Why Sales Training Programs Fail

Reason #11:

Relevancy drives active participation. Programs tend to fail when the trainer or training organization and the client skip the critical step in discovery to share current best practices, previous training ideas, and concepts that are in use and still working to some degree. And training companies often make the mistake of thinking that all they need to do is show up and train their program regardless of what information has been collected and transferred.

There are some world-class training organizations out there, and there are tremendous trainers who have vast knowledge and experience. However, why programs fail is because sometimes trainers will revert to entertainment or ‘entertrainment’ and mix in too many jokes, anecdotes, and personal stories. When done in moderation these truly enhance the learning experience, but if the trainer does a good job of entertaining and a poor job of transferring the knowledge, the participants may have had a great time, but unfortunately learned very little.

Knowledge capture and knowledge transfer will certainly help the facilitator to be better prepared and will have a tremendous benefit for the participants as discussions, exercises, and role-plays are all built and delivered around relevancy. Companies looking to partner with the right training organization will make sure that they invest the time and resources during the planning phases to make sure that the training organization has a much better understanding of what is going on in a typical day-in-the-life of the sales team. What challenges do they face, what opportunities do they have, how many opportunities are they working where they find themselves in a competitive situation, who are the competitors, what are the differentiators, what is the value, why do they win, why do they lose, etc.

When the sales training company is armed with this type of insight into the client’s world, and they can adapt their selling system and share their stories in the right context, the time that both companies invested in knowledge capture will pay huge dividends in the classroom through knowledge transfer. It will no longer be seen as just another training event or program, the classroom experience will be elevated beyond relevancy, and active participation will help the participants retain so much more of the content/program.

Best Practice #1: Invest the time to make sure that the internal learning and development team understands what is happening within their sales teams. Invest the time with the training partner to help them better understand where the best opportunities for growth might be. As a client, share as much information as possible about previous programs that worked and where some of the content or techniques are still being widely used.

Best Practice #2: Make the sales team available to the training partner. Telephone interviews are an easy way to share information. Going on sales calls and seeing firsthand how the sales team is currently selling is a powerful way to capture relevant knowledge. Listening to live calls or recorded calls is also extremely helpful in learning current questioning and qualifying tactics, as well as hearing objections or concerns and how they are currently being handled. Make sure the leadership and sales managers also participate so that the training company can see the situation through the ears and eyes of the management team.

Best Practice #3: Assessments. If assessments and surveys have been completed, share these outcomes with the training partner. The data gathered from behavior and competency assessments, personality style and communication preferences, and a solid skills gap analysis will help the training partner to combine that data with their anecdotal experiences and information gathered through the interviews, field visits, and listening to sales calls.

Remember, proper knowledge capture and knowledge transfer are often missed. When both the client and the training partner take the time to understand the real-world selling environment and build or adapt content and programs that will create a better learning experience, the program will succeed, and the outcome will be better sales results. When sales training programs fail is when the training partner either doesn’t incorporate what they learned through discovery, or they do not do any discovery, and they just rely on their selling system and methodology and just teach it as is, off the shelf.

Why Sales Training Programs Fail

Reason #10:

As companies recognize that they need, or should implement a sales or sales management training program, the conversations that take place include the possibility of using a training organization that they have used in the past, or including someone or some training organization where someone on the executive or management team has or has had a relationship.

The other conversation that takes place is a “build vs buy” discussion, believing that they have the right talent, enough expertise and knowledge, and enough time to build and deliver their own training program.

In any of the scenarios above, when done properly, could deliver the desired outcomes and results. Or, they could go horribly wrong, ending with a failed program and no return on the investment made.

Here’s why:

  • There could be nothing wrong with using a proven training organization or partner who has helped to deliver results in the past, especially within your industry. The questions that we would have to ask include:
    • Why did the company stop working with this training partner?
    • If they were delivering the results, shouldn’t they still be engaged at some level?
    • Has the company evolved over time, keeping up with the current business and competitive landscape?
    • Has the same company stayed current or even ahead of technology and tools that are available to today’s sellers?
    • And even though the content is timeless and proven, are the concepts and the way that it is taught tied to the way the world works today and the way the salespeople are learning today.
  • A build vs buy decision could be an excellent path to consider as well. However, this should be thought about in many ways:
    • This seems like a great idea, but do the people who will be tasked with the project really have the time to commit to developing a program from scratch?
    • Is their time more valuable in the field selling?
    • Are we pulling learning and development resources away from other projects?
    • Buy-in from the sales team and sales management teams will be required.
      • The sales team will compare any known or existing program that they have been through with the quality and work that is being developed for a home-grown solution. If they see weaknesses, buy-in will be lost and they could resist the program.
    • When looking at the training roadmap, take into consideration the time it will take, the level of difficulty that it may pose, and the actual costs involved.
    • A build vs buy decision should evaluate and compare time, level of difficulty, and all costs against the time, level of difficulty, and costs of choosing and working with an existing and proven training provider.
  • Although the first two are both viable options, the good news is that there are even more options that should be considered. Investing in the sales and sales management team should easily deliver an ROI that more than covers the initial and ongoing investment. There are consulting organizations, industry experts, and data available to help companies explore the best potential fit for their organization. Looking at industry experience, content relevancy, ability to customize or personalize content, licensing of intellectual property, a proven train-the-trainer model, the processes in which training organizations work with their clients, budget fit, and proven results should all be taken into consideration.

The point is that instead of going back to a partner that we used to work with, or taking the time in building a home-grown solution, that we should be willing to make the best decision possible based on all of the personal and professional development options that are currently available.

Best Practice #1: Building upon the previous reason of “No Clarity,” defining the “why” before beginning the process of exploring the “who” and the “how” is certainly a best practice. Go through the exercise of understanding the KPI’s and results that this training program should be able to deliver. Think about things like an increase in revenue, improved margins, shortened sales cycle time, increase in renewals, expansion of existing accounts, reduction in customer attrition, reduction in turnover of sales personnel, and more. Once the “why” is clearly understood, the “who” and the “how” are much easier to determine.

Best Practice #2: Be open to looking at a solution that is different from anything you have done in the past. Just like everything else, the training world and the learners change too. They have changed in the way they deliver and receive information and the ways that are helpful for the sales team and participants to learn. Be open to looking at solutions that are proven to be successful for today’s sellers who will one day become tomorrow’s sales leaders.

Best Practice #3: Work with industry consultants and experts who can add value to the decision process and who can bring forward the right training solution options and eliminate the other potential solutions that really would not be a proper fit based on what you are trying to achieve.

Remember, it is not what is new that works, it is what works that works. So, if the training solution that proved successful in the past is still a viable solution, keep them in the mix. Today’s sellers and today’s learners are adapting to their environment and learning how to sell, leveraging all of the tools, content, and technology that are available to them and that help them win and win more often. So, to increase the likelihood of a successful sales training program, consider all of the options that are currently available.

Why Sales Training Programs Fail

Reason #9:

Imagine you could accelerate your decision-making process around sales training, thereby accelerating the success of the launch of the right sales training, and ultimately accelerate your revenue.

To learn more about how we help companies expedite the decision-making by helping them with how to choose the right training partner, check us out at https://www.tramazing.com/

After participating in initial conversations with prospects and even some customers, it never seems to amaze me. And what I am talking about here is clarity. The decision to provide sales training for the team seems like an easy one and it is. It only becomes confusing when too many people get involved in the decision-making process.

The CEO and sales leaders know what’s broken and where the need to pay attention exists. They also know when the competition is getting close, and a sharp CEO and savvy sales leadership will take measures and look to continuously provide training. Making sure that their teams are best equipped to compete in a very tight market. They look for that slight edge.

Here is where the lack of clarity comes in. The sales team and leadership will put the request into the hands of Learning and Development, and sometimes include Human Resources. And lastly, they will invite one or more folks from their Sales Enablement teams. Now we have a first discussion about who to train, why we are training them, what content or program we should use. And there are typically people in the room nominating a company that they prefer. Then someone else on the team brings up a different preferred partner that they also used in the past.

Other companies, unfortunately, stayed with a training company even though it wasn’t going well. And other times it was a complete failure, and the company that hired the trainer or training company ends up terminating their agreement. With so many people getting involved in the decision-making process they create chaos and there is too much input. And then the questions come up again: Why are we doing this training? How much is it going to cost? What are we hoping they get out of this? How long will this take? Do we have the right resources to manage this? Do we have someone who comes from sales who can help? And many other questions. So many questions and very little clarity.

And choosing the right trainer never has to be a leap of faith, training never has to be a check the box initiative. Visit us at tramazing.com and we can work through your decisions about sales training and answer any questions you may have when it comes to why, who, what, when, and how the training will take place, including how to build a training roadmap that can be managed too.

Best Practice #1: Begin with the why. Why are we choosing to train our company now? Sometimes, it’s because the numbers are down and have been trending down for some time now, or at best, they are flat. So, to avoid confusion and gain clarity, start with why you are training in the first place. Be very specific about the KPI’s you are crushing or being crushed by.

Best Practice #2: Avoid having too many influencers or decision-makers giving guidance. Unless you are really good at managing the flow of information and the opinions of many, you would do your best to limit the group and make sure one of you is recognized as the ultimate decision-maker.

Best Practice #3: If you are convinced that the timing is right for sales training, work with a consultant who has working knowledge and intimate information about each company you will be considering. You want to know if their culture is the right fit. You will want to if their content will be appropriate for your team. You will want to know if the process they adhere to is a process you can work with. If you are working with a set budget, the customer may need to compromise other things so that the quality and integrity of the training program delivers the best value, and helps with any growth goals of the organization.

Why Sales Training Programs Fail

Reason #8:

Does it always make sense to train everyone on the sales team the same program or content? There are some companies who believe that they must include everyone as they plan for sales training. The goal might be to develop a common sales language, process, and methodology. It’s easier for managers to manage one consistent process and speak a common sales language when working with their teams.

Even though we design these great plans and do so with solid intentions to have a universal program that will somehow meet everyone’s needs, oftentimes we miss the desired outcome because there are people on our team that will not benefit from the content or program. Another possibility is that maybe they aren’t ready for the program and content yet, they may be too new in their role. And the other side of that is that maybe they are already crushing their number and anything we try and teach them may actually end up slowing them down.

Here’s the deal:

  • Our top performers are doing just fine, they are killing it. They are making money, and sometimes our very best of intentions just gets in their way. Do they want the newest, latest and greatest tips and techniques? Maybe, probably, but then again, maybe not. What they want is whatever will give them the best advantage to maintain their position on the leaderboard and increase their income and work/life balance.
  • Our unproven and under-performing salespeople may be another population who can wait on further training or tools and technologies. As a matter of fact, one of the biggest mistakes I have seen played out time and time again is implementing a sales training program or content that is advanced beyond the team’s or person’s capability or tenure in the business. What this group wants is something that is going to help them demonstrate success to themselves and to the company in the shortest amount of time.
  • That leaves us with the moveable middle. And the situation here is that the moveable middle is never dead center, not everyone falls in a vertical line in the middle of the bell curve, do they? They are all scattered somewhere along the continuum of the moveable middle. And the reality is, all we need to do is help move each person slightly to the right of where they are now in the bell curve to have a massive impact on our business and revenue.

The idea here is to stay within the investment zone of the bell curve. And that zone or window will be different for each of you in this room based on the structure and nuances of your organization. And having done this for as long as I have been doing this, If I had to help people find, create, ask for, and justify a budget, I help them to FOCUS and identify what to invest in, who to invest in, and when to invest in the project or people.

Some of the greatest salespeople we have known or worked with demonstrated strength and highly developed skills in:

  • Building a healthy self-image
  • Developing and maintaining a positive attitude
  • Building winning relationships at home and at work
  • Using “Hope” as a tactic and activator
  • Setting and achieving goals

This is an example from a Zig Ziglar program, Strategies for Success, that has been updated and modified to meet today’s learner. And it is the type of content and concepts that provide the confidence to seek and achieve selling success. For people who are new to sales, an argument can be made that this type of program should be what they go through first, before entering a professional sales training program. Just imagine how we could accelerate success and reduce turnover if we had our new or new-to-sales folks achieving greater success earlier in their career.

Best Practice #1: There are many levels of success within your organization, sometimes when we try and train the masses, we can also compromise the learning. Really try and isolate where the biggest gaps are, and the opportunity for the greatest growth, and start there first instead of trying to train everyone.

Best Practice#2: Go through the exercise of discovery and identify the gaps across the organization based on performance, tenure with the company, and how long they have been in professional selling. Look for the best opportunities to move the needle. Once this exercise has been completed, look for content and training programs that can close the gaps and move the company forward.

Best Practice #3: When not trying to train the masses companies can maintain tighter control on the cohorts, manage the number of people in the classroom, and invest their budgets in the areas that will yield the greatest results.

Remember, managing sales teams by plotting them on a bell curve can give us greater visibility into where the biggest gaps and challenges are amongst the team. This then allows us to determine where we can apply the training that will have the biggest impact. And if finding or getting a budget has been a challenge or if it will be a challenge, getting much clearer on who is going to be trained and why the more likely the training budget will be approved.

Why Sales Training Programs Fail

Reason #7:

When there is a perceived need for sales training it usually is driven by someone believing there is a lack of skill or technique in certain areas. Some might believe that parts of the sales organization struggle with the front end of the process, meaning pre-call planning, account planning, preparing, or prospecting. Other companies may argue that their team struggles in the middle part of the sales process such as qualifying and questioning skills or presentation skills. And then there are other sales leaders who believe that their salespeople struggle the most with the end of the process, negotiating, closing, and follow-up. And although there are other skills we could include here such as communication and listening skills, time management or managing the game clock during the sale, account management, etc., and, the above sequencing may be slightly different or the process different from one training company to the next, what gets missed all too often is developing the person.

We cannot train with blinders on and believe there is a quick fix by throwing some skills-based training at our professional sellers, without giving them some of the other important concepts around motivation/attitude, actions/behaviors, and goal setting.

Some of the greatest salespeople we have known or worked with demonstrated strength and highly developed skills in:

  • Building a healthy self-image
  • Developing and maintaining a positive attitude
  • Building winning relationships at home and at work
  • Using “Hope” as a tactic and activator
  • Setting and achieving goals

This is an example from a Zig Ziglar program, Strategies for Success, that has been updated and modified to meet today’s learner. And it is the type of content and concepts that provide the confidence to seek and achieve selling success. For people who are new to sales, an argument can be made that this type of program should be what they go through first, before entering a professional sales training program. Just imagine how we could accelerate success and reduce turnover if we had our new, or new-to-sales folks achieving greater success earlier in their career.

Best Practice #1: When thinking about a sales training program, do not just focus on skills and techniques. Salespeople have 24-hour lives. We expect a lot from them and sometimes they come to us with a lack of confidence or a poor attitude. Sometimes they come to us not knowing what a successful cookbook is or the behaviors they should be doing as opposed to just focusing on a skill or selling technique.

Best Practice #2: Assigning quota is translated differently for high performing salespeople. High performing salespeople set goals and have behavior plans to achieve those goals. They have playbooks so they know what to do in specific situations. A best practice when speaking with sales teams and to people on our team about performance expectations is to talk in terms of goals, not quotas. A quota is something the company wants them to achieve, a goal becomes personal and that means someone with a goal that is personal will work harder to achieve that goal.

Best Practice #3: Some of the top learning and development organizations look at sales training more holistically. These teams place a high value on all personal and professional development. They equip salespeople and the rest of the organization with skills that will help them achieve their goals in all areas of life. They know that giving people tools, attitudes, and behaviors to deal with change, communication, stress, and selling will help them in so many areas outside of work.

Remember, people buy for their reasons, not ours. That also means that people buy-into something for their reasons and not ours. The same holds true for training. If someone knows where they have a gap, or is assessed to help them find those gaps, they will be more likely to actively participate in the training. And when continuous learning is seen as something the company values, prospective employees will want to come and work with your organization. And when we help them become better in all areas of life, we will build a better business around them too.

Why Sales Training Programs Fail

Reason #6:

Customizing or personalizing a program makes so much sense these days as sales teams want relevancy in the classroom and buyers want to engage with well-educated and well-trained selling professionals. The intent for both training providers and organizations to meet this need is solid, however, the breakdown comes when one or both parties try and over-architect the training program or over-reach and try and make the program do more than can possibly be done, or even more than what is actually necessary. The impact of this usually manifests itself in a few key places.
  1. The customization/personalization schedule gets delayed
  2. The trickle-down impact here is that the training schedule also gets delayed
  3. This places stress on both the company and its training partner
  4. Students are overwhelmed in the classroom
  5. And one of two things happens here. They shut down and only absorb a portion of the training. Worse, go back to their territory and the real-world and go straight back to their old comfortable way of selling.
Again, customization and/or personalization makes so much sense. But in reality, we only have so much time to get across the most important part of the learning so we do not want to dilute the skills, ideas, and concepts by overdoing it all at one time.
A solid training program and roadmap will allow for layering in additional content and building upon the initial concepts and processes. It will also give sales managers a path toward coaching and mentoring in small bites, as opposed to boiling the sales training ocean all at one time.
Best Practice #1: Keep it simple. Make it powerful and impactful but keep it simple. The more we try and over-engineer a sales methodology or process, the harder it is to roll it out to the field. Even with highly educated sales personnel and extremely seasoned and successful sales management and leadership, the more that we make it harder than it has to be, the less it will actually be adopted and embraced by our sellers.
Best Practice #2: When customizing or personalizing a program, think about bringing the management and leadership teams in first. Get their buy-in and make sure that they are comfortable delivering the message when the trainer or the training company is not there. Interact and engage them during the customization process early and often so that the program doesn’t become so overwhelming and something that will be lost on the salespeople.
Best Practice #3: Start with something as close to off-the-shelf as possible first. When you have made your selection to work with one of the proven training programs that are available, you have probably chosen one with a proven track record of success. Their program is successful because it is their program, one that they have successfully delivered for at least a couple of decades. You will be shocked to find out how much of what they already have will work, save tons of money on customization, accelerate the launch of your training program, and learn what parts you really should consider customizing after you have run a few classes.
Remember, lessons happen in the classroom, the learning happens in the field. This means that if we overcomplicate it in the classroom, and they never take it to the field and try and apply it, we have wasted a lot of time and money. Build a program that is modular by design. This way you can get the most important elements into the hands of the sales team sooner, start experiencing results faster, and then layer on more tips and techniques, ideas, and concepts over the next few quarters. Layering in additional techniques is another good spot for the power of e-learning and online courses, tips, and techniques.

Why Sales Training Programs Fail

Reason #5:

How much does a sales training program cost? That is really the wrong question, isn’t it? After all, many times the reason that a sales training program fails is that it was never properly budgeted from the beginning. And it is the wrong question for at least a couple of reasons.
First, when considering the implementation of a sales training program for your organization, there are certain factors that need to be explored before establishing a budget.
  • How many people are you going to put through the training?
  • How many locations will there be?
  • How many people in each classroom?
  • Are you looking for just one training session for each person with no reinforcement?
  • Are you looking for a complete program with follow-on training, coaching, and reinforcement?
  • Are you looking for an online-only solution?
  • Will customization to your company and industry be required?

There could be other factors that will determine the proper budget, but those are the big ones.

The second reason it is the wrong question to ask is because the professional development of the sales organization or anyone within your organization should be seen as an investment. If you really believe that this is a cost to your company, do not move forward with the training. Sales training is an investment, an investment in driving revenue; improving margins; increasing win rates; building deeper and stronger relationships with clients resulting in greater retention, more renewals, and additional upsell/cross-sell opportunities; reducing the turnover within your sales team (which by the way is extremely costly); reducing sales cycle time; and developing bench strength that can grow into management and leadership roles within the company. The simple truth is that there are excellent training organizations out there who can help you in all the areas mentioned above and more. The investment may seem like a lot when first exploring your options but when you figure out that in most cases you will receive a return on that investment of 10X, 20X, and more, in some cases greater than 100X. Yes, the process will be harder than you think and come with a greater investment than you may have been ready for, and it will take longer than you think. But in the end, the results and improvement in the KPI’s that are most important to you will be improved, increased, expanded, or reduced.
Best Practice #1: Don’t let training be a discretionary line item in your budget. Competition is only going to get together as buyers have access to more information and have a greater sense of who they want to work with. Top performing companies make sure that their sales teams are always focused on learning as much as possible so they can add as much value to the customer as possible. This will allow for greater protection of your business and give them the opportunity to usurp the competition as they win net new business.
Best Practice #2: When budget really is an issue or limited, for the time being, smart organizations take a close look at who they should be training first. Most will focus on the moveable middle, specifically those leaning more toward the top-performing side of the bell curve. Eventually expanding to include more salespeople and sales managers in the program, but when faced with a needed change and improvement in win ratios sooner rather than later, organizations will identify a subset that has the greatest potential for near-term success and train them first.
Best Practice #3: You get what you pay for. So, make sure that you do your due diligence and partner with an organization that has a proven track record of success. Companies looking to truly move the needle avoid short-term solutions that will not deliver the revenue or margin results they were hoping to achieve. This is when companies begin looking at quick-fix solutions or low-cost solutions such as online-only training programs. Online training programs are terrific when structured properly, used as pre-work and post-work, and as a reinforcement tool.
Remember, think investment and not cost. When considering a training partner or building your own program, keep in mind that cutting this budget number might sound like an easy and good place to save some short-term dollars, but when invested properly you could be looking at 10X, 20X, and possibly more than 100X return on your investment.

Why Sales Training Programs Fail

Reason #4:

In the early days of planning to buy, build, and implement a sales training solution, organizations include reinforcement as a “must-have” in order to make sure the training sticks and that the sales teams adopt and use the sales skills and techniques learned during training. Even when vetting potential training partners, reinforcement garners a lot of attention. Companies want to know what is available to their teams post-training as far as access to content, techniques, and best practices that can be shared and reinforced. And, most of the top training organizations have built some very dynamic and robust tools when it comes to supporting the learning after the initial classes have taken place. The available modalities for reinforcement include VILT or Virtual Instructor-Led Training, Podcasts, Online Courses, Online Short-Form Tips, and Techniques, Coaching and Mentoring, Conference Calls, Webinars, and future ILT or Instructor-Led Training, as well as attendance to local, regional, or national seminars. There is available technology and apps that include gamification to help make it fun and engaging. And there are ways to build the content and selling system into the company’s CRM so that access to the programming is pushed into the salespersons’ workflow. And in almost all cases the reinforcement content, tools, and technology are all available on the salesperson’s mobile device.

It is so easy. This should be an absolute no-brainer for salespeople when it comes to continuous learning and leveraging the tools and technology to further understand the new selling system that they just learned and practiced in the classroom. Sales managers have access to the same content, technology, and tools so that they too can learn the selling system and become even stronger at coaching to the system. Training companies have really made huge investments so that their clients can accelerate and maximize success.

Yes, it is easy. But here is the problem. The data shows that only a small percentage of sales managers and sales leaders ever access the reinforcement tools and technology that are available to them. And when management doesn’t use the available reinforcement modalities, the salespeople are even less likely to use the tools. The fix is easy too.

Keep reinforcement as a priority. Set expectations around how the sales team will utilize the tools and then inspect what is expected. Make it mandatory that sales management and sales leadership have courses and content that they are required to participate in so that they become increasingly comfortable with the selling system and how to coach to it. The fix is easy because you can manage the behaviors of using the tools. And if the behaviors are managed properly, measuring success will become easier.

Best Practice #1: Make reinforcement is a “must-have” in any training program that is bought or built and does not allow it to become a “nice-to-have.” If the company is looking for an increase in the adoption and utilization of the selling process or system, the content and concepts must be consistently reinforced.

Best Practice #2: Leadership and all levels of management need to demonstrate the company’s commitment to the program. The adoption of the system and consistent use of the language and concepts of the new selling system will take root when leadership and management become familiar with what is available in the reinforcement tool kit.

Best Practice #3: Understand which reinforcement tools and technologies will work within your organization. There is no reason to purchase supporting tools, apps, games, and coaching hours if these are not practical within the company. This does not mean to abandon any reinforcement or sustainability measures, this simply means understand what works within your team, company, and culture and then go all-in on those reinforcement modalities.

Remember, reinforcement was a huge part of the decision-making process when deciding which training company to partner with. It was also a decision point when evaluating whether on not to build your own sales training program. Reinforcement was listed as a “must-have.” When companies allow reinforcement to become a “nice-to-have” and do not set proper expectations for the sales team, all of the VILT, Podcasts, Coaching and Mentoring, Additional ILT days, Webinars, Gamification, and Apps are for naught.

Why Sales Training Programs Fail

Reason #3:

If there is one thing companies should consider when launching a sales training program is that a “one size fits all” approach may not work. There are so many factors that go into deciding who we should have participate in the training program. Do we train everyone? Because it wouldn’t be fair to give some of the team training and others have to wait for their training or possibly never receive training at all. This is not where companies should get hung up or try and do too much.
Let’s think about the traditional bell curve. If we used numbers that make the math simple, we may see 5% of our team our super high achievers, 15% are high achievers, 60% are somewhere in the moveable middle, 15% are underperforming, and 5% are not on their way out as they are not producing any results at all. So when evaluating who to train and what content you want to train, it really doesn’t make any sense to try and bring them all together to develop skills in the same area. Top performing salespeople and super high achieving salespeople are probably not looking for sales 101or the basics. Depending on the types of products and services the company is selling, these sales reps are probably looking for advanced selling skills, advanced questioning techniques, maybe one or two new skills, attitudes, or behaviors that can help them achieve even greater numbers. Maybe content around expanding their penetration, selling complex opportunities, or advanced negotiation skills. The sales team who is underperforming or failing and may be on their way out are usually failing because they are missing the basics, the blocking and tackling of selling, and they have no consistent system or process that they follow. And when we attempt to put high performing and super high achieving salespeople in a class full of new hires or salespeople who need more of the basics two things happen.
The first is that the top producers feel like it is time that is not well spent, a waste of time. They are unhappy and unmotivated about attending the training. The underperforming salespeople are intimidated by the high achievers and so they hold back on their questions and are very nervous when role-playing or participating in exercises. The myth is that it is good to bring high achievers into the program with underperformers so that they can help teach and share best practices. The reality is that high performing salespeople have gotten to where they are and want to remain as a high performing, results-producing superstar. They are typically not interested in helping others (Although there are some that do, and they do take a more holistic team approach). Teaching net new, or even new to sales salespeople should include things like understanding your market, personal confidence, and motivation, pre-call planning, and preparation, prospecting, qualifying, questioning, communication skills, presentation skills, proposing and negotiating, closing, etc.
Advanced and high achieving sales teams are looking for deeper, richer, behaviors and skills required to grow beyond where they are today.
Now, what about our 60% who are in the moveable middle? The problem here is that the “moveable middle” is never just right down the middle. There will be some salespeople who are moving closer to the top-performing side of the bell curve, there will be salespeople who are closer to the middle. And then there are salespeople on the team that are not quite underperforming, compared to the moveable middle, but they are at a critical point in their developmental needs. Our goal is the bring them closer to the middle and even get them into the top-performing group. The challenge is making sure that we see their potential and provide training and coaching to make sure that they have the opportunity to grow and move up and not backslide into the lower performing and non-performing side of the bell curve.
Best Practice #1: Recognize that a universal approach or “one size fits all approach” may work if the organization has limited products and services, a smaller team, a good culture of sharing best practices. If the company has a sales organization made up of many business units, levels of skill, and levels of tenure, including salespeople who have already been through multiple training programs, the universal approach or “one size fits all” approach will fail.
Best Practice #2: Don’t try and teach net new or new to sales salespeople advanced selling techniques and likewise don’t try and train high performing/high-speed selling professionals the basics. New salespeople will be confused and successful and tenured salespeople will resent it.
Best Practice #3: Focus on the “moveable middle” and work with a training partner who has or who can develop a program based on the various points within the moveable middle. By doing this, the company will increase and accelerate the success and win rates of the salespeople who are in the middle, and the content can be modified and adjusted to meet the needs of the high performing sales teams as well as the salespeople who are currently underperforming.
Remember, the best of intentions is to create a one size fits all or universal program that everyone must learn and follow. There is merit to this in the right situation. But if organizations really want to make the most of their investment in developing their sales teams, they will do well to have content and programming that is flexible enough and robust enough to meet the needs of everyone on the team.

Why Sales Training Programs Fail

Reason #2:

Now that the decision has been made to move forward with a sales training initiative, the budget has been approved, the training partner selected, all that is left to do is assign the project to someone who will own the program within the organization. This is never as easy as it might seem. Depending on the size of the organization or company, they may already be resource-constrained. So even though the sales training is considered a priority, sometimes the mistake is assigning the success of the program to someone who is already fully employed within the organization and is now required to shepherd the sales training initiative as well.
Another potential danger zone here is assigning the sales training program to someone who has never been in sales, participated in sales training, or doesn’t understand what sales and selling are all about. They have zero knowledge or experience in what the selling environment feels like or what a day in the life of a salesperson entails. Another idea that fails more than it succeeds is when an organization tries to identify someone within the sales team to take on the project. And usually, it is a vice president or sales leader who gets assigned the task of making sure the project succeeds. And, oh, by the way, make sure they also meet or exceed their revenue targets while trying to manage the roll-out and implementation of a new sales training program. When making the investment in a professional sales training program, why not make sure that there is a sales savvy primary point of contact who’s sole responsibility is making sure the sales training program is wildly successful?
Think increase in revenue, improved margins, reduced turnover, shorter sales cycles, expanded wallet share, etc.
If the program fails the person who owned the program could be at fault, even though they may have had two or three other roles or projects they were managing at the same time. The sales training partner could receive the brunt of the blame as the company claims it was the content, the process, or the system that was flawed. However, if there is one primary owner of the program, and who is ultimately responsible for the success of the program which will be determined by the achievement of the goals of the program, the company will increase the likelihood of meeting with success and avoid failure and loss of their investment.
Best Practice #1: Find someone on the Learning and Development Team who has experience with sales, salespeople, and sales processes. If this person doesn’t exist on the team, recruit for that person or use a partner who can fulfill that function. There are outsourcing options to help maximize the success of your sales training program.
Best Practice #2: Don’t penalize anyone on the sales team by assigning them the task of ensuring the success of the training program while also required to meet or exceed quota expectations. This is an unfair expectation and usually doesn’t end well. There is so much to be gained by a successful program, so if a vice president or other sales leader is the best option to manage the program, compensate them fairly for the success of the program.
Best Practice #3: Don’t expect the training company that you have selected to partner with to fill this role. The training company will have terrific coordinators and customer care teams, but at the end of the day, they also serve other customers. You want them doing what they do best, however, if you really want to increase the odds that your program is wildly successful, have someone within your organization, or who is a partner with your best interest in mind, own the success of the sales training program.
Remember, sales training is about relevancy. The sales team needs to know and believe in the person and the team who will be responsible for making sure that their experience and participation in the training will be of value.