Why Sales Training Fails
Updated: Feb 17
According to research, roughly 90% of sales training has no lasting impact after 120 days, yet sales leadership continues to spend billions of dollars on it each and every year. That’s money wasted, and it’s time we embrace a clearer understanding of the components that are found in an effective sales and sales management development program. As my grandmother would say, “Stop throwing good money after bad.” Good training is a great investment and delivers an ROI, but most “programs” and “systems” don’t deliver the desired outcome because of common and predictable reasons, a “quick fix” and “one-size-fits-all” approach being the most common. You can avoid the disappointment and regret of wasting money yet again by learning to identify what’s lacking in your current sales training initiatives and making the necessary adjustments. Experience tells us it’s usually because of one or more of the following:
1. Failure to personalize training.
Effective training defines individual business and learning needs. Without this clarity, training has virtually no chance of producing lasting results because it:
Bases objectives and expectations of results on wishful thinking versus strong analysis. Without a clearly defined, and customized, desired outcome and what it’s going to take to get there, the training initiative is doomed to fail before it even starts.
Fails to analyze the real learning needs of your team. Without knowing what skills your team already has and where their weaknesses lie, a program cannot be relevant and counted on to move the needle on sales performance.
2. Failure to build “business acumen”.
Most sales training programs ignore business knowledge and focus solely on sales skills. And, while sales skills are essential, they are only one side of a very important coin: selling capability. The other side of the coin is the development of business acumen.
Your salespeople have to know and be able to speak fluently about your products and services, the customer needs you to solve, the marketplace in general, your company, the competition, and more.
3. Failure to access individuals’ attributes.
You have to know if the individuals on your team have the attributes required for top sales performance. Do they have Sales DNA in their blood? This requires sales-specific assessments that 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 in place.
Many sales training programs neglect to provide a milestone focused process that salespeople can follow to systematically weed out prospects in the pipeline. Without this process, valuable time is wasted chasing deals that were doomed from the start. Training gets forgotten and salespeople end up doing their own thing, usually what they perceive as what’s “easy”, or recreating the wheel over and over again.
5. Failure to engage and the lack of individual coaching.
Adults learn by doing and you need a training program that engages and gets salespeople practicing and putting the new skills to use-- again and again.
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 value delivered in the event quickly fades. Without reinforcement, as much as participants might have loved the program, barely anyone goes home and reviews the material they learned at the training! They toss their workbook aside and quickly forget learned skills and knowledge, how motivated they were, and so on. They revert to their old ways.
6. Failure to evaluate continuous improvement.
Very few companies actually evaluate the effectiveness of their sales training. It’s no wonder their sales training feels like a failure. They simply have no idea if it has succeeded! And, without evaluation, it’s nearly impossible to hold salespeople accountable for changing and improving behavior, or for taking actions and achieving results.
Remember, investing in a successful training initiative that leads to increased sales performance and long-term growth is your best bet. We can help you do it.