Why Sales Training Programs Fail – Part 9: No Clarity

By XINNIX | January 28, 2022 |

For the next few weeks, we will share a special 12-part blog series – “Why Sales Training Programs Fail.” Check back each Friday to read the latest installment of the series! Read the whole series here.

All too often there seems to be confusion around “why” a company has chosen to begin a sales training initiative. There are big picture “why’s” and KPI’s that a company might be trying to improve upon, things like increase in revenue, improve margin, expand and grow the existing business, or reduce discounting and get back to selling on value. And for the most part this short, generalized list, along with a few other common performance metrics, seem to get lost or confused with the more focused “why.”  

And the more focused “why” is the connection between implementing a powerful training program that has a clear goal for the sales team, the individual contributors, the management team and what it means to their personal compensation. And when this lack of clarity occurs, and it occurs often, salespeople and managers attending a sales training initiative aren’t as motivated when they hear messaging that talks about making the company more profitable or supports the long-term vision of the company. What’s missing in the messaging is the, “What’s it in for me?”  

If the desired outcome is to have the training improve, increase, expand, or reduce something, it must also be positioned well and messaged well to the participants who will be giving up time in the field to attend the training. ROI isn’t just for the company, the sales manager and salespeople in the classroom want to know what the specific ROI is for them. If we want a motivated room full of winning learners, learners who will be focused on the concepts and techniques being shared, learners who will want to role-play scenarios, and learners who will actively participate in the real-world discussions in the classroom, we have to make sure that the company “why” matches the learner’s “why.”  

Sales training programs fail when the training initiative is unclear, and when the messaging only addresses the overall benefit to the company. 

Here’s the deal: 

  • Believe it or not, there are still senior executives of organizations who do not believe in the power of a well-organized sales training program built on proven results and delivered by exceptional facilitators. Instead, some senior executives believe that they already compensate their people enough and that their commission plan or total compensation is all that they need to be motivated enough to go our and win more business. 
  • If a better compensation plan or higher commission opportunity alone would help salespeople stay motivated and inspire them to just muscle their way to success, every company on the planet would have adopted this philosophy and we would see fantastic results everywhere. 
  • But we know that approach alone does not work. The great organizations, the top performing companies have awesome compensation structures and plans. But they also invest in making sure that their sales teams are equipped with the best tools, most up to date data, and are constantly working on their skill development, no matter how long they have been in sales. 
  • And lastly, they make sure that when they are about to roll out a new sales training program, or the next level of sales training programs, they make absolutely certain that they share the “what’s in it for the company,” and more importantly, what is in it for the salesperson.”  

Going through the decisioning process and journey around the implementation of a sales training or sales management training program must include an understanding or what success looks like at every level. The program must include clear expectations around participation and reinforcement. And if we want to experience success and not failure, we can eliminate the confusion and increase our clarity by bringing together an internal committee made up of key stake-holders; Someone form the sales or commercial side of the business, someone from learning and development, someone from marketing, someone from human resources, and someone from sales enablement. Lastly, a successful program will have the right point person who has ultimate authority over the program, who is consistently inspecting what they expect, and who is making sure the results and associated ROI is being achieved by and for everyone involved. 

Best Practice #1:  Whether it’s an internally developed program or if a company has chosen to partner with a top training organization, a best practice is to clearly identify what is in it for the individual salesperson. If salespeople clearly understand how they can make more money and become more effective, they will participate at a much higher level.   

Best Practice #2: Get really clear on what the program is and what the program is not. Make sure that the participants know what to expect from pre-work, through the training, and during reinforcement. Sales training is not a “build it and they will come” event. As a matter of fact, it’s the opposite. However, armed with the knowledge of what the program is, how it will be delivered, and how it will benefit them, participation will increase, and the learning experience will help deliver on the ROI for everyone.   

Best Practice #3: Build the training roadmap, share the training roadmap, and commit to the training roadmap. Communicate often, collect feedback and success stories often, and share those success stories often. A clearly defined roadmap that is combined with an awesome communication plan will help minimize and even eliminate the confusion around any sales or sales management training a company is considering or getting ready to implement. 

Remember, we expect our salespeople to understand how our products and services deliver value to our customers and we also want them to be able to discuss the ROI that our products and services deliver. When we can make it known that the intended training is designed to deliver an ROI to them personally, a return on their investment in time, a return on our investment in them, we will have a sales team that will be hungry to participate, and looking to gain that slight edge that will help them achieve their personal goals while at the same time meeting and exceeding the company goals and objectives.