What If Sales Training Doesn’t Work? And I Asked for It?

What if sales training doesn't work - Richard RuffWhat if sales training doesn't work? And you advocated it?
"Is Advocating Sales Training a Career Risk?" asked sales training program developer Richard Ruff a few days back. His answer--"No!", qualified with an advisement that sales training effectiveness studies are not going to be found in the cause and effect ROI format. Sales is a social science, not a physical science.

Ruff's experience extends to such companies as UPS, Smith & Nephew, GE, Boston Scientific, Xerox, and Canon USA. So he knows what a successful sales training program takes. But do the client companies? Interestingly, Ruff reports that 43.5% of sales training customers in a study said the program didn't meet their expectations. This stat makes me wonder how well expectations were managed!

What If Sales Training Does Work?

But first, in the cases where the training was welcomed and adopted, what happened?

Firms saying that their sales training "exceeded expectations also reported both lower competitive loses and less loses to “no decision” as compared to the other two groups"...those "that exceed expectations enjoy a higher percentage of salespeople achieving quota, higher percentage of deals won, and lower sales rep turnover.”

When we monetize these results over time, it's clear that effective sales training is an excellent investment.

And not the least of those results is having you and your sales staff know where you are in the sales process. I've stopped counting the number of companies I talk to sales leaders of who have no idea why they won one order but lost another. Or think it's all about price. Totally lost.

What If Sales Training Doesn't Work

A major issue about the success or failure of any sales training program is the attitude of the trainees. If they are unwilling to adopt the new process, possibly because they feel it was forced upon them from on high, they won't use the methodology. Trainers and their clients need to be aware of change management techniques to guide a smooth transition.

An ES Research study reports between 85% and 90% of sales training has no lasting impact after 120 days. And my response to this stat is, "Wait a minute here. You expected a seminar-type training format to give permanent results?!" You need ongoing reinforcement of technique for sales training to be effective. It simply is not a one-time thing.

I have to question why many people seem to believe that sales training is like a some sort of innoculation. As if you get it once, and you're good for many years. No! Would you expect this to be the case for learning how to be a chef? For a horse to learn how to be a racehorse? For an Olympian to train and participate at the Games? For a painter to become a master? Ask the question of What if sales training doesn't work in the context of these other situations, and see just how silly it sounds.

And so we arrive at the core issues of why sales training fails. No commitment. No adoption. Poorly managed expectations.

As an Operations Management guy, I know all about managing change. It's one of the toughest things to do. People want to go back into their old comfort zones. And if you don't have a corrective mechanism--ongoing reinforcement--to bring that person back to the correct use of the new technique, the training is worthless after a short while as the ES study shows. So if you're going to get sales training, or advocate it, make sure everyone involved is committed. That they are ready to adopt the new methodology. That expectations are being correctly managed. Or else it is going to be a trainwreck.

>> Jason Kanigan is a sales force developer based in Wilmington, NC. Was this article helpful to you? Please Like, Share or Comment to let others know! <<

Jason Kanigan

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