Three Reasons Why Traditional Sales Training Fails?

Traditional sales training can suck! That’s right, we’ve said it. Your new hires sitting in training right now are probably thinking it, your tenured sellers have written it in stone, and the national sales meeting committee is probably drinking because of it. If you decide not to read any further than this, we bet you can relate to having at least one poor training experience. You’re not alone!

In fact, only 1 in 3 sales trainers feel their current training programs are effective and 87% of all sales training is lost after 90 days. At the same time, companies are spending billions of dollars on sales training each year. That’s billions of dollars being wasted on limited sales performance impact and only short-term boosts in sales at best. That sucks.

So what’s going on?

Traditional  training can be a disappointment right away when it starts with yet another powerpoint-based presentation that just doesn’t go well, or even months later when results don’t materialize. The reasons why things start to fail are usually common and predictable reasons.

Avoiding these mistakes will set you up for a successful and engaging enablement initiative that leads to increased sales performance and long-term revenue growth.

1. Failure to Define Business and Learning Needs – you’re too vague

Some managers say they’re investing in training because they want their reps to “work harder,” “close more deals,” “speak the same language,” and so on. But these are generic, unmeasurable and vague phrases.

It’s essential to understand your business needs and what you are looking for as the outcome. If you don’t know what the desired result is and what it’s going to take to get there, your training initiative is destined to fail before it even starts. This is mainly because you can’t measure the impact of the training.

It’s also crucial to understand the learning needs of everyone on your team. If you don’t know what skills your team already has and where their weaknesses lie, it’s challenging to build a program that’s relevant to them.

2. Failure to Deliver Training that Engages

For its “State of Sales Training” survey, Brainshark collected responses from more than 160 professionals responsible for sales training (training managers, trainers, etc.). Besides struggling with training content that is stale or irrelevant, respondents shared other content-related challenges. They noted that their sales training materials are:

  • Too time-consuming to create – 1 in 2 (50%)
  • Too hard to create – 1 in 4 (24%)
  • Too expensive to create – 1 in 3 (31%)
  • Too hard to update – 1 in 3 (32%)
  • Obsolete by/before delivery time – 15%

When looking at the people attending the class, a majority of them learn by doing. Because of this, you need a training program that engages and gets your sales reps to think strategically, to practice and put their new skills to the test directly. All exercises and examples should be tailored to the situations that sellers will face.

For this, it’s vital for the training to be conversational. Don’t be so rigid and strict, have a little fun! Keep it simple and use human speak, use common words and phrases, short sentences, and most of all be honest. Make it light!

Lastly, delivery is vital. Add in different sales tools to make it more understandable or even gamify the process. With gamification we mean to make it fun, promote the earning of points, create competition and leaderboards, badges, and levels to challenge the way your sales team thinks.

3. Failure to Measure, Establish Accountability and Define Improvement

Few companies actually evaluate the effectiveness of their sales training beyond a survey (aka smile sheets) you know – that old paper-based form at the end of training asking if you “liked” it. Traditional sales training often fails because companies can’t convert a “like” into measurable impact post-training. Without a measurement process, it’s nearly impossible to hold sales reps accountable for changing and improving behavior, or hold managers responsible for coaching, let alone articulate an ROI on the investment in training.

Research has consistently demonstrated that without ongoing learning and reinforcement, participants forget what they learned and they revert to their original behaviors.

Approximately 50% of learning content is forgotten within five weeks, and within 90 days, 87% of what was initially learned is lost without coaching or reinforcement.

To make a new skill a habit you need to practice and apply it within your role consistently. In order to maximize the investment in sales training, companies should fully integrate the unique skills in steps. These include:

  • Facilitated reinforcement
  • Sales coaching of the participants by the frontline managers
  • On-demand support using eLearning
  • Tools and job aides.

Without reinforcement, it’s rare that sales reps will go home and review their sales training notes four times a week. Sales people are busy attending to customer’s needs. They tend to forget their learned skills and knowledge from training. They also forget how inspired and motivated they were, and thus, the learning effectiveness decreases. This is why coaching plays such an integral role in reinforcement!

Progressing from a sales training strategy to a sales enablement strategy is not for the faint of heart! Overall, benefiting from sales training is not just a matter of choosing a great training facilitator. First, companies need to have a strategic approach to their sales training. Once they understand their reasonings and overall goal and strategy, then they can benefit from trainsitioning from training to facilitation. It is only then can these companies prepare to focus on sales enablement.

Sales training should be viewed as a component of sales enablement – along with recruiting, onboarding, reinforcement, coaching, measurement and succession planning.

An effective sales enablement strategy is worth the investment. A study done by the Sales Management Association (SMA) concluded that companies with a dedicated sales enablement function improved their sales training effectiveness by 29%. With it, you can identify gaps, implement the best modality to engage your learners, and establish a foundation for reinforcement and coaching.

Wherever you are in your training evolution, we can meet you there. We’d love to hear from you and answer questions you have.

Let us know how we can help.


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