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WHY SALES

TRAINING FAILS
by Mike Schultz & John Doerr

Discover 7 common mistakes that derail sales


training efforts and what you can do to avoid them.

Why Sales Training Fails


Discover 7 common mistakes that derail sales training efforts and what you can do to avoid them.
Report Summary
Between 85% and 90% of sales training has no lasting impact after 120 days. At the same time, companies are spending billions of dollars on
sales training each year. With such a high failure rate, thats billions of dollars wasted.
Training can be a disappointment right away when it doesnt go well, or it can be a disappointment months later when results dont materialize.
Regardless, sales training strikes out a lot. When it does, its usually for common reasons. By avoiding these mistakes, you set yourself up for
successful training initiatives that lead to increased sales performance and long-term revenue growth.

7 Reasons Why Sales Training Fails


1. Failure to Align Desired Outcomes with Learning Needs: Leaders often base their objectives and expecations for sales training on

wishful thinking versus incisive analysis. Without analyzing the learning needs of your team, sales training is often irrelevant and
uninspiring, and doesnt produce results.


2. Failure to Build Fluent Sales Knowledge as well as Skills: Most sales training focuses on building sales skills, not building knowledge.
Your sellers have to knowand be able to speak fluently aboutyour products and services, the needs you solve, the marketplace,
your competition, and more.

3. Failure to Assess and Develop Attributes: Its not enough to give your team the capability to sell; you have to know if the members of
your team have the attributes required for top sales performance. With this knowledge, you will learn not only who can sell, but who will
sell at a high level, and how to motivate and develop them to reach their potential.

4. Failure to Define, Support, and Drive Action: Even if sellers leave training with increased skills, they often dont know what to do to
get the best results. Sales process must dovetail well with training. Organizations should adopt a consistent method of selling in order to
raise performance across the board. Coaching that includes goal setting and regular action planning and reviews maximize action.

5. Failure to Deliver Training that Engages: Adults learn by doing. Your training program needs to be engaging, customized, delivered
by facilitators participants can respect, and allow opportunities for sellers to practice their newly learned skills.

6. Failure to Make Learning Stick and Transfer: Most sales training is a multi-day event in which sellers learn and practice new skills.
Without reinforcement to make the learning stick, most will forget what they learned, how inspired they were, and they will return to
old behaviors.

7. Failures of Evaluation, Accountability, and Continuous Improvement: Few companies actually evaluate the effectiveness of their
sales training and sales performance in general. Without evaluation, its nearly impossible to hold sellers accountable for changing
and improving behavior, or for taking actions and achieving results.

Why Sales
Training Fails
by Mike Schultz & John Doerr

Failure of Sales Training


Fortunately, the reasons sales training fails are
predictable and fixable for those so inclined.
Here are the most common problems we see:
1. Failure to Align Desired Outcomes with
Learning Needs
2. Failure to Build Fluent Sales Knowledge as
well as Skills
3. Failure to Assess and Develop Attributes

The Measure of Success


Nine out of 10 sales training initiatives have no
lasting impact beyond 120 days.1
Perhaps youve had more luck (and we hope
you have), but if youre reading this report,
something about the Why Sales Training Fails
title resonated with you.
Whether youve felt the pain and want to avoid
it next time, or youre ahead of the game and
like to line up your ducks for success, you want
to know why sales training fails. And, assuming
you can avoid the failures, how you can make
your training initiative succeed.

Here are two striking statistics:

4. Failure to Define, Support, and


Drive Action
5. Failure to Deliver Training that Engages
6. Failure to Make Learning Stick
and Transfer
7. Failures of Evaluation, Accountability, and
Continuous Improvement
Well cover each in turn in this report.

+ Companies spend $3.4 to $4.6 billion on


sales training every year with outsourced
sales training providers.2
+ Between 85% and 90% of sales training has
no lasting impact after 120 days.3

Thats a lot of investment with little to show for
it beyond short-term, short-lived gains.

RAIN Group | RAINGroup.com

| 1

Why Sales Training Fails

Failure to Align Desired Outcomes


with Learning Needs
Sales training has virtually no chance of
producing lasting results if business leaders
base their objectives and expectations of results
on wishful thinking. They underestimate
what it will take to implement training that
will create desired behavioral change. They
overestimate the impact of periodic and
uncoordinated training events. As researchers
at the University of Wisconsin and Louisiana
State University put it, business objectives for
sales training are all too often platitudes rather
than real plans for action.4

I was bold in
the pursuit of
knowledge, never
fearing to follow
truth and reason
to whatever
results they led.
- Thomas Jefferson

Healthcare or Entertainment?
While writing our book, Insight Selling:
Surprising Research on What Sales Winners
Do Differently (Wiley, 2014), Neil Rackham
commented to us how sales training can be
compared to two industries: healthcare and
entertainment. We hadnt thought of it quite like
this, but we certainly see the same thing.
When sales training is like healthcare, its
purpose is to make something better. For
healthcare sales training to succeed, you
need the right understanding of the issues, the
right treatment plan, and dedication from the
healthcare provider and the patient to stick with
the plan.

We asked if there was any training delivery time


available over-and-above the four hours? No,
a half-day was it. We asked if it was possible
to invest time and energy before the training
through elearning, or after the training with
learning reinforcement and coaching. No,
just the half-day, and could we focus on really
jazzing up the team?
The training needed to be healthcare, but the
approach was entertainment. We didnt think
it was going to work. The proportion of the
input (i.e., the training initiative) needed to be
rigorous enough to produce the desired output
(i.e., account penetration with a team not used
to selling, let alone inspiring buyers with new
ideas, which is what they had to do). In this
case, the business objective was clear, but the
learning and change effort was nowhere near
aligned to achieve it.

Under-resourced sales
training efforts dont have the
horsepower to produce what
they need to, and often
dont produce much at all.

When sales training is more like entertainment,


its just an enjoyable diversion. It might make an
impressionyou might even remember months
later how fun it wasbut it doesnt accomplish
much beyond that.
We recently spoke with a business leader who
was planning a half-day sales training program.
His desired outcome was transforming a service
and delivery team into a proactive sales force
tasked with increasing sales to existing accounts
by selling new offerings. He communicated to
us that success was critical. The future of the
company literally hung in the balance.
RAIN Group | RAINGroup.com

| 2

Why Sales Training Fails


Assess the Learning Needs of
Your Team
When it comes to the learning needs of sellers,
leaders need to figure out:
+ Where your sales team is now regarding
the skills, knowledge, and attributes needed
to succeed (this is the starting point, or
Point A)
+ Each individuals improvement potential
+ In which sales role each individual is most
likely to succeed
+ What it looks like when theyve succeeded
(this is the New Reality, or Point B)
+ What kind of effort and time its going to
take to get from Point A to B

+ Fail to deliver content at the right level of


sophistication (e.g., too basic or too
advancedgetting it just right is left
to chance)
+ Fail to build learning processes rigorous
enough to actually develop needed skills
and knowledge to the point they transfer to
on-the-job behaviors.

Before implementing a sales


training program, the companies
that succeed are serious about
making sure the learning approach is
rigorous enough to do its part
in producing behavioral change
and getting results.

Many companies fail to assess their teams


learning needs rigorously enough.

What Happens When Leaders


Dont Assess Needs
When leaders dont dig to find out what sellers
need in order to produce the outcomes they
seek, it makes for sales training initiatives that:
+ Focus on content the team doesnt need
+ Leave out content the team does need

Compared to other firms, 36% more best-in-class5 companies


have a strategy for creating targeted individual development
plans based on assessment output.6

RAIN Group | RAINGroup.com

| 3

Why Sales Training Fails

Failure to Build Fluent Sales


Knowledge as well as Skills
At the risk of oversimplifying, sales training
initiatives work when they help sellers do things
that produce maximum revenue.
Without rigorous inquiry into what those things
are, and what it will take to make sure sellers do
them effectively, the focus of sales training ends
up heavily skewed towards skills development.

Whether its prospecting, asking questions to


uncover needs, making sales presentations,
maximizing account revenue, or something else,
these kinds of skills topics tend to dominate
most training.

While sales skills are essential, they are only one
side of a very important coin: capability.
The other side of the coin is sales knowledge
(Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Right Skills + Right Knowledge = Can Do


You need
salespeople who

You need the right

Can do

Capability

+ The competition and how you win


+ What happens when buyers buy, including
what makes implementation most successful
In our What Sales Winners Do Differently
research, we asked buyers what most separated
sales winners from second-place finishers.7
Included in the top 10 are factors such as:
+ Educated me with new ideas or perspectives
+ Persuaded me we would achieve results
+ Understood my needs
+ Helped me avoid potential pitfalls
+ Crafted a compelling solution
+ Overall value from the company superior to
other options

Key components

Skills

and

Knowledge

Your sellers need to have expert sales


knowledge. They must be able to speak fluently
about:
+ The marketplace
+ The dynamics of the customers business
+ Your company and your value proposition
+ The needs you solve and the difference
you make

RAIN Group | RAINGroup.com

+ Your products, services, and overall approach


as solutions to those needs

Without the appropriate sales knowledge, sellers


have a difficult time doing the things that top
performers do.
Some company leaders say to us, Wait. We
provide knowledge training. We even hold a
retreat each year focused on knowledge topics.
Unfortunately, this typically doesnt get the job
done. Its often focused only on product or service
offerings, which isnt nearly sufficient. With a
common death-by-PowerPoint delivery format,
sellers dont remember what they heard. Some
companies do better than this, requiring sellers
to study the content and pass tests for knowledge
accuracy. Still, they find their sellers dont weave
what they learned into their sales conversations.
For sellers to put knowledge to work they dont
just need accuracy, they need fluency.

| 4

Why Sales Training Fails


We define fluency as accuracy plus speed plus
appropriate breadth and depth. When knowledge
training stops at accuracy (if it even gets this far),
companies miss out on a major revenue growth
opportunity had they trained to fluency (Fig. 2).

Sales training will continue to fail until sales


knowledge training:

Indeed, best-in-class companies are better


at demonstrating product knowledge,
understanding client business challenges,
and mapping products and services to those
challenges.8 In other words, best-in-class
companies have fluent sellers.

2. Covers the right content

1. Takes its appropriate place alongside sales


skills training

3. Trains sellers to fluency


To this last point, many say, Fluency happens
over time. You cant expect someone to become
an expert right away. True, not right away.

Sellers need to know more than just their


offerings and how they solve needs. They need
to know the buyer industry and their own. They
need to know what happens after a buyer buys,
and how to help them navigate the murky waters
of difficult implementations. They need to know
how they can maximize their impact on the
buyers success.

However, it can and should happen a lot faster


than it does at most companies.

Build knowledge experts, and train to fluency.
Otherwise, sellers wont be capable of leading the
masterful sales conversations you need them to
lead.

Accuracy is not enough.


Sellers need fluency.
Figure 2. The Real Revenue Opportunity: Training Sellers to Fluency

(in $ sold)

SALES PERFORMANCE

Top 10%
Rainmakers

Top 25%
Average
Bottom 25%

BEGINNER

(Off the mark and slow)

RAIN Group | RAINGroup.com

ACCURATE

FLUENT

Training usually
stops here

Real revenue
opportunity

| 5

Why Sales Training Fails

Example: Why Skills Training is Not Enough


One of the most important skills in sales is, as many people refer
to it, asking great questions. In skills training, this often takes the
form of:
+ Defining what asking great questions means
+ Giving examples of what it looks like when its done right
+ Walking through the process of asking great questions in
specific stages (e.g., prospecting, needs discovery, overcoming
objections) of the sales cycle
+ Allowing participants a little time to craft a handful of
great questions
+ Practicing asking great questions in role plays and case studies
+ Sharing and discussing all the great questions everyone
came up with
Assuming the training is designed and delivered well, this is
laudable. But is it enough?

RAIN Group | RAINGroup.com

Ask yourself:
+ Even if your sellers practiced these skills in a training
class, could they ask questions that uncover needs across all
products and services your company offers?
+ Could they appropriately include all of your products and
services as solutions to the various needs that prospects
might have?
+ Would they be able to position the companys value proposition
the right way for the different situations they encounter?
+ Would they consistently get all of this right in the moment
during a sales conversation?

Even if your sellers have the skills to ask great


questions, its often a lack of knowledge that holds
them back from actually putting asking great
questions to work for them.

| 6

Why Sales Training Fails

Failure to Assess and


Improve Attributes
When I (John) worked for a large company,
I knew a number of people who were top
performersreally excellent results producers
who retired. But there was a big problem
they never told anyone! For years, they just kept
showing up to work, but they werent nearly the
producers they used to be.
They had the skills to be top performersthey
could sellbut they were no longer actually
doing what it took to produce results. After years
of overachievement, results dropped as their
commitment waned.
In this case, attributes were the difference
between past success and current mediocrity. Its
not enough to just give your team the skills to
sell; you have to know if they have the attributes
required for top performance. We call these
attributes drivers and detractors of sales success.
Together these will tell you not only who can sell,
but who will sell at a high level (Fig. 3).

Assess Attributes Along with Skills


and Knowledge
Researchers publishing in refereed academic
sales journals note assessing competencies (we
use the word attributes) is a must.10, 11
When sales leaders dont assess their teams
attributes, sales training fails because:
+ Sellers dont have the drivers to succeed:
People end up in sales training who may
actually gain the requisite skills and
knowledge to succeed, but they dont have
the drivers in place to achieve top
performance, or, sometimes, any
performance at all.
+ Sellers have detractors holding them
back: People end up in sales training who
have some drivers in place to succeed,
but may have detractor attributes that act
like weights pulling them down.

According to research by
Aberdeen Group, 82% of
best-in-class companies require Sales Drivers and Detractors
sales training, as compared with If the drivers of success arent in place
only 68% of laggard companies.9 meaning the person doesnt have, for example,

passion for work and for selling, performance


orientation, sense of urgency, assertiveness, and
so onits quite possible the person shouldnt
even be in the training at all. Much as you
might want your kids to go to medical school, if
they failed chemistry and what they want to do
is teach art history, medicine rarely works out.

Figure 3. Right Drivers + Acceptable Level of Detractors = Will Do


You need
salespeople who

You need the right

Can do

Capability

Skills

and

Knowledge

Will do

Attributes

Drivers

and

Detractors

RAIN Group | RAINGroup.com

Key components

If too many detractors are in place, the seller


might have capability, but they can still fail.

| 7

Why Sales Training Fails

Example Detractor: Lacks Assertiveness


Say a seller is listening to a prospect talk about his plans for a
technology purchase. The prospect says he plans to move forward
in three areas. The seller, having been through these technology
challenges many times before, knows two are good ideas, but the
third is a disaster waiting to happen.

What Happens
Seller avoids confrontation

In sales, need for approval is when the desire to be liked and


preference for harmony are stronger than desire for sales success.
About 47% of sellers have a need for approval to the extent that it
affects their sales behaviors.12
In the table to the right, we share examples of how the lack of
assertiveness due to a need for approval creates sales problems.

Neglect real, incisive inquiry into


each persons attributes and sales
training initiatives leave the gate
with weights tying them down.

RAIN Group | RAINGroup.com

Cant maintain peer dynamic


with executives
Wont push back on a
buyer when it would help the
buyer if they did

He should bring this up to the prospect. If he does and, after the


buyer makes his case, the seller still thinks the third is a bad idea,
he should talk to the buyer about it.
However, if the seller lacks assertiveness, its likely he wont say
anything at all. A common reason why sellers lack assertiveness
is their need for approval. Sellers with a need for approval have
great difficulty speaking with prospects about anything that might
upset the prospect or rock their relationship boat.

Common Problems

Will accept stalls and putoffs, get pushed down the


agenda for action
Pipeline fills up, looks big,
doesnt yield business
Problems with questions
(wont ask tough questions
or enough questions, cuts
meetings short)

Insufficient needs discovery

Call reluctance

Wont prospect because


worried about rejection

Leaves buyer in control of


discussions
Doesnt establish expertise,
incisiveness of thinking

Wont prospect or follow


up because doesnt want to
bother the buyer
Deferential statements and
actions
(such as being overly effusive)

Doesnt maintain peer


dynamic

Inappropriate follow up

Invest time and effort


inappropriately in order to
gain approval

Comes off as needy or meek

| 8

Why Sales Training Fails

Failure to Define, Support,


and Drive Action
According to Aberdeen Group, 85% of best-inclass companies use a formal sales methodology,
preferably supplied by an external firm.
Whats more, these best-in-class companies are
seeing dramatically better performance:
+ 83% of their sales reps reached quota vs.
52% among industry average and 6% for
laggard companies
+ 15.4% average year-over-year increase in
corporate revenue vs. 5.6% increase for
industry average and 1.5% decline among
laggard companies
+ 5.3% year-over-year increase in average
sales deal size or contract value vs. 0.7%
industry average and 2.6% decline among
laggard companies

+ Process allows for process improvement. If


you can measure it, you can manage it. Find
the people that are succeeding and learn
what theyre doing to succeed, then you can
help other people do the same.
Methodology: A system of strategies,
principles, rules, guidelines, tools, learning
approaches, language, and evaluation methods
for selling.
+ Methodology provides guidelines and tools
for how to do specific things in the sales
process like leading sales conversations,
prospecting, delivering presentations,
closing, goals setting, account expansion,
and so on.
+ Methodology creates a shared language that
everyone in the company understands,
uses, and follows.

The best-in-class companies are investing more


in sales trainingmore than double that of the
average and laggardsand theyre clearly reaping
the rewards.13

+ Methodology helps define what works


in various areas of the process, and provides
a platform to share that across the sales
force and company.

Process and Methodology

For a partial example of how the RAIN Buying


and Selling Process and the RAIN Selling
methodology have have been tailored and
overlaid into a major CRM system, see Fig. 4
(next page). When sellers have visual cues to
remind them what they are supposed to do, real
time training and tools available, and tracking
directly in their CRM, both the process and the
method have much better chance for adoption.

Here are how process and methodology help.


Process: A systematic series of actions, typically
grouped in stages, aimed at producing a specific
output.
+ Process is a guide to action. No guide, and
youre on the road to nowhere.
+ Process helps people be efficient and get
more done.

If you want sales training to succeed, dont


let it float in a process-less and methodologyless vacuum.

+ Process prevents re-inventing the wheel.

RAIN Group | RAINGroup.com

| 9

Why Sales Training Fails


Figure 4. RAIN Selling Built into a Major CRM System
RAIN Buying & Selling Process

Buyer Stage

Dissatisfaction/Investigation

Analysis

Intervention

Selection

Contracting

Opportunity
Stage

Prospecting

Needs Discovery

Solution Crafting

Solution Presentation

Commitment

Initial prospect research

Opportunity presentation,
convincing story delivered

Analysis of issue and


affliction causes clear

Resonate: Present
compelling solution

Deliver executable
agreement

Plan to penetrate
prospect

Rapport established

Solution crafted

Resonate: Present Impact


and New Reality cases

Negotiate and refine


proposal

Initial value proposition


compelling

Aspirations and
Afflictions uncovered

Solution is best to solve


client need

Differentiate: Negate
competitor advantages

Gain commitment verbal,


written, and public

Outreach to generate
appointment

Overall Impact (ROI


case) clear

Solution is easy to buy

Substantiate and
mitigate risk

Handoff to
implementation team

Opportunity plan
started

Possible New Reality


established

Impact case tightened


and clarified

Solicit all feedback

Continued prospect
research

Discussion/presentation
of possible approaches

Strategy for presenting


solution

Overcome objections

Seller
Actions and
Outcomes

Plan for first


appointment

Facilitating
the Purchase

Proposal checklist

Appointment set

Buying process clear and


understood

Buyer involvement in
solution crafting

Buyer confirms you are


best option

Buyer signs agreement

Buyer curiosity and


interest generated

Buyers and buying roles


clear

Buyer solution
pre-agreement

Buyer agrees with solution


implementation plan

Buyer announces
purchase

All buyers appropriately


involved in conversations

Buyer agrees to specific


next step

Buyer agrees to
commitment plan

Goals and Action Planning


Process and methodology are essentially guides
for behavior. They help you know when to do
certain things (process) and how to do them
well (methodology).

Sales training that gets this far, but doesnt focus


on goal setting and action planning, misses a
huge opportunity to boost results.

When researching one of our own books, we
spoke to Dr. Jim Harter, Gallup Consultings
Chief Scientist of Workplace Management and
Well-Being. Gallup has asked over 12.5 million
people, Do I know what is expected of me at
work? Just over half answered the question,
strongly agree. In other words, just under half
are not so sure whats expected of them at work.
RAIN Group | RAINGroup.com

Dr. Harter further told us, Workplace


performance suffers dramatically with those
that answer below strongly agree.

When sales training helps sellers build and


track goals for themselves, it not only erases the
problem of sellers knowing whats expected of
them, but also maximizes motivation
and commitment.14
With action plans, take care not to build
them without first focusing on goal setting.
Without clear, written goals, action plans arent
meaningful to the individual. Without meaning,
execution over the long-term suffers.
When goals are in place, not only do they have
the effect of maximizing action, they can also
increase the sellers attributes of passion for
| 10

Why Sales Training Fails


work and sales, their performance orientation,
and their money orientation. Together these
often increase motivation to succeed in sales.

and goals and action planning to the mix and


you add the catalyst to bring it alive: what to do
to sell (Fig. 5).

Earlier in this section we discussed building


capability. When sellers are capable, they can
sell. Just after that we discussed attributes.
When the right attributes are in place, they will
sell, and sell well. Add process and methodology,

When process and methodology are in place,


and sellers have goals and action plans, sales
activities are more organized, more energetic,
higher volume, more effective, and more
efficient.

Figure 5. A Dynamic Sales Methodology Improves Sales Results


You need
salespeople who

You need the right

Can do

Capability

Skills

and

Knowledge

Will do

Attributes

Drivers

and

Detractors

Process

and

Method

Goals

and

Action Plans

What to do

Key components

Action

Coaching Drives Action15


Sales training should help sellers learn to build goals and action plans, but often sales coaches are needed to a) make sure goal and
action planning actually happen, and b) make sure using the goals and plans become a part of sellers habits. Most sales coaching we
encounter focuses on opportunities, or how to win whats currently in the pipeline. This helps, but its not all sales coaches should do.
Sales coaching should focus on maximizing execution as well as advising on opportunities. Great sales coaches actually play five roles
to maximize the performance of their selling teams:
1. Define: The best sales coaches help sellers define both their goals and a path to their own personal New Reality, the future state
they most desire.
2. Execute: Coaches help sellers build and execute action plans, optimizing seller efficiency and focus.
3. Advise: Coaches give direct advice as appropriate to maximize immediate sales wins.
4. Develop: Coaches develop coachee knowledge, skills, and attributes to improve performance fundamentally.
5. Motivate: Coaches motivate coachees to find and sustain their highest level of energy and action over the long term.
In fact, three of the five roles serve directly to focus seller action on the right activities, and help the seller get the most out of their time
and days. Especially when change is necessary and the stakes are high, coaching is essential for success. Without it, sellers often revert
back to how they sold in the past.
RAIN Group | RAINGroup.com

| 11

Why Sales Training Fails

Failure to Deliver Training


that Engages
Too often training can be boring and confusing.
It can be unclear how to apply strategies and
sellers are often left unconvinced they should
bother trying.
As noted earlier, ES Research estimates
that between 85% and 90% of sales training
initiatives have no lasting effect beyond 120
days. If a training event itself fails, theres no
positive effect at all. In fact, delivering a poorly
designed and poorly received training event
has greater negative effects beyond the obvious
wasted time. Bad training discourages sellers
from participating in future programs, and can
have a negative impact on sales team morale.16

No engagement = no learning = no
behavior change.
For training events themselves, companies have
to get the content right and engage their teams
with instructors they can respect. Trainers must
also use appropriate adult learning devices
such as role plays, case studies, simulations,
exercises, video, and other interactions (Fig.
7). Otherwise, not only will training fail, itll be
more difficult to get anyone back in the room
for the next go round.

When training is boring, not applicable, not at


the right level, and too focused on lecture versus
practice, participants dont engage (Fig. 6).

Figure 6. Poor Pre-Training and Training


Activities Lead to Virtually No Results

Figure 7. Effective Pre-Training and Training Activities


Lead to a Big Bump in Results
During Training Event
100%

90%

90%

80%

80%

70%
60%
50%
40%
30%

Program:
Not engaging
Not on target
Confusing

LEARNING EFFECTIVENESS

LEARNING EFFECTIVENESS

During Training Event


100%

70%
60%

Effective preparation
and delivery

50%
40%
30%

20%

20%

10%

10%

0%

0%

RAIN Group | RAINGroup.com

Program:
Engaging
On target
Well delivered

Poor preparation
and delivery

| 12

Why Sales Training Fails

Failure to Make Learning


Stick and Transfer
If you dont reinforce training and do it with
enough rigor (most dont), even good training is
likely to fail eventually (Fig. 8).

Most sales training is focused around a two- or


three-day event where sellers learn and practice
new skills. The problem with event-only training
is that the effects of the event fade. Even if
positive effects are seen initially, four months later
results and behaviors go right back to where they
started before the training.

Months after a sales training initiative, sellers too


often say:
+ I dont remember what was covered in the
sales training program

Reinforce Training for Lasting


Impact

+ I dont know enough to use the tools and


apply the advice

Adult learning is an ongoing process. Only


through repetition and practice will your sales
team internalize the training and put it to use
consistently. Lets assume a sales training event
is well received. After the event, you can either
build on its effectiveness, or let it fade (Fig. 9 on
the next page).

+ I didnt get enough practice to feel confident


enough to give it a try
+ I tried something and it didnt worknot
sure if I did it wrong
+ Im pretty sure the powers that be dont
remember that this was a priority anyway

Figure 8. Poor Reinforcement Leads to Reduced Impact of Training Over Time


During Training Event

After Training Event

100%

LEARNING EFFECTIVENESS

90%
80%

Program:
Engaging
On target
Well delivered

No motivation enhancement
No concept reinforcement
No complementary learning
No action plans and reviews
No practice & feedback
No technology embedding
No expectation reinforcement

70%
60%
50%
40%
30%
20%
10%
0%
2

10

12

14

MONTHS

RAIN Group | RAINGroup.com

| 13

Why Sales Training Fails


Figure 9. Whats Possible with the Right Preparation, Delivery, and
Reinforcement Activities
After Training Event

During Training Event


100%
for
c

ei n

ent
em
YES

Motivation enhancement
Concept reinforcement
Complementary learning
Action plans and reviews
Practice & feedback
Technology embedding
Expectation reinforcement

70%
60%
50%
Tra
ical
Typ

40%

NO

i ni n

LEARNING EFFECTIVENESS

80%

Program:
Engaging
On target
Well delivered

With
R

90%

30%
20%
10%
0%
2

10

12

14

MONTHS

In fact, Best-in-class companies outpace


laggards by nearly a two-times factor in
providing post-training reinforcement of the
best practices commonly learned in classroomstyle instructor-led sales education sessions.
These firms have learned that long-term success
depends on underscoring the best practices in
sales training deployments17

The concept that learning needs to be


reinforced wont be much of a news flash
for most readers. Still, strong post-training
reinforcement is the exception in sales training.
For those companies that insert reinforcement
that works, it makes a tremendous difference in
sales training effectiveness and sales results.

And the reinforcement makes a difference in


results (Fig. 10).
Figure 10. Impact of Reinforcement in 835 Organizations that Recently
Employed Sales Training
2.00%
1.00%

Reinforcement
Users

0.00%

Non-users of
Reinforcement

-1.00%

Source: Aberdeen
Group, February 2011

-2.00%
-3.00%
-4.00%
-5.00%
Team
Attainment
of Quota

RAIN Group | RAINGroup.com

Time to
Productivity

Reps
Achieving
Quota

Sales
Turnover
Reduction

Sales Cycle
Reduction

| 14

Why Sales Training Fails

Failures of Evaluation, Accountability,


and Continuous Improvement
These wont be the most exciting topics to many
readers, but that doesnt make them any less
important.
Most companies implement sales training in
order to increase revenue. Selling (like anything
else) is a process with a series of identifiable
and measurable inputs and outputs. If you can
improve process efficiency (getting more things
done) and effectiveness (getting things done with
greater success), you can improve the eventual
output, in this case, revenue.

Only 9% of organizations evaluate behavioral


change and 7% evaluate organizational results
stemming from training initiatives.18
Evaluating Sales Has Its Advantages
Those companies that do evaluate sales
performance systematically have a number
of advantages:
+ They can measure the effect of sales training
and performance improvement initiatives
+ They can improve sales strategies and rollout
successes across the team

Without effective training and sales


performance evaluation processes, sales
training can fail simply because companies have
no idea if it has succeeded. Moreover, without
an evaluation process, its nearly impossible
to hold sellers accountable for changing and
improving behavior, or for taking actions and
achieving results.

No evaluation system = no
accountability.
Implemented in the right way, sales performance
evaluation analytics can be the source of
significant competitive advantage. In fact, 67%
more best-in-class companies have sales analytics
than laggards.20
As Tom Davenport noted in Competing on
Analytics, Organizations are competing on
analytics not just because they canbusiness
today is awash in data crunchersbut also
because they should. At a time when firms
in many industries offer similar products
and use comparable technologies, business
processes are among the last remaining points of
differentiation. And analytics competitors wring
every last drop of value from those processes.21

+ They can remove ineffective sales strategies


and training components in favor of those
working better
+ They can shorten learning curves, and get
new sellers producing faster than before
+ They can improve continuously
The evaluation process itself also has a positive
effect on sales results. Customer renewal rates,
deal size, team achievement of quota, and seller
achievement of quota are all positively impacted
by performance management processes.19
RAIN Group | RAINGroup.com

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Why Sales Training Fails


Employ analytics and youll be able to join an
elite club: companies that actually succeed with
continuous improvement. When everything
comes together, youll have sellers who:
+ Can do
+ Will do, and do well

Without evaluation, accountability,


and continuous improvement, sales
training and sales performance
improvement can never be completely
effective.

+ Know what to do
+ Get it done and keep getting better (Fig. 11)
Figure 11. What Happens When Capability, Attributes, Action, and Evaluation
Work Together
You need
salespeople who

You need the right

Can do

Capability

Skills

and

Knowledge

Will do

Attributes

Drivers

and

Detractors

Process

and

Method

Goals

and

Action Plans

Accountability

and

Continuous
Improvement

What to do

Get it done right,


and keep
getting better

RAIN Group | RAINGroup.com

Key components

Action

Evaluation

| 16

Why Sales Training Fails


Conclusion
The fact is sales training can be an enormous driver of revenue growth. Yet so many sales training dollars go to waste. It doesnt have to
be like this.
At RAIN Group, weve been helping organizations implement successful sales training programs that lead to lasting results for over a
decade. Our RAIN Sales University (RSU) offers a complete sales training curriculum designed to build the skills and knowledge your
team needs to achieve top performance, and your company needs to foster a culture of sales excellence.
RAIN Sales University is built around 5 key tenets:

World Class Sales Method

Complete Learning System

Flexible and Customizable

RAIN Selling is a top-rated sales


method built to help companies
succeed with the complex sale.

RSU gives you access to our suite of


world-class sales training programs
covering the gamut of sales topics.
Learning happens over time to
drive real behavior change and
performance improvement.

RSU is designed for flexible delivery


and customizable content and
programs from light tailoring to
from-scratch development.

SM

Innovative Technology

Fast, Efficient Implementation

Enabled by our online platform,


sellers can access learning, tools,
and job-aids 24/7. We can integrate
with your LMS (or use ours) and
CRM systems.

We value speed, tailoring, and not


reinventing the wheel. RSU provides the
foundation that you can quickly and easily
add on to.

If you want to implement a sales training program that leads to real behavior change and results, RAIN Group can help. Contact us to
learn more about RAIN Sales University and to walk through a demo of a custom RSU environment.

CONTACT US
Phone: 508-405-0438
Email: info@raingroup.com
Web: www.raingroup.com
RAIN Group | RAINGroup.com

| 17

Why Sales Training Fails


Notes
1. Dave Stein, Sales Training: The 120-Day Curse (ES Research Group, 2011).
2. Outsourced Sales Training Worldwide: Examining the Major Markets (ES Research Group, 2013).
3. Dave Stein, Sales Training.
4. R. Erffmeyer, K.R. Russ, and J. Hair, Jr., Needs Assessment and Evaluation in Sales-Training Programs, (Journal of Personal Selling &
Sales Management, 1991).
5. Aberdeen Group defines best in class as companies in the top 20%, employing practices that are significantly superior to the
industry average, and which result in top industry performance.
6. Mollie Lombardi, Assessments 2013: Finding the Perfect Match (Aberdeen Group, 2013), 8.
7. Mike Schultz and John Doerr, What Sales Winners Do Differently (RAIN Group, 2013).
8. Peter Ostrow, Optimizing Lead-to-Win: Shrinking the Sales Cycle and Focusing Closers on Sealing More Deals (Aberdeen Group, 2010).
9. Peter Ostrow, Train, Coach, Reinforce (Aberdeen Group, 2012), 4.
10. Mark P. Leach, Annie H. Liu, and Wesley J. Johnston, The Role of Self-Regulation Training in Developing the Motivation
Mangement Capabilities of Sellers, (Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 2005).
11. L.M. Spencer, Jr. and S.M. Spencer, Competence at Work: Models for Superior Performance (John Wiley and Sons, 1993).
12. Dave Kurlan, Baseline Selling (AuthorHouse, 2005).
13. Peter Ostrow, Train, Coach, Reinforce.
14. Robert B. Cialdini, Harnessing the Science of Persuasion, Harvard Business Review (2001): 76, accessed January 3, http://hbr.org/
product/harnessing-the-science-of-persuasion/an/R0109D-PDF-ENG.
15. Mike Schultz and John Doerr, The 5 Roles of High-Performing Sales Coaches (RAIN Group, 2013).
16. George M. Alliger, Scott I. Tannenbaum, Winston Bennett, Jr., Holly Traver, and Allison Shotland, A Meta-Analysis of the Relations
Among Training Criteria, (Personnel Psychology, 1997).
17. Peter Ostrow, Sales Training.
18. Mark E. Van Buren and William Erskine, The 2002 ASTD State of the Industry Report, (American Society of Training and
Development, 2002).
19. Peter Ostrow, Advanced Sales Training Deployments, (Aberdeen Group, 2011).
20. Peter Ostrow, Reaching Sales Quota More Consistently, (Aberdeen Group, 2010).
21. Thomas H. Davenport, Competing on Analytics, (Harvard Business Review, 2006).

RAIN Group | RAINGroup.com

| 18

About RAIN Group


Unleash the Sales Potential of Your Team with RAIN Group
RAIN Group is a sales training, assessment, and performance improvement company that helps leading organizations improve sales
results. Weve helped hundreds of thousands of sellers, managers, and professionals in more than 34 countries increase their sales significantly with our RAIN SellingSM methodology.
We can help you:

Implement Sales Training that Delivers Real Results

Identify Who Can and Will Sell with Great Success

RAIN Groups sales training system inspires real change and


delivers real results that last. Our rigorous approach includes
sales team evaluation, customized training programs, robust
reinforcement, and coaching to help you and your team
develop sales skills in each of the Three Levels of RAIN
Selling, and maximize your results.

Our assessments measure sales attributes and skills,


identifying the factors that really make a difference in sales
performance. Whether youre looking to hire someone who
can and will sell, or looking to improve sales performance,
well help you build the most successful sales team.

Grow Your Key Accounts

Implement World-class Sales Coaching

At most companies, theres a huge, untapped opportunity to


add more value and thus sell more to existing accounts.
We help our clients capitalize on these revenue growth
opportunities. Whether its simply increasing cross-selling
and up-selling or implementing a major strategic account
management program, we can help.

We coach sellers, professionals, and leaders individually


and in groups to achieve the greatest and fastest increase in
sales results. And we train and certify leaders and managers
in our RAIN Sales Coaching system. Often, its RAIN Sales
Coaching that truly unlocks the teams potential, and keeps
them motivated to produce the best results consistently.

Find out more about how RAIN Group can help you unleash the sales potential of your team by visiting
RAINGroup.com or calling (508) 405-0438.

RAIN Groups Clients

Locations
AMERICAS EMEA ASIA-PACIFIC

Connect with Us

RAIN Group | RAINGroup.com | (508) 405-0438 | info@raingroup.com

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