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Why most sales training doesn’t work


Sales teamTraditional sales training methods on their own may not be sufficient to meet the training needs of your sales team. Rich Lucas looks at the technique of enabling each sales person to play to their individual strengths, to achieve a sale.

So let's set the scene. You are, in some capacity, a manager of a sales team.

Whether you are an employed sales manager or the actual owner of the business, you are responsible for getting the sales team to perform and bring in revenue from new business, existing clients and from cross selling of other products.

"Authentic selling means using your own unique personality to sell."

You then get into a situation where members of the sales team begin to under-perform and think it would be a good idea to either bring in a sales trainer or send the team members on a sales training course to 'motivate' them.

Things improve for about a week, maybe a little longer if you're lucky, but ultimately, their performance slides back to where it was. The sales training that seemed like such a good idea at the time has provided little to no return on investment and worse still… no one can seem to remember what the trainer was on about!

Before we look at why most sales training doesn't work, we need to look at some of the reasons why sales people don't perform.

For those who are new to sales, reasons might include the following:

  • They don't have the confidence to sell effectively
  • The don't have the skills or knowledge to sell effectively
  • They secretly don't approve of selling as a profession
  • They have made the wrong career choice
  • They see the sales role as a 'stop gap' rather than a longer term career
  • Now if we look at why the 'older hands' underperform, reasons might be that:

    "Whatever we do for a living, we sell to people as part of our day to day lives, whether we're persuading the children to get ready for school, or influencing directors in the board room."

  • They have reached 'burn out'

  • They have become demotivated

  • They have become complacent, haven't kept up with current practices and have therefore 'stagnated'
  • If your delegate is in one of the above situations, is sales training on its own really the answer?

    The authentic selling approach

    When I began, I taught tips and techniques in my telesales training courses, such as what to say and when to say it, what pitch to assume and how to 'turn' an objection around. Some people took it on board, but most didn't. This led me to question whether or not the people I trained really had a need for knowledge or confidence.

    I now place a vast amount of emphasis on authentic selling. This means using your own unique personality to sell best how you see fit. It focuses on developing behaviours of the individual and directing these towards their sales efforts.

    It's based on the fact that whatever we do for a living, we all sell as part of our day to day lives, whether we're persuading our children to get ready for school or influencing directors in a board room.

    The advantages of this approach are as follows:

    "80% of successful performance improvement is in the follow up, when someone forms a habit and does the correct things consistently."

  • It doesn't force a square peg into a round hole by trying to teach a quiet humble person to be a loud brash person
  • Delegates will perform but more importantly, will continue to perform over a longer period of time as they are drawing on their own personality
  • Delegates sell by building relationships hence building market credibility

  • Performance improvement plan

    A good performance improvement plan has three parts:

  • A comprehensive sales skills and personal analysis
    It's pointless separating work persona/home persona, as selling is an interpersonal skill and people bring a lot of themselves to the role
  • Solid ROI and evaluation processes
    This approach gives you something to measure against and uses a specially designed toolkit to ensure every step can be measured and adjusted if needed

  • Foundation development
    Rather than give a salesperson 'killer lines' that they may use for a week if you're lucky, time is first spent teaching motivation, time management, goal setting and other behaviours, then working with the sales person to develop their own unique style
  • Keeping the momentum going
    Improving anything is a process, not an event. 80% of successful performance improvement is in the follow up, when someone forms a habit and does the correct things consistently. It's then that performance will improve

  • Rich Lucas is the director at Supremacy Training Solutions, which provides ready-to-deliver training materials in sales, leadership, training and coaching courses


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