THE MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT SALES TRAINING
MYTH: I hire experienced salespeople. They don’t need training.
FACT: Experienced salespeople, if trained properly, are the ones who benefit the most from sales training as they’re capable of quickly understanding and then implementing new concepts and successful sales techniques. Most “experienced” athletes have a coach and benefit by regular coaching sessions. Staying on top of one’s profession is a continual process and is rarely achieved without a program of ongoing coaching, self-evaluation and self improvement.
MYTH: Sales training may not provide lots of benefits in my industry.
FACT: Sales training can boost sales results in most industries provided the program is tailored to that industry and the client company. In particular, if you are experiencing any of the following, sales training can usually provide substantial benefits.
- You have at least several good competitors
- Building long-term relationships is key to sustaining and growing sales volumes
- You are not the low-cost provider and must sell based on value
- There are significant revenue attainment differences between your top and bottom sales performers
- Lead generation and prospecting are consuming a disproportionate amount of sales time
MYTH: Sales training is an expense.
FACT: Motorola, which invests about 7% of payroll in training, has averaged a 20 percent productivity improvement over the last 4 years, compared with 2-5 percent for its competitors. Several years ago, the company did two studies to gauge the return on its education investment. Result: every dollar invested in sales training returned $29 in incremental revenues. A number of other firms have documented similar results.
MYTH: The major cost of sales training is for the training firm, the instructor and the materials.
FACT: In fact, almost 90% of the cost of sales training programs stem from the time salespeople are not out “selling.” If the average salesperson generates $1.5 million in revenues and there are 10 salespeople, the cost of 5 days of sales training in terms of lost revenues to the company is $300,000. Thus, the primary goal should be to reduce “off-the-job” time by targeting the training specifically to the skills employees lack. Besides being more tailored to your industry, firm and sales staff, this customized sales training approach translates into fewer days out of the field, better training results and a better return on your sales training investment.
MYTH: Sales training will not “stick”
FACT: Without follow-up, salespeople will lose 80-90 percent of what they learned in training within just one month! All sales training programs should include follow-up reinforcement and/or coaching by either the training firm, sales managers or both. This follow-up is key to leveraging the investment in training, increasing retention and improving sales performance.
MYTH: Sales training is not a strategic, executive-level decision; it’s strictly operational.
FACT: Sales training best practices should be viewed within the context of a company’s overall direction, strategy and vision. There should be a direct link, or relationship, between the corporation’s business goals and sales training objectives. Strategic sales training programs focus on providing the skills needed to achieve critical corporate objectives, both now and in the future.
MYTH: Sales training is not a highly-effective means to improve employee productivity.
FACT: A study of 540 companies conducted by the American Society for Training and Development shows that continuous investments in training and reinforcement result in over 50% higher net sales per employee, nearly 40% higher gross profits per employee and a 20% higher ratio in market-to-book value.
Spend some 6% of payroll on learning
Train almost 90% of their employees during a given year, on the average
Are 11-18% higher than the industry average in the use of outside training organizations
MYTH: Sales training effectiveness is difficult to measure.
- How learners and their managers react to specific sales training events (e.g. program evaluations)
- The degree to which learners acquire the knowledge and skills that the sales training was designed to provide (e.g. via testing knowledge of course materials)
- Knowledge transfer and on-the-job application of skills which trainees can apply after they return to their job. (e.g. observations of performance in the field and on the phone)
- What impact sales training has on results (e,g. improvement in revenues and profits per salesperson)
MYTH: You can’t see a direct result of sales training.
FACT: Many sales training programs fail because they do not relate to specific, measurable performance objectives. If performance objectives are established and then training is designed to provide specific sales tools and sales processes to achieve these objectives, sales training can be highly effective and specific results and outcomes can be measured and tracked.
MYTH: All sales training is pretty much the same and covers the same basic materials.
FACT: There are a number of different types of sales and a number of industry differences that require specific sales techniques. For example, one-call close sales situations demand (1) basic communication skills (questions, listening, etc), (2) basic sales skills (building rapport with customers, handling objections) and (3) a framework within which to utilize communication and sales skills: a sales process. In more complex selling environments such as those involving extended sales cycles, proficiency in up to seven major content areas is necessary if sales training class is to be effective: (1) organizational knowledge (2) product knowledge (3) selling strategy skills (4) industry awareness (5) sales support/account management and (6) team selling and (7) complex sales processes.
MYTH: A good sales training class is mostly a matter of “pumping up” the salespeople.
FACT: Be clear that a motivational experience isn’t the same as real sales training class. After rah-rah sessions, salespeople may show increased motivation levels for a short period of time—but this increase in motivation does not last long. The things that may have demotivated people in the past, such as low closing rates or high levels of rejection, are still issues after motivational sessions have taken place. The best way to improve long-term motivation is to provide salespeople with successful sales techniques that they can use to boost their overall effectiveness, their personal earnings and ultimately, their self-confidence.
MYTH: We can do sales training ourselves and save money in the process.
FACT: Effective sales training includes a preliminary analysis of salesperson and management needs. This analysis measures the current sales skill levels of each salesperson as well as the gap between where they are currently and where they need to be. An experienced sales training organization, using a needs analysis, can be more effective in developing and delivering sales training classes. They already have highly-developed programs they can tailor to your needs as well as sales trainers experienced in training and motivating salespeople. Moreover, salespeople often find successful sales techniques and ideas introduced by outside firms to be more credible than what their managers tell them to do. Indeed, experienced sales managers often choose NOT to invest their valuable time preparing and delivering sales training classes themselves. Instead of focusing on saving thousands, they have their eye on the big picture: developing and closing millions of dollars of sales opportunities.
MYTH: When a sales professional is performing poorly, training is the answer.
FACT: Sales training is one possible intervention when there are performance problems. You should engage in a careful analysis and diagnosis of the performance gap, the cause(s) and the best means of intervention before simply committing to a sales training program. And our course, having read our Sales Training Myths and Facts, you’ll be better prepared to respond to sales performance issues.
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