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Sales Training Works!

Please share with the SalesPractice community your opinion of how to ensure that sales training works. - by Admin-Asst
"Sales Training" is a broad term that has lots of meaning to lots of different people. For some, it is a sales seminar that you attend. For others, it's a speaker your company hires to come in and speak at your regional sales meeting.

But none of these are "sales training," they're all "sales training events." Events can be good or bad or anywhere in between.

To be effective, sales training requires: (1) commitment from management or participant to implement the behavioral changes required to make performance improvements; (2) congruence between company goals, policies, initiatives; (3) more than just an event.

Sales training is no different than any other kind of learning process. If you take golf lessons and your golf pro tells you to play every single day for the next 90 days, the training will fail unless the student's spouse is on board with the concept. It will also fail if the student doesn't do what the pro prescribed. If the student really wants to swing the driver with his thumb pointed to the left regardless of how the pro taught him to do it, then the training will fail. If you go to a golf pro for one lesson, you're going to be exposed to some ideas, but will probably not have lots of long-term improvement unless you return for more instruction.

I once worked with a company who had me come in and do training to bring about some changes...but the compensation structure supported the old sales model. The compensation plan and the training initiative weren't in congruence.

Sales managers have to be on board with sales training initiatives or behaviors will revert to the older model, even if the older model isn't working anymore. - by Skip Anderson
Great Question!

Any sales trainer who isn't asking this question just isn't thinking taking their job function seriously.
I want to provoke some real thought on this rather than trot out a standard industry response.

Is sales training successful? Wanting it to be true and saying it with enough force and conviction just doesn't make anything true.

Logic says yes and anecdotal evidence says yes and no. I have seen sales actually drop after inappropriate sales training. Note I elected to use the phrase 'inappropriate' rather than 'bad sales training'. Mopre on 'inappropriate sales training' further down.

There has been extremely little scientific process based assessment of whether sales training works.

To do a successful study you would need to first define what is success.

Is it happier more confident sales people?
Is it lower staff turnover?
Is it lower cost of staff management?
Is it better sales reporting and forecasting?
Is it an increase in sales?

You would also need to design how you are going to quantify and measure each of the above.

To do the experiment you would need at the minimum three large groups of sales people performing near identical sales roles in the same environment (preferrably the same company). One group would be your 'control group' and the other group would be your group to be 'trained' and a further group that was a 'placebo' group.
  • The control group would have no sales training intervention
  • The palcebo group would get the same amount of interventionist attention as the 'trained group'
  • And the Trained group would be subjected to the training to be tested/measured.
I would expect sales to increase in both the 'placebo' group and the 'trained' group.

Neil Rackham measured what works in a sales call/meeting - but he didn't measure if you can train people to do what works in sales meetings. From memory his definition of success was based very narrowly on how many sales were closed per sales meeting. But no measurements were made of what effective sales people did to get meetings or qualify meetings.

There is lots of anecdotal evidence by way of reports to suggest sales training works. But you need to examine who is preparing these reports with some skeptisim.

As a sales traininer I would like to say it works. However my belief is that most sales training simply does not deliver results for many reasons:
  • training inappropriate to sales mode required (hunter Vs nurturer)
  • training in appropriate to envronment (retail Vs B2B)
  • sales trining in a