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Here are the 21 most important reasons why sales training programs fail to change a salesperson, from the point of view of all the ‘players’ involved: the sales manager, the trainer and the salesperson. The number one reason why sales training fails:

No provision was made for follow-up BEFORE the training program was launched. 

We all know ‘impact training,’ one, two or three-day workshops does not last.  People leave these programs excited but no lasting change occurs.  When salespeople are encouraged to apply what they continually learn in the classroom on their sales calls in the field and when they are able to get feedback from their results in a ‘safe’ environment with a competent trainer who can ‘walk the talk,’ then and only then will the training work.  This is called follow up or ongoing training and it is a MUST!  If the sheer numbers of the salespeople involved in the training (larger corporations 200-plus salesforces) prohibit the kind of ongoing training described then at least use a training program with a proven ‘internet-access’ component as a part of the training process.

The best way to guarantee you do not unknowingly fall victim to sabotaging your own training efforts is to not do what you are about to read (and re-read):

From the Sales Manager’s perspective: The top 8 reasons why sales training fails:

 #1. The sales manager did not take the time to learn for them self the contents of the training program.

 #2. The sales manager proceeds with the training program for the sake of doing training, not for changing and growing salespeople.

 #3. The sales manager made no attempt to determine the level of instruction.  Some people will be bored if the level of instruction is too low and vice versa.

 #4. The sales manager determined who will conduct the training in a vacuum.  The ‘correct’ sales trainer will understand the needs of the sales force, the common problems of most salespeople (both ‘technical’ and ‘conceptual’) and will know how to effect sustained change in people over the long term.

 #5. The sales manager fails to determine how the training will or will not conflict with policies and procedures already in place in the company.

 #6. The sales manager shows little or no interest in the salesperson and/or the training they receive when they return from the training.

 #7. The sales manager makes no attempt to arouse the salesperson's interest level before they send them to a training program. As a result, salespeople attending are hostile and not in a learning mode.  They feel as though they are being forced to participate (‘prisoners’), instead of wanting to participate (‘learners’).  There are a few salespeople who view training as a company sponsored reason to stop working (‘travelers’).

 #8. The sales manager fails to present the training program as a reward, status symbol or as a privilege.

 (Sales managers, be sure to read the bonus list, ‘top reasons why newly hired salespeople fail,’ at the end of this appendix).

From the Trainer’s perspective: the top 7 reasons why sales training fails:

 #1. The subject matter deals only with ‘Techniques’ such as ‘Closing Skills’ or ‘Presenting skills.’  Ideal training changes people’s beliefs systems by addressing ‘Attitude’ issues, ‘Behaviour’ issues and ‘Self-concept’ issues, in addition to great selling techniques.

 #2. The trainer has no street scars and it shows. When the trainer walks into the room, participants should hang on every word. The participants very quickly realise the trainer ‘walks the talk’ and has the scars to prove it.

 #3. The trainer sticks to a pure lecture format.  Boring training insures little transfer of skills.  The best training is done in ‘safe’ groups where participants band together and work on real world exercises under the trainer’s guidance.

 #4. The trainer doesn’t allow participants to share their experiences without repercussions.  In other words, the trainer does not protect the individual who wishes to be honest.  Best case, a participant can bring a problem to the training session on a Monday for example, get a pre-brief on a call that’s about to happen and a week or two later can report back the outcome and get a ‘de-brief’ to capture the lessons learned.  Others will also benefit from someone else being on the ‘hot seat.’

 #5.  The trainer simply lacks the skill or some people would insist on calling it rare talent, to demand change, to not settle for people not trying.  Is it motivational?  Maybe, but some people would say it is knowing how to tap in to people’s psyche pretty quickly.

 #6.  The trainer has no plan or vehicle to work on participants’ self-esteem, their self-concept. Great trainers understand if you can help an individual raise his or her self-concept then that person will put himself in higher risk situations and that’s what professional sales is all about.

 #7.  The trainer fails to deal with goalsetting as a whole other dimension for getting participants to ‘run hard.’ Without a thorough understanding of the goal-setting process and a starter kit to jump start participants into a steady diet of setting goals, the trainer can never truly drive and sustain participant’s internal motivation.

From the Participant’s (salesperson) perspective: the top 6 reasons why sales training fails:

 #1. The participant is not proud they are in the training process, doesn’t take the program seriously, and he or she is not excited at the prospect of growing professionally and personally, as a result of the training. 

#2.  The participant may not belong in sales. 

 #3.  The participant fails to have some ‘skin in the game,’ whether it’s up-front money or an up-front commitment.  In other words, if there’s no buy-in, then there’s no growth.

 #4.  The participant fails to admit to themselves they need help in sales.

 #5.  The participant lacks the maturity necessary to embark on a mission of personal improvement.

 #6.  The participant may have a bias against the selling profession. Those professional services like accounting, engineering, law, consulting, high tech, medical, etc. may have a dishonour against the whole idea of ‘selling’ to increase their respective practices that prohibits them from starting a sales training program.

Bonus List:  the top 10 reasons why newly hired salespeople fail during their first 90 days in a new sales position:

 #1.  They receive insufficient training.

 #2.  They were not told precisely what constituted acceptable performance.

 #3.  The importance of the job and its relationship to the big picture was never made clear to them.

 #4.  The payoff for good performance was never explained; therefore, they lack motivation.

 #5.  They work for an autocratic sales manager who insists on TELLING them what to do rather than allowing them to SHARE in the decision-making concerning their job.

 #6.  They have personal problems which were not uncovered during the original interview.

 #7.  The manager failed to interview both the salesperson and the spouse in a lunch or dinner setting (the last ‘interview’).  Here is when the salesperson gets to know the       real candidate.

 #8.  The manager's philosophy is to manage groups and not individuals. A smart sales manager manages their salespeople one at a time.

 #9.  Conditions for termination were not discussed during the interview process.  After the person has been hired is not the appropriate time to discuss what it takes to get         fired.

 #10. Perhaps the most important, the salesperson hired does not match up properly with the requirements to be successful in that sales position. 

If you’re tired of trying to learn new sales strategies and techniques but don't seem to improve your bottom line, read our sales guide "Why Salespeople Fail".
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