The most popular and effective diets and workout routines—ones that lead to the most dramatic changes—have specific guidelines and rules for how to follow the system.
No such system existed for sales—until now.
And, it works.
Sales Training Defined: Sales training is the process of improving seller skills, knowledge, and attributes to drive seller behavioral change and maximize sales success. To be most effective, sales training should be viewed, designed, and executed as a change management initiative.
The global market for sales training is approximately $4.6 billion.
Yet most sales training fails to deliver lasting results.
This is because most companies do not define and approach sales training properly.
To deliver effective sales training, you need to redefine what sales training is. You need to focus on changing your sellers' behaviors to drive sales results and support this change as a change management initiative.
When you're considering sales training, it's important to know what results you want to drive. Before any initiative, you need to answer one simple question:
What do we want to achieve?
There are many possible targeted outcomes of sales training from growing revenue and improving margins to increasing the average size of sale and growing accounts. Make sure whatever sales training initiatives you choose match up with your desired outcomes.
As you think about your own sales training efforts, consider these possible results and how to achieve them.
In our Top-Performing Sales Organization research, we studied 75 factors related to the sales organization. We wanted to know what Top Performers do differently than The Rest to achieve superior results.
We've shared what separates the best sales organizations from the rest, but what we haven't shared is what most sales organizations neglect, and the impact it can have on your results. One factor in particular was most apparent: effective sales training.
Executives are always on a mission to prove Kirkpatrick Level 4 measurement of training: Results. Specifically, they want to know to what degree targeted outcomes occur as a result of the training event and subsequent reinforcement.
There is relatively little data on how sales training correlates to business performance and results.
That is, until now.
By now you know that teaching people how to sell and become Top Performers takes more than a one- or two-day event. It takes ongoing reinforcement.
Sales training is a change initiative. Going through a single class in two days does not change the way sellers sell. Change happens over time, once sellers get back to work and start implementing newly learned skills.
While companies spend billions of dollars on sales training each year, 90% of sales training fails to have an impact after 120 days.
It's time for an entirely new way of approaching sales education; an approach that drives real behavior change and results.
"What gets measured gets managed."
– Peter Drucker
Only when you have a good sense of what's going on in your organization can you decide which buttons to push to make the greatest improvements. Even small efforts to track key sales metrics can quickly drive better results.
In just the last 10 years, selling has become more complex and sophisticated, requiring organizations to provide higher levels of support for sellers to succeed.
It's more difficult to get meetings with buyers, navigate complicated buying processes, win against competition that is increasingly capable, and grow accounts.
Sales training is often approached with a car wash mentality: You're in, you're out, and you're ready to sell.
But this isn't how real learning happens. This isn't how you help sellers raise the bar and change how they sell.
According to research from Aberdeen Group, best-in-class companies—those that outperform others on a variety of sales factors, including quota attainment, shrinking the sales cycle, and growing the average deal size:
I recently returned from an industry conference. The speakers were excellent and it was great to get away from my desk, connect with the attendees, and have the opportunity to step back and think big picture about what I need to be doing to drive success in my position. I returned with all sorts of notes, to-dos, and grand visions for change.
9 out of 10 sales training initiatives have no lasting impact after 120 days.1
Considering companies spend $3.4 to $4.6 billion on sales training with outsourced providers each year, that’s a big investment with little to show for it beyond short-term, short-lived gains.2
Fortunately, the reasons sales training fails are both predictable and fixable. By avoiding common mistakes, you set yourself up for successful training initiatives that lead to increased sales performance and long-term revenue growth.
Sales training is a multibillion-dollar business. In the U.S. alone, it is estimated to be more than $5 billion (according to Dave Stein in Sales Training: The 120-Day Curse from ES Research Group). Yet, also according to Stein, between 85% and 90% of sales training has no lasting impact after 120 days. If we do the math, that amounts to somewhere north of $4.25 billion of unproductive training.
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:
Failure is popular these days.
I’ve been reading (and recommend) The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. In The Lean Startup, Ries covers a number of concepts to help entrepreneurs and their new ventures to succeed. One such concept is ‘Validated Learning’.
Salespeople know what they sell, and they sell what they know. When it comes to salesperson knowledge, people know too little about their particular industry, their customers’ needs, and their company’s products and services to be able to sell the full suite of solutions. Without this knowledge they can’t:
Indeed, they can’t and don’t hold masterful sales conversations with customers.
The result: Lost sales and missed cross-selling opportunities.
I have been truly obsessed with baseball lately. My beloved Red Sox folded faster than the deck chairs on the Titanic in one of the greatest meltdowns in all of baseball history. And the talk shows are full of Danny from Quincy and Al from Everett suggesting changes that need to happen in the off-season. One fan suggested freshening up the pitching staff by having relievers start games, starters come in to relieve, and closers (generally relegated to the ninth inning) pitch from the seventh on. What a disaster that would be!
This summer, I finally decided I was ready to go from the junior varsity batting cages (65 mph) to the high school varsity cages (80 mph). Boy was that a mistake. I did foul one off, but the experience was mostly entertainment for my sons and their college friends. Later that day, I checked to see just how fast my reaction time had to be to square up on an 80 mph pitch. My findings: less than ½ second. I had no chance. I can’t imagine facing Justin Verlander and his 100 mph pitches.
Fast forward (no pun intended) to yesterday. I was in Chicago speaking to a client about his sales team. In his view, they have the necessary selling skills, the desire to sell, and the motivation to sell. But something is missing. He knows they can be doing so much more. As we dug deeper, it became clear that they can’t catch up to the fastball.
First of all, the products and services they sell are complex and require a great deal of sales knowledge to understand. My client does provide extensive “product” training and when quizzed some of his salespeople will get most of it right…and most will get some of it right. Good, but not good enough. Buyers are picky, looking for guidance, and want to buy from experts. Knowing some of it only sometimes…strike one!
I love the movie Groundhog Day. If you haven’t seen it, please do. If you have, then you will remember that Bill Murray, the lead, masters the piano, develops incredible medical diagnostic skills, becomes fluent in French, and learns to change tires in minutes. All the while covering the breaking news of the emergence of Punxsutawney Phil (the groundhog signaling a longer winter – hence the movie title).
And Murray does all this in one day. I want to do that. The fact that he has to live the same day over and over and over again until he gets his life right is…well, just a minor detail.