Part Four

blart-215The failure to properly sales train our sales forces can be attributed to a handful of different factors. In this final entry of this BLArticle® miniseries, I’ll finish telling you what has created this problem, and exactly what can be done about it. We desperately need trained professionals to assist us in making necessary, and intelligent, decisions. It starts by properly training these individuals in how to help the people they are working with.

Problem #4 – Waiting For The Right Time

A final reason why sales training fails so frequently has little to do with the training itself. It has to do with the timing of the training. It’s a classic case of logic versus instinct.

Logic tells us this:

Sales are down. The economy is unsettled. Customers are nervous. This is a crucial moment in the future of both the sales force and the company. If the company wants to survive in these difficult circumstances, this is the time to invest in sales training!

Instinct tells us this:

Sales are down. The economy is unsettled. Customers are nervous. This is a crucial moment in the future of both the sales force and the company. If ever there was a time to cut back on expenses, now is that time, and training is the first place to start!

I have spent over thirty years in the sales training industry, and I can tell you which of these two usually wins out. Sadly, it is the mindset of instinct that almost always rules the day, and it’s not even close. Even worse, it is usually during times of desperate need that cuts are made to an already struggling sales force. The results can be devastating.

Solution #4 – Now IS The Time

There is no perfect time for training to be conducted. To better understand this, we may want to get rid of the word “training” altogether. Instead, what if we looked at it as an ongoing event to help create and sustain a healthy sales force? What if we thought of training as a way to better assist organizations to do its work more efficiently? When would it be the right time to do that? Perhaps a better question would be this: “When would it be the wrong time to do that?”

When I taught Quality Improvement for Xerox, one of my favorite quotes was from our CEO, David Kearns:

In the race for quality, there is no finish line.

He believed that learning the concepts of quality did not finish when the training was over. In fact, he believed that it was just beginning. I believe wholeheartedly that there is no finish line in the race to teach our salespeople how to sell. We simply have to remember:

  • Selling has much less to do with features and benefits, and much more to do with asking questions and listening. This allows the salesperson to form a solution that best addresses a client’s specific needs.
  • Having the courage to reward process behaviors – over performance behaviors – will go a long way in strengthening the implementation.
  • We need to understand the difference between motivating and building excitement versus the teaching of repeatable, predictable behaviors.
  • Separating the products being sold from the process we use to sell them will allow a cleaner look at what is being taught, and enhance the learning experience.
  • Removing antiquated scripts, and replacing them with well thought out processes, will greatly improve the training experience. As a result, it will improve the experience shared with clients and ultimately gain the loyalty of the salespeople using those processes.

Waiting for the right time to conduct sales training is elusive, and there is not one specific red flag you should look for. If you believe your sales numbers can be improved, now is the time. If your company is struggling to stay healthy and relevant, now is the time. If you believe that your salespeople have a great product to sell but they’re not having the results you want, now is the time. George Allen, one of the first coaches I can remember of my beloved Washington Redskins, once said this phrase:

The future is now.

If you wait for the right time to better train your sales force, you’ve waited too long. There’s too much at stake to keep getting this wrong. Let’s make the failure of sales training a thing of the past!

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