever meet in a sales presentation is the risk of change. The potential buyer has to choose change over the status quo. You have no problem presenting it that way. You challenge potential buyers to risk change all of the time. Then why is it that sales reps are so reluctant to change?
The primary objective of training salespeople should be change. Change will determine success or failure. In order to produce real, quantifiable results, change is required in the following areas:
- New attitudes and belief systems have to be adopted
- New strategies must be implemented
- New behaviors must be established
- New tactics must be employed
If it’s results you want, then real change must take place. Without real change in the thinking required to be successful, the strategies, behaviors, tactics and results will not change. Additional training focusing on more activities, or better product knowledge will simply result in wasted time and money.
Permanent change is required! Permanent rarely happens in the traditional model.
I have seen the futility of all of this. The truckloads of money being poured into “training programs” only to get the same results quarter after quarter. The strongest indicator of this ineffective system is the need to constantly recruit more sales reps because the current group is just not “cutting it” or recruiting will “put pressure” on the existing sales reps.
Blame the reps, blame the economy, blame the recruits, blame the manager, blame the recruiter, but never question the effectiveness of the training system that focuses only on activities and products.
All of the players in the sales arena believe they have everything they need to develop their own training. They have the picture of the “successful sales rep”. So they take that person and build a system around him/her activities or bring him in as a “trainer”. They purchase the latest, greatest “train-the-trainer” programs. They develop elaborate curriculum to reproduce their success system.
If they measure results by product knowledge as demonstrated by games played to regurgitate information, or company morale as indicated in the latest “Rah Rah Rah” session, then maybe these programs have achieved their goal.
However, if they expect to see results in the form of permanent improvements in revenues, market share, new customers, or profit, those programs are a colossal failure. While everyone is “jumping on the band wagon” and “getting with the program” money is flying out the window and opportunities are jumping ship.
Effective Sales Training
Traditionally a trainer is expected to be able to recite a script, teach company prescribed curriculum, demonstrate closing strategies & tactics and execute to perfection role plays. Yet effective sales trainers must possess competencies far beyond selling skills and training.
Effective training of any kind must include human understanding not just as a subject matter, but as the basis for all training. There are common, recurrent, underlying reasons why salespeople behave as they do. There are reasons why they do only what’s comfortable versus doing what will make them successful. In the absence of this understanding, all training regardless of how flawlessly or passionately it’s presented will go for naught.
These unseen forces can be quickly brought to light by using effective sales force evaluation instruments which take into consideration both the individual and group dynamics. Effective trainers must be equipped to get sales people to understand that their lack of success and inability to implement a plan or process often has more to do with what is going on inside of them and the team than failing to apply the latest closing technique.
Effective trainers will understand how to help people maximize their strengths rather than cover them up with more activity. A one time shot at training that fails to recognize the process of change will not succeed. Consistency in both training and coaching is required over a period of time to instill permanent change. Flushing the self-limiting beliefs that hold most people back from their full potential takes time. Sales managers must also be trained to understand this process. They need to grasp the process as well as the necessity for change to effect permanent achievement.
Permanent improvement is the most cost effective result. This requires a new training emphasis. One that focuses on the root of the problem and puts systems in place that address the real issues holding back otherwise potentially successful sales people.
So why does so much training not achieve the desired permanent outcomes? What specifically can be done to make a permanent difference in the effectiveness of training programs?
- Training must be delivered by people trained and experienced in assessing and understanding the hidden motivators. Trainers who come from the “more activity” or product knowledge crowd are ill equipped to effect permanent change.
- Initial assessment of the sales professional’s trainability, motivators and hidden weaknesses is essential in development of an effective training program. Without an objective assessment that considers the hidden motivators of the sales staff even change training will be at best a hit-or-miss program.
- A system must be put in place that affects permanent change. Addressing the needs of the sales staff and management including a method of communication that allows for participation by everyone involved. Maximizing the strengths and minimizing the impacts of the weaknesses of the individual and the team.
- Integration of the training throughout the organization is essential. This holistic approach to training will affect the entire organization. Permanent change comes from within and must infect the entire organization.
Traditional programs don’t work if permanent change is what is desired. The rat race that is created by traditional programs has to stop! It’s ineffective and it results in a bad experience for the sales staff as well as the buying public. We don’t need more cheerleaders. What is needed is effective programs that move sales reps to become sales professionals and permanently increases both top and bottom line numbers.
If you want to turn around your sales you begin by giving your salespeople a “line at the door”. With no one to sell to all of the sales training in the world won’t help. Effective marketing is the key to a great sales training program. With people to close, sales training makes sense. Without people to close… well you get the picture.