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7 Reasons Why Sales Training Fails

blog author
Written by Mike Schultz
President, RAIN Group

According to ES Research between 85% and 90% of sales training has no lasting impact after 120 days. At the same time, companies are spending billions of dollars on sales training each year. That’s billions of dollars being wasted on limited sales performance impact and only short-term boosts in sales at best.

Training can be a disappointment right away when it just doesn’t go well, or it can be a disappointment months later when results don’t materialize. Regardless, sales training strikes out a lot. When it does, it’s usually because of common and predictable reasons. But if you can avoid these mistakes, you can set yourself up for a successful training initiative that leads to increased sales performance and long-term revenue growth. Here are 7 reasons why your sales training might be failing:

  1. Failure to Define Business and Learning Needs

    Sales training programs have virtually no chance of producing lasting results if business leaders:

    • Base their objectives and expectations of results on wishful thinking versus strong analysis. If you don’t know what the desired outcome is and what it’s going to take to get there, your training initiative is doomed to fail before it even starts.
    • Fail to analyze real learning needs of their team. If you don’t know what skills your team already has and where their weaknesses lie, how can you build a program that’s relevant to them and expect better sales performance?
  2. Failure to Build Sales Knowledge

    Salespeople know what they sell and sell what they know. Most sales training focuses on building sales skills. While sales skills are essential, they are only one side of a very important coin: capability. The other side of the coin is sales knowledge – your salespeople have to know and be able to speak fluently about your products and services, the customer needs you solve, the marketplace in general, your company, the competition, and more. Yet most sales training ignores sales knowledge and focuses solely on sales skills.

  3. Failure to Assess Individuals’ Attributes

    It’s not enough to give your team the capabilities to sell; you have to know if the individuals on your team have the attributes required for top sales performance. We call these attributes drivers and detractors of sales success. Together these will tell you not only who can sell, but who will sell and who will sell at a high level.

  4. Failure to Put a Sales Process and Sales Methodology in Place

    Many sales training programs neglect to provide a process and methodology that salespeople can follow to systematically move prospects through the pipeline. Without a process or methodology, training gets forgotten and salespeople end up recreating the wheel over and over again.

  5. Failure to Deliver Training that Engages

    Salespeople leave too many training programs saying things like:

    • “Boring”
    • “Not applicable”
    • “The instructor wasn’t so hot”
    • “What a waste of time”

    Adults learn by doing and you need a training program that engages and gets salespeople practicing and putting the new skills to use.

  6. Failure to Reinforce Training and Make it Stick

    Most sales training focuses on a two- or three-day event in which salespeople learn and practice new skills. The problem with event-only training is that the effects of the event fade. Without reinforcement, as much as participants might have loved the program, it’s the rare salesperson who goes home and curls up by the fire with their cup of coffee and reviews their sales training binder 3 times a week.
    Without reinforcement salespeople forget learned skills and knowledge, forget how inspired and motivated they were, and the learning effectiveness decreases.

  7. Failures of Evaluation, Accountability, and Continuous Improvement

    Few companies actually evaluate the effectiveness of their sales training and sales performance improvement. Sales training can fail simply because companies have no idea if it has succeeded. Furthermore, without evaluation, it’s nearly impossible to hold salespeople accountable for changing and improving behavior, or for taking actions and achieving results.

As we have said before, instead of learning from your own failures, start by avoiding the failures others have made, and build on their successes.

Last Updated February 28, 2023

Topics: Sales Training