Why Corporate Sales Training Often Fails to Achieve Desired Results

Why do you train salespeople and sales managers?

Some companies want to educate them and improve their skills.  Some feel obligated to provide training while others provide training to improve results.  Some do it to help their salespeople, improve morale and feel good about making it available.  These are all very noble concepts, but usually achieve disappointing outcomes.

Train your salespeople to change your salespeople.  Until THEY change, their beliefs, behaviors, strategies and tactics won’t change.  And there’s the problem.

Many companies, believing they have the resources (trainers, HR people, sales managers, star salespeople) to provide training, use them. They buy train the trainer programs, have companies develop curriculums for them, and send their internal people to do the training.  When they measure results by education, obligation, morale and good feelings, these programs achieve their goal.  But if they want to change their salespeople’s behaviors, what they actually do each day, they will fail.

In order to change salespeople, trainers must be able to do far more than read a script, teach the curriculums, demonstrate the strategies and tactics and perform role plays.  Sales trainers must have a number of competencies beyond sales and training.  There are underlying reasons why salespeople do what they do, why they only do what’s comfortable, but not what we need them to do, and trainers must first understand that.  How?  Those insights come from our sales force evaluation.  But the trainers must be able to go further than understanding the beliefs and sales specific weaknesses that prevent salespeople from effectively and consistently doing what they should.  They must also be able to dig deep and cause the salespeople to understand that their lack of success and inability to execute a strategy has more to do with those hidden weaknesses than it does from not having the right strategy or tactic.  The trainer must also be able to help people overcome those weaknesses.

This one fact means that a single training program, and even four over the course of a year, will fail.  It means that salespeople must be spoon-fed, at least twice per month for at least eight months.  Overcoming weaknesses requires as much attention as strategies and tactics and even then, if sales management has not been trained to provide effective coaching and hold salespeople accountable to these changes, it won’t work!

So why does so much training not achieve the desired result?  The wrong people are delivering it, there isn’t enough reinforcement, the message hasn’t been delivered with enough frequency in enough ways for everyone to get it, there isn’t enough attention paid to the weaknesses, and management isn’t prepared to support it.