I had an interesting conversation on Friday with a sales executive for a mid-size company that produces accounting and HR software solutions for the manufacturing and medical industries regarding the inconsistency of training messages to the sales force within the company. David’s concern is that although the company has what is supposed to be a sales process that is learned, perfected and used by every salesperson within the company, there is no consistency in the training or in the training messages they receive from the various training sources the company employs. What, he wondered, is this inconsistency doing to the sales team?
Although David’s company isn’t unusual in the sense that many companies have an ‘official’ sales process that they mandate but don’t teach consistently, in my experience, David is unusual since so few salespeople or sales leaders ever question the consequences of presenting inconsistent training.
David’s company spends a great deal of money training each new hire on the sales process the company has adopted. Each new hire will spend well over 100 hours during their first 60 days on the job in classroom and field training inn the process the company uses. This includes a four day stint at an outside vendor’s training center. Every new hire is sent to the training session, costing the company a significant investment –airfare, hotel, meals, the training company’s fee, as well as the new hire’s salary. Lots of money goes into each new salesperson hired.
You’d think they would want to ensure those dollars were well spent.
You’d be wrong.
When the new hire finishes the basic training program, they go into their branch and from there receive the same additional training as any other salesperson in the company. This additional training comes from their branch manager, the company training department, the occasional outside training session, and the company’s video and audio training library.
Sounds pretty good so far. Actually, it sounds like these salespeople get a consistent dose of training.
And they do.
Unfortunately, the additional training they receive not only doesn’t reinforce the initial training the company spent huge dollars on when the person was hired, much of it actually contradicts that training.
Branch managers hear of some hot new idea and the next Monday they’re training their salespeople on it.
The training department attends a seminar that excites them and they immediately go back to their office and create a training program around it.
A company executive hears a great speaker and insists the company hire them for their next sales conference.
The sales library has all of the popular books and DVD’s on the market.
Little or no thought is given to how these training messages integrate with the company’s mandated sales process. Training becomes nothing but a jumble of different messages that if any fit within the format of the company’s stipulated sales process, it is only by accident.
And what is the message all of this sends to the sales team? Simply that they are free to pick and choose what they want to do since the ‘mandated’ sales process really isn’t mandated—it’s just a suggestion of a process they might consider using.
And then the management of the company wonders why all the training they do isn’t working.
Training is far more than simply exchanging information about a particular aspect of selling. Training has far more to do with behavior change than it does information exchange. Training doesn’t work for many companies because the behavior change is never implemented—it never has a chance to be implemented because the sales team is confronted with so many different—and often contradictory—behaviors that no one behavior is ever really learned before they are confronted with a new behavior.
This same lack of consistency is experienced by salespeople who must seek out their own training. They too are confronted with a sea of training concepts and ideas that are often in conflict with one another.
There are many sales processes that are viable. There are a great many individual strategies and techniques that produce results. But none of them will produce the desired results if they are not learned and implemented—if the right behavior isn’t ingrained so it comes naturally. To learn a process to that point, what is often called unconscious competency, takes time, practice, and reinforcement. If your company isn’t generating the results from training that you want to see, maybe the culprit isn’t the process or the strategies you want to use, but instead is the inconsistency of message your company is unconsciously sending your sales team.Contact: I you have a topic you’d like addressed or just want to connect with me, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can connect with me through my blog at http://salesandmanagementblog.com