Which sales training mistakes are you repeating?
I read an article about CEOs’ mistrust of sales training that caught my eye. This particular commentator cited a survey that claimed that most CEOs believed that sales training was a waste of time and money. That set me to thinking about the expectations CEOs must have for sales training that aren’t being matched by subsequent improvements in sales results.
My experience working with hundreds of small business owners and entrepreneurs has shown that the problem is one of unrealistic expectations. Meaning that executives too often make the decision to invest in sales training without giving the appropriate consideration to the audience and the types of sales training that will yield the best return on their investment.
Here are a few inconvenient truths for owners and managers to consider before making a decision to invest in expensive sales training:
1. Sales training can’t fix a bad salesperson.
I once read a somewhat humorous quote about sales training that was attributed to the late, great management expert, Peter Drucker. I can’t vouch for certain that Drucker actually said this but the quote is: “Most sales training is a complete waste of time and money because, at times, the best you can hope for is to turn a moron into an idiot.”
While Drucker’s general assessment of salespeople may be harsh, the fact is that sales is not for everyone and most people do not have the motivation, experience or expertise to succeed at sales. My experience is that the universe of actual and potential salespeople will fit into one of the four quadrants as shown in the graph below:
The training requirements for salespeople in Quadrant 3 is very different than that for salespeople in Quadrant 1. Salespeople in Quadrant 4 need training that is more focused on sales skills. Conversely, people in Quadrant 2 will need more training on the product you sell and the requirements of you target customers.
Before you make the decision about how to train your sales team, make sure that you understand the distribution of your sales people across the quadrants.
2. A one-size-fits-all sales training program may not be the right answer for your team.
Depending on the distribution of your sales people across the Quadrants above, a generic one-size-fits-all sales training regimen may not be a fit for your team. Similarly, advanced sales skills training may not work if too many people on your sales team are denizens of Quadrant 3 above.
Unfortunately, too many companies purchase training that is aimed at the lowest common denominator within their sales teams. This can be good education for entry-level salespeople but what training is being provided for the most experienced, and most productive, members of your sales team?
Your sales training program may need multiple tracks to accommodate the sales education requirements of your entire team.
- Product and Industry training: Salespeople can never possess too much knowledge about the products and services they sell and the customers they serve. Prospects in today’s fast-paced competitive markets reward responsive sellers that have the experience and knowledge to help them quickly define their requirements and provide the expertise and insights that allow them to quickly gather the information they need to make faster decisions.
- Process training: Technology is continually reshaping the process of how customers buy products and services which, in turn, changes how salespeople must sell. Teaching salespeople the processes they must adopt in their selling methods to align with the rapidly evolving buying methods of their customers is essential.
- Business training: Customers are looking to salespeople to be trusted advisors; to help them make a better business decision. Salespeople need to develop broader business acumen to fill this role. As a result, they need more training in business basics and in developing their analytical and problem solving skills.
- Presentation training: No matter what their level of proficiency, every salesperson requires ongoing training to improve their presentation skills.
- Tools training: There are an increasing number of sales engagement and sales enablement tools available that can help drive improved individual sales productivity (in addition to a CRM system). Companies that adopt these tools need to train their sales people in best practices on how to put those specific tools to most productive use in their selling.
3. Investing in sales training can’t take the place of investing in hiring the right salespeople.
Hiring the right sales people is hard. It takes a consistent process that is applied in a disciplined manner to avoid the shortcuts and missteps that lead to expensive hiring mistakes.
Many executives hire a sales trainer in the vain hope that they can paper over the obvious cracks and flaws in their sales team. Writing a check is much easier than implementing a process to hire the best people. Unfortunately, in these circumstances, even the best sales trainers will be unable to help boost your sales productivity.