In my opinion, hundreds of millions of dollars world-wide are wasted every year on irrelevant, unnecessary or inappropriate sales skills development and there are four obvious reasons.
To begin with, the one off program may supply a short term motivational buzz and provide the delegate with a number of thought provoking ideas. However, in reality, once they are back at the “front-line” the day to day pressures of hitting quota etc take over again and the reactive mindset returns. It is rather like the Chinese meal effect; when you leave the restaurant you feel stuffed but by the time you arrive home you want to eat again.
Secondly, most, not all, but a very high percentage of courses on offer today, deliver what I term “generalized” skills development.
For example, a guy operating within the aerospace sector, negotiating multi-million pound contracts can find himself sitting next to a young saleswoman who markets insurance policies and is based in a call centre. On her right is another guy who is developing a successful career in manufacturing, selling hydraulic components and next to him…..I think you will appreciate my point. To achieve sustained success in all of these disparate industries requires specific skills sets and the “generalized” workshops simply cannot deliver them.
Thirdly, most and again I would estimate it is at least 80% of training organizations today, make the assumption that all delegates are at the same level in terms of experience, expertise and have the same “commercial bandwidth”. This is of course, totally unrealistic.
Whilst it is not possible to equate age and experience with success, the reality is that although some professional salespeople do have ten years experience, most have one year’s experience ten times!
The very best salespeople – the ones that consistently exceed expectation, have usually received ongoing skills development from the “emerging” stage all the way through “advanced” right up to “consultative” level, if appropriate but the keyword is “ongoing”
Finally, and this is the most significant and blatant error of judgment most Sales Directors make, is that every member of the team receives the same training, i.e. they are all dispatched off to the same course regardless of whether or not they already have those skills or if indeed they need to have them in their current role.
The point here is that there is far too little planning, assessing, and objective setting; it is much easier to abdicate responsibility to the training company. The downside to this approach is of course, so much money is wasted. So what is the answer?
Training must be based on what the salespeople need and should be tailored to address diagnosed performance gaps. Using a diagnostic approach – a formal sales team skills audit, saves an organization money and time because there is nothing to be gained from teaching people something that they are already doing well or, conversely, that they don’t need to do in the first place. A well-targeted program is far more likely to engage participants’ full interest because they’ll see its immediate relevance to their daily results.
Any training program will be more effective when the skills that participants learn are reinforced on a regular and continual basis. For maximum impact, every level of management must reinforce training. Such reinforcement can come in many forms, but the best way is for the sales manager to serve as a “model of excellence” who provides an ongoing demonstration of required skills so salespeople begin to live and breathe them.
Jonathan Farrington is a globally recognized business coach, mentor, author, consultant, and sales strategist, who has guided hundreds of companies and thousands of individuals around the world towards optimum performance levels
He is the CEO of Top Sales Associates, Chairman of The jf Corporation and Senior Partner at the JF Consultancy, based in