Something isn’t working. Over the past five years, organizations have invested heavily in standardized training, onboarding and tools; however, the numbers for quota attainment, rep tenure and productivity are on a downward slide.
It’s an expensive problem. According to Aberdeen, the average cost of replacing a sales rep is more than $30,000 – and sales organizations are turning over their sales teams every three years, because 46 percent of sales reps fail in the first 18 months. Combine these replacement costs with the billions spent on sales training, and it’s clear that sales organizations are hemorrhaging money with little to no real impact to show for it.
Sales leaders called to the C-suite to explain typically cite a number of common reasons for their training’s failure to show results and improve rep performance:
- The right stakeholders weren’t involved.
- We didn’t define the right learning needs.
- We didn’t define the right outcomes.
- We didn’t offer the right reinforcement.
- Our managers didn’t coach reps on the new training.
- Our teams forgot and/or don’t use what we taught them.
While some of those elements may play a role, none is the real culprit, according the results of multi-year study by the Florida State University Sales Institute. The real reason sales training programs are failing to move the revenue needle is because organizations are trying to make a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter methodology fit multiple buying scenarios in an ever-changing sales landscape.
The FSU Sales Institute study, which initially sought to determine the best methodology based on use by high performers, instead discovered that high-performing salespeople use up to four different sales strategies, depending on the buying situation they are facing. Top sellers intuitively recognize the complexity of the selling environment and use company training as only one tool in a very versatile toolbox, veering from the company-prescribed method of selling whenever it doesn’t fit the circumstances.
In examining what worked for reps in different situations, researchers discovered that the best-performing sales methodology only worked 25 percent of the time. This finding was a huge discovery that explained why salespeople who adhere strictly to company-provided sales methodologies experience average or below-average performance. If even the best methodology works only one in five times, then sellers who don’t deviate from that approach are set up to fail the other four times.
Sales rep training fails not because outcomes weren’t well defined or the right stakeholders weren’t involved but because no matter what methodology you choose, if you give reps only one strategy for every situation they face, they’ll fail most of the time.
Building Agility in Sales Organizations
To capitalize on this reality, sales leaders need to make a shift from seeking the best methodology (singular) to seeking the right methodologies (plural) for the situations their sales team regularly faces. This agility is the key to connecting with more buyers, improving win rates and increasing sales. It also slows the tide of rep turnover as more sellers meet quota and see improved results.
There is no one single provider teaching true sales agility, but some sales organizations have successfully built situational intelligence in their organizations. These world-class sales organizations typically do four things to create an agile sales force with high win rates:
- Company-specific Insight
Sales leaders study the types of situations their salespeople face and learn how high performers win in those situations. They review these situations regularly, knowing that the buying landscape is highly dynamic.
- A Handbook for Agility
The organizations document these situations in a living document that they can update and change as situations evolve.
- Agility Training
The company trains its reps to apply the approaches codified in the agility handbooks, teaching all performers to think like top sellers by:
- Understanding the types of situations they typically face.
- Participating in training on the sales strategies for each situation.
- Bringing the two concepts together to apply the right strategy to the right situation.
- Institutionalize Across the Organization
Companies with agile sales organizations expand agility so it becomes an inherent part of marketing operations, analytics and other areas of the organization.
By combining these four interrelated components, organizational intelligence becomes more accurate and powerful. Intelligence over time becomes insight, and insight translates into improved sales performance.