7 Reasons Sales Training Fails

Jeanne Hopkins
Jeanne Hopkins



describe the imageThis is a guest blog post written by Mike Schultz and John Doerr, bestselling authors of Rainmaking Conversations and co-presidents of RAIN Group, a sales training, assessment, and consulting firm.

According to ES Research, between 85% and 90% of sales training has no lasting impact after 120 days. At the same time, companies are spending billions of dollars on sales training each year. That’s billions of dollars wasted on training that disappoints and only produces short-term boosts in sales...at best.

Training can be a disappointment right away when it just doesn’t go well, or it can be a disappointment months later when results don’t materialize. Regardless, sales training strikes out a lot. When it does, it’s usually because of common and predictable reasons.

In our experience and research at RAIN Group, we see sales training initiatives fail most often for the following seven reasons. Now, it may seem strange that a sales training company is telling you that sales training fails more often than it succeeds. But if you can avoid these mistakes, you can set yourself up for a successful training initiative that leads to long-term revenue growth.

1. Failure to Define Business and Learning Needs

Sales training has virtually no chance of producing lasting results if business leaders:

  • Base their objectives and expectations of results on wishful thinking versus strong analysis. If you don’t know what the desired outcome is and what it’s going to take to get there, your training initiative is doomed to fail before it even starts.
  • Fail to analyze real learning needs of their team. If you don’t know what skills your team already has and where their weaknesses lie, how can you build a program that’s relevant to them?

2. Failure to Build Sales Knowledge

Salespeople know what they sell, and they sell what they know. Most sales training focuses on building sales skills. While sales skills are essential, they are only one side of a very important coin: capability. The other side of the coin is sales knowledge. Your salespeople have to know and be able to speak fluently about your products and services, the customer needs you solve, the marketplace in general, your company, the competition, and more. Still, most sales training ignores sales knowledge and focuses solely on sales skills.

3. Failure to Assess Individuals’ Attributes

It’s not enough to give your team the capabilities to sell; you have to know if the individuals on your team have the attributes required for top performance. We call these attributes drivers and detractors of sales success. Together, these will tell you not only who can sell, but who will sell, and at a high level.

4. Failure to Put a Sales Process and Methodology in Place

Many sales training programs neglect to provide a process and methodology that salespeople can follow to systematically move prospects through the pipeline. Without a process or methodology, training gets forgotten, and salespeople end up reinventing the wheel over and over again.

5. Failure to Deliver Training That Engages

Salespeople leave too many training programs saying things like:

  • “Boring.”
  • “Not applicable.”
  • “The instructor wasn’t so hot.”
  • “What a waste of time.”

Adults learn by doing, and you need a training program that engages and gets salespeople practicing and putting new skills to use, not struggling to stay awake. 

6. Failure to Reinforce Training and Make It Stick

Most sales training focuses on a two- or three-day event where salespeople learn and practice new skills. The problem with event-only training is that the effects of the event fade. Without reinforcement, as much as participants might have loved the program, it’s rare that salespeople will go home and curl up by the fire with their cup of coffee to reviews their sales training binder 3 times a week.

Without reinforcement, salespeople forget learned skills and knowledge, forget how inspired and motivated they were, and thus, the learning effectiveness decreases.

7. Failures of Evaluation, Accountability, and Continuous Improvement

Few companies actually evaluate the effectiveness of their sales training and sales performance improvement. Sales training can fail simply because companies have no idea if it has succeeded. Furthermore, without evaluation, it’s nearly impossible to hold salespeople accountable for changing and improving behavior or for taking actions and achieving results. To learn more about why sales training fails and how to make your program a success, check out the ebook, Why Sales Training Fails.

Having a well-trained sales force is important to inbound marketing. After all, if you're generating inbound leads but your sales team isn't equipped to convert them into customers, what's the point?

What kind of sales training process have you put in place? Are you avoiding these 7 reasons for failure?

Image credit: leesean

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