Put Sales Training in it’s Place

A good friend used to teach little kids basketball. He told me that he never practiced anything but shooting, passing and dribbling.  He said he didn’t teach them plays or the complexities of the game. He focused on just fundamentals.  He believed you needed to teach kids fundamentals before the complexities of the game.  Constantly practicing dribbling and shooting ensures the ball eventually makes its way into the net.  Once the ball goes into the basket consistently, then practicing plays and the game make sense.

Sales training is similar. However, when it comes to sales, training isn’t fundamental.  The only exception to this rule is training for new sales people. Sales training IS fundamental to newbies. This post addresses sales training for established, well seasoned sales people.

Sales training for sales people is provided by organizations in an attempt to increase sales productivity.  In almost all sales training I’ve attended or purchased the objective was to teach a new way to go about the same thing; get the customer to say yes as quickly and efficiently as possible.  It’s for this reason I don’t like sales training as a way to increase sales. Sales training doesn’t address the fundamentals. According to ES Research Group sales training is a losing proposition in aggregate. It delivers a negative ROI.

Sales training does have value. I’m not saying it doesn’t.  It enhances sales people retention.  According to a Louis Harris and Assoc poll.  43% of people in companies that don’t offer training or offer poor training plan to leave, compared to only 12% in companies that offer good training. Training helps with retention.  Companies that invest in training outperform those that don’t.  There is value in training. However, the question is, when should you invest in it.

A reader asked me this question:

How do you stack rank sales training in terms of other things that need budget and time in a sales managers world?

My answer; sales training comes AFTER the fundamentals are in place.

So, What are the fundamentals?

  1. a strong sales process
  2. good sales data (won/loss ratio, length of sales cycle, average product discount, % of team at quota, new team employee ramp up time, turnover, etc.)
  3. a killer sales team
  4. governance plans
  5. robust sales strategies
  6. sales reporting infrastructure
  7. a killer product
  8. relevant and targeted value proposition

With out these fundamentals in place, training won’t make a lick of difference.  Providing sales training to a team of the wrong sales people is a waste of money.  Providing sales training when the sales process is disconnected from your customers buying process just amplifies the problem.  Training a sales team that doesn’t have robust sales strategies in place doesn’t get them any closer to the sale.  Like my buddy and his kids basketball team, sales training is best used once the fundamentals are in place and sales training isn’t a fundamental.

Sales training has a place. It’s an enhancer.  It improves good fundamentals. It enhances the good things you’re already doing. It can create a spark.  What sales isn’t is a panacea. It’s not a fundamental.  Before you invest in training, get your house in order.  That’s where you will see the greatest ROI.

Focus on the fundamentals.


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