Why Sales Training Initiatives Often Fail

Companies interested in increasing the professionalism and productivity of their sales force often select a sales training program to solve this need. This decision, however, places the cart before the horse.

The success of a company’s sales training initiative is absolutely affected, both positively and negatively, by the company’s sales managers’ ability and commitment to coach and reinforce the sales training after the event. Our clients have come to recognize that improving the coaching skills of their sales managers is a necessary precursor to delivering effective sales training that achieves lasting results.

Recently, one of our clients, a $10 billion industry leader, conducted and in-depth assessment of their sales managers. First, they asked their sales reps to grade their manager’s abilities on several sales leadership skills. From a collection of 35 skills, the top three weaknesses identified were:

  • My sales manager doesn’t identify my obstacles to performance.
  • My sales manager doesn’t provide ongoing coaching, encouragement and feedback.
  • My manager doesn’t review my performance on a regular basis and make plans for me to improve.

Obviously, for a sales training initiative to succeed each of the above three skills must be performed effectively by sales managers. So, it’s easy to see why so many sales training initiatives fail: they fail because the sales managers don’t possess the skill and will to coach and reinforce these new behaviors in the field. Investing in a sales training program, without managers who are committed and capable at holding salespeople accountable for implementing those new skills, is just an expense.

So, the solution is simple, right? First train sales managers to coach the sales process, then deliver sales training to the field. Right? WRONG! The same client previously mentioned also asked their sales managers, “What are the top challenges you face that prevent you from being more effective on the job?” The top four reasons were:

  • Too much time on email.
  • Too much time reacting to unplanned events.
  • Too little time available to devote to my sales reps.
  • I’m unsure- where should I spend my time so as to have the greatest impact on goal achievement?

The four preceding barriers to effective coaching have nothing to do with coaching the sales process! Rather, they are related to self management skills – the sales managers’ ability to manage themselves differently: to eliminate time-wasters, be more proactive, build more self reliance in salespeople so the manager is not perceived as the chief firefighter in charge, have a plan and stick to it, etc.

TopLine Leadership’s Solution: Phase One

This is where TopLine Leadership’s comprehensive solution comes in. Our first component, Sales Management Leadership, is an intensive two, or three-day workshop that provides both the self management skills as well as the sales process coaching skills that sales managers need to make sales training stick.

Over 35,000 sales managers from many of the world’s most successful companies have participated in our program. The goal of our program is to provide sales managers with the skill, tools, and process for managing themselves differently, and coaching salespeople more effectively. Click here for more information, and a course description.

To help our clients achieve maximum impact we will often deliver a three-day Sales Management Leadership workshop as follows:

  • Course pre-work
  • Two-day session (during which each manager completes a 90-day implementation plan.)
  • Conference call reinforcement at 30-day and 60 day and 90 days intervals after the initial session.
  • Approximately four months after the initial training a second workshop, one day in length, is delivered. A second 90-day plan is created, which often includes how to successfully implement a sales training program.
  • Conference call support

Phase Two: Sales Training

The second phase of our solution is Getting Into Your Customer’s Head sales training. For years, the focus of sales training has been on the selling process – while ignoring customer buying behavior. But tomorrow’s big winners in sales will be those who learn to join customers in their buying process.

When it comes to selling, have we had it all wrong?

At TopLine Leadership, our sales training programs are designed to help your sales team to think and feel like a customer, that is, how to get into the customer’s head. In short, your sales team will learn how to sell based on how customers buy.

The buying process unfolds in a series of eight predictable steps that your salespeople can anticipate.

Our sales training programs teach your salespeople eight easily understood sales rules that correspond directly to the steps of the buying process. Our sales rules: Student, Doctor, Architect, Coach, Therapist, Negotiator, Teacher and Farmer, provide a disciplined, repeatable method for closing more sales, faster, while your competition wonders why they lost out.

Most of our clients have salespeople who make complex sales – selling to multiple decision-makers for a single sales opportunity. For these clients we add on our Winning the Complex Sale.

Getting Into Your Customer’s Head is a sophisticated sales approach made simple.

Many of our clients are looking for a common language, a consistent and measurable process for solution selling. Without a common language salespeople tend to sell on their instincts, and some wander aimlessly through a sales process without a plan, missing many opportunities during the buying process to intensify the customers’ needs and differentiate your solution.

At TopLine Leadership, we understand what it takes to improve your team’s closing ratio – a thoughtful sales training strategy combined with effective sales tactics on each and every sales call. Our sales training programs will show your salespeople how to add more value, sooner, to your prospects and customers. Reinforcement tools include a hardcover book, CD book, Coaching Guide, and even a customizable web application tool.

Kevin Davis

Kevin F. Davis is the author of The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness”, which was named the 2018 Axiom Business Book Award Winner, Silver Medal. Kevin is also the author of Slow Down, Sell Faster!”.