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Difficulties Training Sales People


I've recently delivered a training session called Introduction To Coaching Workshop to a number of experienced sales and district managers. This training session includes several fun exercises like throwing a ball at a bullseye ( linked with target setting ).

However they all find this silly and have complained to their manager that they've wasted their time. Whenever I deliver the exact same training session to managers with a different background ( finance, HR, marketing,... ) I only get positive feedback.

Can someone provide me with some tips and tricks or exercises that sales people DO like ? 

10 Responses

  1. horses for courses


    Sales people are traditionally much more used to targets and target setting than folk from other areas of business so they see this as a waste of time because they see themselves as already there….ty something like getting them to brainstorm the things that genuinely get in the way of ACHEIVING targets…ie the competition, changes in the market, the no fly period, changes in exchange rates, cost cutting and so on.  These then form part of the factors that may have affected performance when they are coaching……



  2. Know your outcome?

    Hello, the key to ensuring any exercise, activity or role play is effective is to know what your outcome is as a trainer. What will the attendees gain from the exercise. Then you need to facilitate a process so that teh attendees can also idetify their outcome from the task. Once you haev these in place you can do almost anything with anyone and they will not just tolerate it but really enjoy it. 

    Experiential learning is very powerful and has to be more than just a fun activity inserted as an energiser to wake people up.     

    If you understand the role of experiential activities and utilise them fully you can engage anyone from the CEO of a globally recognised soft dfrinks company to a large and surly lorry driver in Yorkshire. 



  3. use an exercise that combines marketing and sales skills

    The answers provided here by others cover a good range of solutions, so I just a few more comments.

    When it comes to target setting, you can mix sales skills and marketing concepts into a single exercise. Marketing and sales go hand in hand, but it is easy for one group to blame the other when they don’t achieve their sales. Sales people may think that marketing hasn’t done a good job and customers are not aware of the products and that’s why they don’t reach their targets. The marketing people on the other hand may think that their approach is generating tons of leads for sales people who don’t seem to be converting efficiently. Here, target setting becomes a completely different ball game as it is no longer about following blindly towards a fixed number. Instead, the targets are inter-related and dependant and each group must work (and not compete) with the other group to succeed.

    You can turn this concept into a fun exercise by setting one group as sales people and another as marketing and get them to work out the issues and reach certain targets.

    For more ideas, see sales skills exercises and training resources.

    Hope this helps

    Ehsan Honary

  4. Try a sales exercise with targets


    why not adapt a negotiating skills exercise to both discuss targets and develop coaching skills – link attached.

    I would split the group into 2 subgroups (or 4 depending on the size of the class) – one group of ‘sellers’ and one group of ‘buyers’. Only one person from each group to carry out the negotiation but the others in the group to coach and direct the seller/ buyer on how to conduct the negotiation. Post negotiation the people in the group could coach the negotiators on how they did. Instructions for the exercise would look like this:


    Group to be split into two smaller group – one to be the ‘buyers’ group and the other to be the ‘sellers’ group in a car purchase/sale. Both the buyer and the seller have specific targets to achieve in the sale/purchase of the car

    The groups to split into different rooms and prepare for the negotiation.

    In your small groups, read the brief for your group and agree which person from each group will actually conduct the negotiation. Once the negotiation commences others can only observe and take notes.

    The people in each group not involved in the actual negotiation to act as ‘coaches’ and help the negotiator prepare for the negotiation.

    After the negotiaton has taken place, the ‘coaches’ to provide feedback/ suggestions to their negotiator on their performance


    – 20 mins small group work

    – 15 mins negotiation

    – 10 mins small group discussion/ coaching/ feedback to the negotiator

    – 10 mins large group review

  5. Here to help

    Hi Steve

    not sure your last post helps with their isse? You are of course, entitled to express your opinion but lets work together to put up some ideas to help the person who has posted the question. Thanks

  6. Limited range of learning alternatives

    Are all sales people really no-nonsense people who just want to sit and discuss real life case studies, have little or no imagination and cannot draw analogies from any other experience or approach?
    That has not been my experience of sales people as colleagues (sales was my first career) or as attendees on training courses. It is OK as a trainer to have your own views and personal preferences but not so useful if you project these preferences on those you train.
    The most important thing I have learned as a trainer is that good training comes from focusing on helping people to learn the way that is most useful to them rather than how the trainer likes to deliver.
    Following this approach I have experienced no issues whatsoever in encouraging many "no nonsense" sales people to participate in all sorts of "silly games" from which they tell me they learn important lessons and in every case have been in touch later to tell me how they have successfully implemented their learning and increased their sales.
    I use real life case studies alongside silly games and a wide range of other techniques selected as we work to respond to specific needs.
    It is the responsibility of an effective trainer to challenge the thinking of clients sometimes if this will lead to productive learning and if this includes taking them outside of their normal/comfortable learning environment then that is what should be done. Trainers can become slaves to "happy sheets" and so not entertain anything that may upset their attendees so that they get good feedback at the end of the course.
    People who learn something of value sometimes learn it by applying themselves to a non preferred or difficult process for them.
    If we always do what we have always done we will always get what we always got. For many sales-people, especially the ones at the top the thing that makes the difference and takes them to the next level is often acquired from an unexpected and previously ignored approaches.
  7. Hmmmmm

    Well Steve, you can pull up your chair and discuss their learning needs, but I reckon you would get fried alive by the salespeople I have worked with over 28 years.

    In my experience sales people typically will only respond to development that is 100% contextual; seems very real; enables them to show off and to protect their often fragile egos; is led by a confident and very credible person that has proven success, preferably in their field, and gives them straightforward no nonsense practical ideas they feel they can put to immediate use to earn them more money.

    Oh – and is taking place in a plush venue with good meals and easy access to entertainment or at least a free bar.

    Any more thoughts anyone?

    Andrew Gibbons


  8. One more from me

    I was a bit naughty Steve – I think i pressed your hot buttons.

    You seem to have a greater appetite than me for the more serious issues here.

    Good job you are getting us back on track,



    PS: Since you ask – I have found getting salespeople to invest literally a few of their own pennies in even what you Steve might consider ‘silly’ activities works a treat and can bring significant learning dividends.

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