There are many reasons sales training fails. These are the reasons I most often come across.
Lack of Leadership: I have walked into room after room full of salespeople because I was hired by management to train them, only to watch executive leadership and the sales managers walk out of the room. The leadership wasn’t interested in understanding what their salespeople were being taught, nor were they concerned enough about the execution of the new skills being taught to their salespeople. It was beneath them.
Single Event Approach: When sales training is a single event, the expectation is unreasonably high. The trainer is expected to teach five or six concepts, the strategies for employing new skills, and the tactical decisions as to how and when to use them in a way that allows for perfect comprehension. The sales force, for their part, is supposed to grasp all of this information in a single day and exercise perfect recall and flawless execution. This isn’t how people gain new skills.
No Ongoing Reinforcement: Most new skills are acquired over time. We tend to make mistakes, and it helps to have coaching and conversations to help the person learning gain an awareness of what they’re doing and how they might make adjustments. Over time, the distinctions they make allow for new choices and their skills improve.
Lack of Managerial Will: When salespeople are trained, it is up to their individual managers to reinforce the training, and that means ensuring the sales force is taking new actions and producing new results. It also means that they have to observe the sales force in the field to verify for themselves.
No Application: Providing information isn’t enough. Training without a focus on the practical application will not produce the necessary results. The concepts are important, but if the salesperson isn’t taught how and when to apply what they are learning in the context of what they do, they will lack the ability to apply what they have learned.
No Consequences for Reverting Back to Old Habits: If there are no consequences for reverting back to old habits, then there is no accountability. If the change you are enabling with training is critical, then the new skills and behaviors cannot be a suggestion; it has to be non-negotiable. If you allow your people to wait you out, they will.
Giving Up too Soon: Leaders underestimate how much time and energy is going to take to enable their sales force to acquire new skills, new beliefs, and new behaviors. They move on to other priorities when they need to talk about what they need from their sales force in every conversation. They need to point back to the training and the outcomes it was designed to help them produce over and over again until it becomes “the way we do things here.” When the leader gives up, the sales force gives up.
B2C Training for B2B Sales: B2C and B2B are different. The sales approaches are different. The conversations are very different. What is at stake is often very different, as are the implications for the person buying. The approach that one might take when selling cars, where a buyer who walks off the lot is a lost sale, is different from a complex sale, where the buyers are going to need multiple conversations over time to understand what they need, how to change, and to build internal consensus. The tactics used in B2C will ruin your sales in B2B.
Not Really Sales Training: Some of what it being described as sales training is not. It is training around the tools salespeople use, especially technological tools that are designed to help the salesperson with all sorts of tasks. Teaching people to use quoting software (or whatever is this year’s fashion) will help them be more efficient and give leaders more control. It might even help speed the quote to a client. But it isn’t likely to change the conversation between the salesperson and their prospect, nor is it going to create a preference to buy from them and their company.