Just How Long Should Salesforce Training for Salespeople Take?

Does your firm have Salesforce, or is thinking about moving to Salesforce? Yes? Well, good call! You’ve made an excellent choice. But, this is just the first of many choices you’re about to make.


The integration of a sophisticated technology like Salesforce into your business is not a straightforward process. Far from it. If you’re just starting with Salesforce, you’re probably beginning to realize this about now. And if you’re one of the thousands of firms that already have Salesforce, odds are that you’ve experienced this, perhaps painfully, with some missteps along the way.


Without question, the proper configuration of Salesforce is essential, and the proper selection of the right implementation partner, just as critical. More than that, the alignment of Salesforce to a well designed business or sales process is imperative. Great technology with a bad process, or a faulty configuration, is a killer. An expensive and wasteful killer.


But let’s say you get all that right. Wonderful! Now, comes just a small little detail…getting people, salespeople at that, to use it. No biggie, right? A little training, say an hour at the company conference, ought to do it, no?


If this is the thinking of your Sales Leadership or Sales Ops support team, keep reading. This post could save you years of aggravation and hundreds of thousands of dollars in both real and opportunity costs.


Are you using Salesforce but not actually getting the sales lift that you were expecting? We help transform the way sales teams use Salesforce to generate more pipeline and bust sales quotas. Our best clients are strategically focused sales leaders and teams looking to leverage Salesforce to meet and exceed revenue targets. Book a Discovery Call.


Salesforce – It’s not an iPhone

The first question – do we even need Salesforce training for salespeople? Afterall, how hard can it be? Shouldn’t it be pretty intuitive?


Well, guess what. Salesforce is certainly a lot of things, great tech being first and foremost amongst them. But guess what it isn’t. Intuitive!


Here’s the thing. If you’re thinking that a tool like Salesforce couldn’t possibly have become the global leader in CRM if it was that hard to figure out, you’d be forgiven. After all, thanks to the way many cool tech gadgets work today, we’ve all become pretty accustomed to great technology that is super easy to use. Thank you Steve Jobs!


Remember when you bought your first iPhone (or Smartphone of some make, it doesn’t have to be the iPhone specifically). It was probably well over a decade now, but the premise was simple enough. Here’s a tool that you had likely never held in your hands before. And yet, after turning it on, it was probably not too long before you had figured out the basic functionality. There was a button at the bottom to turn it on or off, a couple of switches on the side to change the volume settings, and then a screen with a bunch of digital tiles representing applications – the obligatory email, calendar, phone, and then all of the other cool things that you might find useful – a weather app, Google Maps, Apple Maps, or Waze, a calorie counter app, news apps, poker, etc. Within a few more minutes, you were likely close to an expert, and what you didn’t figure out for yourself initially, your kids would surely show you.


That really was the genius of Steve Jobs. Amazing technology, and yet so simple and easy to understand that even brand new users could figure it out all on their own within minutes, without any training or demos.


Well, as we like to say, Salesforce, like Apple, is great technology, but it certainly ain’t no iPhone.


No, unlike the iPhone, Salesforce requires a fair amount of hands-on training for users. And the training extends far beyond just one session at the company’s annual sales conference. In our experience, training is ongoing, led by sales managers long after the initial training session has been delivered by Salesforce Trainers. The reason? Well, while Salesforce is an awesome tool, it is still a fairly sophisticated piece of technology. Add to that the customizations that most firms make to the software, and you’ve got a CRM program that most users need multiple exposures to, in order to completely grasp and utilize correctly.


We often chuckle (not out loud) when a new prospective customer calls us, explaining how their sales teams are struggling with Salesforce and how no one wants to use it. They propose a training session, often at the company retreat. Then they’ll proceed to outline how they think the session should run. When we explain that we typically look to at least a full day to run the training, they reply, in some degree of shock, that we won’t have nearly that allotment. We had one prospect (who never did become a customer) suggest, in all seriousness, that they felt that one hour of a trainer on stage, going over tips and tricks, would be enough to solve all of their adoption problems.


Sorry to say, but it just doesn’t work like that. The knowledge required to be proficient at Salesforce – even for end users – is just not something that an hour of tips and tricks can solve.

“Salesforce is a great tool once you get a strong grasp of it.”

Giovanni DiStefano
Senior Territory Manager, Alma Lasers North America

Talk to Salesforce Training


OK, We need training. But how much? 2 Hours, 4 Hours? More?

If you’ve arrived at the conclusion that your sales team needs training to learn Salesforce, the next question you’re probably asking yourself is, well just how much is needed? Can we do this in 2 hours? Or does it take 4 hours? Or perhaps even longer? (No doubt you’re also asking yourself what all this might cost, but given that time is also an extremely valuable commodity, we’re addressing that here).


Here’s the thing….this is the wrong question to ask. There’s really no right answer, other than to say that none of the above are right. Listen, I can tell you, unequivocally, that one or two hours of Salesforce Training is not going to cut it. It’s just too sophisticated a system, and too many differences from other CRMs or your Excel spreadsheets, to get salespeople up to speed. 


So does that mean more is better? Well, to a degree. We usually recommend between five and six hours of training for most salespeople moving to Salesforce for the first time. And it needs to be customized training that applies specifically to the organization’s version of Salesforce. So, if five or six hours are better that one or two, does that mean that eight, ten, or even more are even better still? Well, no. There’s the law of diminishing returns. More than a full day (or two half-days) will overwhelm most salespeople and will exceed the amount they can be expected to retain. 


Having said that, the biggest mistake companies make is that they assume that a full day of training is simply enough, and that after the training workshop has wrapped up everyone will be a proficient, and eager, user of Salesforce. And that is just not reality, because you’re ignoring the next factor, which is….


The degree of difficulty of change

Now comes the next problem, the one that training, on its own, won’t solve. Even if you’re aware that implementing Salesforce correctly will require a significant amount of training delivered to the end users, the fact is, that training, which is really imparting knowledge, just by itself, is rarely enough to encourage people to start using it.


This mistaken belief makes the false assumption that equipping someone with the knowledge of ‘how’ to do something, leads to a natural outcome that they ‘will’ do it. And that is just inherently wrong. 


Think about this for a second. How many glasses of water should you drink each day to contribute to a healthier diet and lifestyle? There’s probably no one exact answer to fit everybody, but generally accepted wisdom suggests that a person should drink eight glasses of water a day to keep hydrated, flush away toxins from the body, maintain the proper weight, etc. This is something that if you ask most people, that would generate an answer somewhere in the vicinity of eight. Most of us know that drinking more water rather than less is good for our health. And when you think about it, what could be simpler than drinking a glass of water? Water (and glassware for that matter) is, for most of us, very accessible, certainly abundant and awfully inexpensive. There really should be no barriers for all of us to drink eight glasses of water per day. 


But how many of us actually do it? The answer? Not many. And why not? Well, that I don’t have an answer for. In my case, and I suspect for many, it’s just not a priority and it’s just something that I forget to do everyday. But not knowing to drink eight glasses of water a day is certainly not the issue that prevents me from doing it. 


While this is an overly simple example, there are countless other instances where someone knowing to do something, or even how to do it, does not always translate into doing it. 

This is what trainers call the transfer of training- the actual transfer of knowledge into actionable behaviors that are repeated over and over again. And it is one of the hardest things to get people to do.


Any organization that has run their team through a full day of training, without having any reinforcement or follow-up plan in place, knows all too well what happens to their training investment over the next three, six and twelve months. Imparting knowledge, without requiring participants to engage in the repeated application of the newly learned skill, ultimately results in very little change. There are countless studies that point to this being the case. And it’s not that people are inherently lazy, or malicious, or uninterested in doing things that benefit them, or their company. It’s simply that humans are not good creatures at adapting to change. We generally prefer to stick to our way of doing things. And when the change requires something more sophisticated than say, drinking more water, and entails, for instance, using a new technology like Salesforce, simply training sales people, with nothing else planned, is just not enough to accomplish the goals of the organization.


This is where any proper training solution must incorporate a Change Management approach if you are to see any long lasting and impactful results. As we often say at Salesforce Training, training people is easy. Getting them to change what they do every day is hard. Very hard!

Salesforce Training is a professional training firm that specializes in helping companies and their sales teams get more out of Salesforce. Salesforce Training’s Launchpad is designed to provide step-by-step instructions on how to set up Salesforce quickly and cost effectively.