5 Reasons Your Sales Training Is Failing

5 minutes read

Companies are spending billions of dollars to train their sales team. However, we often find our customers at SmartWinnr complain that they have little clarity on the effectiveness of sales training and find it difficult to correlate sales training with actual performance. This seems to be a pervasive problem.

“Businesses are spending more on training, but they’re not getting anything out of it. Training budgets increased by an average of 15% in 2013, but there was little correlation to ROI” - ATD Report

So where is sales training going wrong and what can we do to fix it?

1. Failure to follow through:

“Without systematic, ongoing learning and reinforcement, approximately 50% of the learning content is not retained within five weeks, much less applied. Within 90 days, 84% of what was initially learned is lost” - Training Industry’s whitepaper on ‘The Future of Sales Training

Most traditional programs view sales training as a single event rather than as an ongoing process.Stand-alone training such as one-day or multi-day sales courses, books etc. does not lead to lasting behavioral changes.

Sales training sessions often try to cram as much “learning” as possible in a short time frame. It is almost impossible to learn, retain, and apply more than a fraction of what is offered in these sessions.

What is missing is a systematic reinforcement approach. This is especially true in sales were developing skills alone isn’t enough, your sales team needs to be able to improve and implement the learning as well.

What can you do about it?

  • -Create follow-through plan: Create follow-up action plan after every training event
  • -Reinforce knowledge: Prevent knowledge loss by sending refresher content periodically
  • -Focus on retention: Have 30-60-90 days assessment on key learning areas to improve retention
  • -Provide mentorship: Initiate mentoring/coaching session by managers to help change behaviors

2. Lack of employee-specific training:

Different people have different developmental needs.The needs of a fresher and a newly hired sales rep with 10 years of experience will be very different. A one size fits all training protocol cannot cater to disparate requirements. In the above case, the fresher will need to develop both selling skills and product knowledge from scratch. But an experienced sales rep will need to focus more on the company and product knowledge and less on basic selling techniques. The same training program cannot be applied to both of them.

What can you do about it?

  • Modularize training: Break your training into common modules and profile-specific add-on modules
  • Assess for targeting: Assess strength and weaknesses of individual reps to tailor specific intervention
  • Deliver profile-based training: Have different training programs using the modular approach based on sales rep profile (by experience, domain knowledge etc.)

3. Failure to engage employees:

Let’s be honest, most of us have spent our school days waiting to get out of class. And yet, we expect full grown adults to sit through ‘classroom’ like training sessions. Teaching them about a product for hour-long sessions using the old school powerpoint presentation might not be very exciting.

On the other hand, engaged learning sessions are highly effective learning sessions.This results in better performance

“Companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%” -Dale Carnegie

What can you do about it?

  • Break the monotony - Interspace powerpoint sessions with simulations, role plays, games etc.
  • Create a sense of competition - Break down the training group into teams. Create team knowledge competitions, in-session quizzes etc.
  • Gamify learning - Use game mechanics like leaderboards, badges etc. to increase training engagement

4. Ineffective Refresher Sessions :

Refresher courses are often repetition of original training sessions and do not incorporate feedbacks from the original session. You will often find salespeople come out of these sessions asking “ What was the point of that?”

We found that sales reps often skip refresher training sessions. When asked why the most common answer was ‘ I don’t have time for this.’ The way they see it is , the time they spend attending these sessions is the time they don’t spend selling.

What can you do about it?

  • Create targeted refresher session - Sessions planned after post-training follow-up analysis can often reduce the training time and have highly targeted, relevant content.
  • Send short, targeted bursts of information: Keep employees updated without taking up too much of their time through short snackable content.

5. Lack of active involvement of senior management:

Attending training sessions involves spending time away from the job, time sales teams rarely have. Managers play a unique role in keeping their staff motivated by showing that they are invested in each team member. Our studies show that teams, where managers are actively involved in tracking training results, have a higher learning outcome.

What can you do about it?

  • Correlate performance with knowledge: Develop tracking mechanism to correlate sales performance with knowledge
  • Send regular reports on team knowledge: Share team knowledge report to identify areas of concerns and take proactive actions
  • Create a culture of knowledge excellence: Encourage managers to convince team about the business impact of regular training.

Properly done, sales training can provide a significant RoI. However, it is important to have a systematic approach, track improvements regularly and keep sales team motivated for best results.

Published on Mon Apr 30 2018