During a conversation with my seatmate on a recent plane trip, I mentioned that my business was helping other businesses to sell more.  My seatmate replied that he was President of a company that had, in his opinion, “wasted millions of dollars” on sales training.  In fact, he went on to say, “Sales training doesn’t work”.  He was shocked when I agreed with him.  However, I did add one caveat, which is “Traditional sales training doesn’t work.”

Traditional sales training doesn’t work for several reasons.  First, selling is a team sport.  Consequently, if we only focus our training and development efforts on our salespeople, we are missing a significant component of the productivity and profitability that could be generated.  Even if a sales team is highly skilled, highly motivated and incredibly well-managed, they will not produce optimum levels of profit if an organization’s operations and administrative staff are performing the functions of a “sales prevention department”.

Most companies spend little or no energy to improve the skills and proficiency of their non-sales, customer-facing employees, who have the ability to accelerate or decelerate sales at unprecedented levels.  A world-class sales organization should not only train its salespeople, but it should also train all of its non-sales employees who have any opportunity whatsoever to interact with customers.

Make sure that all your non-sales, “customer-facing” employees have the ability to articulate your company’s value proposition.  Make sure they understand that, although they are not directly in sales, they have the ability to “un-sell” an account at least ten times faster than a salesperson can sell the account.  This is one reason why traditional sales training fails to produce the results senior management expects.

Another is the fact that you can train your salespeople in any one of a number of popular sales-training methodologies.  However, if they are improperly hired, poorly coached or incorrectly compensated, then your training dollars will be wasted because they won’t produce the uptick in productivity or profitability that you’re looking for.  Now, that may sound critical of the sales management team but, in fact, I am very sympathetic to today’s sales managers.

Most sales “managers” have never received any training in how to manage or coach salespeople.  More often than not, these managers come from the sales ranks and, after having received their promotion, are told to do the best they can.  They are literally forced to learn on the job, using the time-tested but highly unpredictable and unprofitable method known as “by hook or by crook”.

The combination of all the reasons above serves to stress the importance of training the entire company – not just the sales team – how to find, acquire and retain customers more proficiently.  Only when the proper message can be delivered, via an effective training method, to the proper employee and in the proper timeframe can one be assured that your training dollars will produce an uptick in productivity and profitability.

If you’re thinking about training your salespeople, I suggest you make sure that you have the bandwidth to train your entire company.  Look around you.  Isn’t it ironic that some of the lowest paid employees (i.e., receptionist, administrative support, etc.) receive the least amount of training yet still have an extraordinarily large amount of customer interaction?  Your goal should be to have your entire company trained and operating as a unified team in order to predictably and proactively find, acquire and retain new business.

I hope I have impressed upon you the importance of improving the sales productivity of your entire organization, utilizing some “untraditional” sales training concepts.  When the challenges of productivity and profitability are dealt with as a cohesive team, then and only then will you optimize the results they produce and start generating the profits you deserve.


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