It’s boring. It’s painful. 

It’s something every sales rep dreads. 

Oh – and it doesn’t work. 

What is IT? Sales training.

And is it any wonder why sales training doesn’t work?

Stick a bunch of sales reps in a room, force-feed them a webinar, or worse – have them be on the receiving end of a dull Powerpoint or even an eBook – and when IT’s done, send them back out into the field with an urgency to make up for the time lost in the classroom watching/listening/reading sales training materials.

And REPEAT – because studies show within 6 months the reps can’t recall ¾ of the information they were trained on. But don’t wait too long because after 1-year sales reps only retain 10-15% of sales training knowledge.

So why do sales organizations spend $20 BILLION dollars a year on sales training if reps HATE it – and it DOESN’T WORK? 

Here are 3 reasons sales organizations are just doing sales training WRONG:

Reason #1 – The goal of sales training is based on the company’s need to inform the salesforce.

New product coming? Schedule sales training.

New customer segmentation study released? Schedule sales training.

Gearing up for Q4? Schedule sales training.

It’s essential that sales reps have a good understanding of the products they sell, that’s a given. But product training and sales training are often combined with poor results

Changing and improving sales behavior should be the target!

Having reps sit through powerpoints of new product features, then discuss possible scenarios or processes is not going to move the dial. This is because it will not do anything to change the two things that study after study shows positively impacts sales:

  1.  Changing selling behavior 
  2. Improving sales skills

Reason #2 – Sales training is not based on the individual needs of sales reps.

Sales training often offers the same sales learning experience to the entire sales force, despite variations in abilities, and always with the same expected outcome: that each sales rep sell more. Here’s what’s wrong with that sales training approach:

  • How can you “fix” sales behaviors if you don’t know what’s wrong in the first place? 
  • How do you know if a sales rep has improved in a specific area if you don’t have insight into where in the sales cycle they need more help, and where they started from?
  • How can you measure the correlation between what was learned and increased sales?

The answer to all of the above is: “You can’t!” 

The goal of training is to inform. It is not to understand. And that is a huge problem.

There are many different aspects of a sales rep’s personality, intelligence, initiative, and social skills behaviors that affect their approach to sales, the combination of which is what we refer to as a Selling Intelligence Score™.  

Assessing the needs of each rep prior to sending them through a sales learning program is key to creating a personalized sales development experience that results in improved sales attainment, as revealed in our new survey of 396 sales leaders across firms of all sizes and industries around the world:

Reason #3 – Sales training isn’t just impersonal, it is often overwhelming.

“Research found that while tactics like product training and email are some of the most widely used to educate workers (85% and 91%, respectively), they often fail to drive consistent messaging about the product. This is largely because the majority of businesses (69%) rely on bloated information dumps, like document libraries and shared folders that house outdated information, to prepare frontline teams.” – Harvard Business Review

You wouldn’t walk a new hire into a library and tell the fledgling rep to read an entire aisle of information. But, sales managers do essentially the same thing by creating a login to the company’s CRM and turning new hires loose to drown in a sea of information. 

Giving someone a library card doesn’t make them a reader, and giving a rep a login to a sales training platform and a stack of materials doesn’t make them an effective sales rep.

So if sales training as we know it is over, what’s next? Sales Development!

Is there a place for “Sales Training?” Not the way sales organizations have been administering it.  Not to be confused with the role of SDR (Sales Development Representative), sales development methodology is rapidly replacing traditional sales training. And for good reason:

  1. It’s prescriptive – based on the needs of the individual sales rep, not the team or company as a whole
  2. The goal of sales development is changing sales behavior and improving sales skills
  3. Prescriptive Sales Development is powerful. Reps are only given the materials they need to improve, decreasing the chance of information overload (more about this later!)
  4. Sales training is finite, sales development is infinite. The ongoing sales skills sharpening that can only happen with reinforcement is part of Sales Development programs 
  5. Lends itself well to cutting-edge sales technology including Virtual Reality

There ARE tactical solutions to ensure that learning material is absorbed, retained and that selling behavior is changed – that DON’T SUCK and AREN’T BORING:

  • Using sales simulations (role play) and Virtual Reality
  • Creating video-game-like excitement to keep the attention of reps
  • Allowing reps to train on-demand, on their mobile device

Leave a comment and let us know if you think the end of sales training as we know it is near.