Why Your Sales Training is a Waste of Time

Why Sales Training is a Waste of TimeWell, better put, why what you probably think of as sales training, is a waste of time. You see, most organizations get that training their sales teams is inherently a good idea. After all, people, at every stage of their tenure, need to be shown what to do, and how to do it. New sales hires need onboarding of course. Likewise, tenured sales reps need training on new processes, new products, new systems, as well as refreshers on traditional selling methods. Just like the football team repeats the same passing drills over and over, sales people need to rehearse tried and true tactics in order to stay competent.


But that’s where traditional training methodology fails us all. Somewhere along the line, training got all mixed up with the ‘event’. The annual company conference where sales people gather, spend three days in a big hotel ball room, get bombarded by the various heads of each department, hear the updated company mandate and vision, get new golf shirts and trinkets, and also fit in a training session, of somewhere between half and a full day. Which, in and of itself, isn’t terrible. At least training makes it on the agenda. After all, it’s probably the one time where everyone is together in the same room, and hence putting on some sort of workshop is entirely appropriate.


One-Time Training Events Will Not Cut It

No, the real problem is not that they’re holding this training session. It’s that they’re ONLY holding this training session. For many companies, this is it. 7 hours of training (4 for those who stayed too long at the bar the night before commiserating over the new product failures). And given that it’s the one time to train, the company will try and cram in as many sales topics as humanly possible to listen to in one sitting. So, even a good trainer will have a limited impact. Too much information, too little practice time, and too many other things going on. And all followed by – nothing! No game plan for how to execute it all in the field. No coaching opportunities to practice and make adjustments. No sense that, until next year’s conference at least, that any of it’s really going to matter. Enough already.


Hence, here is my Number 1 rule (Commandment actually) for companies planning their 2016 Sales Kick-offs in January who plan on bringing in an expensive (or worse, an inexpensive, a.k.a. cheap) sales trainer.


“Thou Shalt Not Prescribe the Solution”


This happens almost 100% of the time. The owner of the training ‘event’ on a quest to find the right training provider, does their search and calls prospective vendors. They’re looking for the right training company, and are prepared to spend a fair bit of money. But very often, what they won’t do, is let the training experts diagnose the problem and prescribe the right solution – which will almost certainly not entail stuffing an entire workbook of sales content down everyone’s throats at the conference.


No One Wants to Buy Sales Training

The problem stems from the company’s way of thinking. Usually, at the conclusion of another dismal year of missed sales targets, sales leaders realize that they simply can’t afford a repeat of this year’s performance. Along with the usual wave of firings and early forced retirements, it is deemed that the sales team needs to be better trained – most certainly a correct assumption.


It’s just that this is where things go wrong. People set out to buy “training”, along with the very image of what that entails – the great ‘event’, where everyone is in attendance, great big binders are thrust upon all.


It’s just that you don’t really want “training”. What you want is performance improvement – and that is a very different thing.


It’s like the old riddle that goes – Thirty-three million drill bits were sold in hardware stores all across the country last year. So, how many people actually wanted a drill bit?


Well, the correct (and probably obvious) answer is zero. No one really wants a drill bit. So, what, exactly, did they want? Well, they wanted a hole in the wall. They want the product (the hole) of the product (the bit). They want the outcome or the result of using the product. Simply put, they want the benefit.


Same goes for training. People don’t really want to buy training. They want their sales people to sell more, and as part of that, they need to train them how to do so.


What you’re really looking for is for your sales people to perform at a higher level than they currently do. And in order for that to happen you more than likely need to engage them in some form of training. But it most likely doesn’t start and end there. And it certainly doesn’t work as a one-off ‘event’ at the annual conference.


Sales Training Myth Busters

So, prior to Googling for training companies, you need to be prepared to abandon the following myths long associated with buying sales training, and ask yourself the following hard questions;


Myth #1 – Annual, one time training at the company conference will help us achieve better results.
Reality – You need to build a culture of a true learning organization, where coaching conversations between managers and sales people happen routinely, both formal and informally.
Hard Question – Are we really prepared to accept that training must happen every day, and not just at the conference?


Myth #2 – A good sales training company will improve the way our people sell.
Reality – A good sales training company will map out a performance improvement program that engages the sales management as the focus for driving change. They will likely (if you need) deliver training workshops, but the on-going coaching by the managers is what is going to transform the behaviors.
Hard Question – Are we prepared to let the training vendor solve our performance problem and NOT tell them how to deliver training?


Myth #3 – Managers know how to coach – that’s why they’re managing others.
Reality – Actually, very few people know how to effectively coach others. It is a true skill that must be learned. Successful selling in the field has no bearing on whether one can be a good coach. And it certainly doesn’t provide someone with that particular skill set.
Hard Question – Are we prepared to invest heavily in our sales managers to lead this behaviour transformation?


So, as you head into 2016, full of good thoughts and intentions to train your sales team, give some thought to what objectives you’re really trying to accomplish. Before you buy any drill bits, ask yourself, how are we going to get a really good hole in the wall.