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 #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.