Every year, companies spend millions of dollars training their sales teams. In most cases, sales training doesn’t have the desired effect of increasing sales or increasing the team’s skills. Why is that? I believe that it’s because companies fail to consider the following:

  • The organization’s needs and specific desired outcomes
  • The current sales model
  • The sales talent
  • Existing onboarding and training programs
  • Performance measurement and results

There seems to be a disconnect. Companies need to be specific and answer these questions: What’s the goal of sales training? Do you understand your clients so that you can sell to them in the way they want to be sold to in the future?

Creating Specific Outcomes

On the first day of my first job, I was asked to attend a cold calling seminar. It was pretty much the only training they offered and was one of the worst examples of onboarding and training I’ve ever experienced in my career. I had no understanding of how it tied to my job. I learned I might have to swear more, but the training was not tailored to me – someone with great potential for the role. Given that I did not yet understand our sales process, I determined that cold calling must be the only way to get business. It wasn’t, and, luckily, my managers shared better strategies.

Creating specific objectives and then helping salespeople build the required skills will enable them to become more productive more quickly. Simply put, aligning objectives with training makes for better results.

The Current Sales Model

Every company has a sales process, but does everyone know it? Would everyone describe it the same way? Is it written down anywhere – including in your CRM? A sales process is not Salesforce.com. CRMs help drive consistency and automation as part of the sales process, but they do not replace having a sales process. A well-defined, consistently understood sales process – from prospecting to closing to the handoff to customer success or support – is one of the keys to success. Most importantly, your sales process should follow your buyer’s journey and make it easy for them to buy and engage with your team.

The Sales Talent

When asked the question, “Do you have the right salespeople in the right roles?”, leaders typically answer, “I don’t know.” No amount of sales training can make someone great if they are not aligned to the job you are asking them to do. Sales is both an art and science, but capacity and capability can be measured.

With technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning, organizations are automating more top-of-the-funnel activities. Rethink your sales roles, and make sure you have objective measures, like assessments and behavioral interviews, to get the best talent into your key sales jobs. Training people who can never do what you are asking of them is a waste of time, energy and money.

Onboarding and Training

Another reason sales training often falls flat is that it isn’t done up front. If you know what you are trying to achieve with training, onboarding can be the perfect place to start. Onboarding, done well, pays great dividends far down the road. When expectations are clear, and you can provide a 90-day plan to make your new sellers as productive as possible, as quickly as possible, you will achieve better results.

In the war for talent, companies that invest up front in talent by first understanding them – especially if they use assessments to get beneath the surface and determine their potential – and then training and coaching them will attract better talent. They will be seen as desirable employers.

Measurement and Results

Last, but not least, measurement is critical. If your sales training objectives are clear and you have specific measurable outcomes, you will have greater alignment. Having KPIs and metrics that are well understood makes a sales manager’s job easier. Sales managers are key to this process. Using objective rather than subjective measures of success will enable you to recruit from wider pools of sales candidates.

Selling can be rewarding and freeing. Salespeople can be born and made. Most of us don’t come into the world knowing all there is to know about selling. We can all do better to make sales training more impactful and more fun. When sales leaders say there is no time for training, it’s time to challenge that idea and instead say, “We can’t afford not to.”