Whether you are a corporate sales executive needing to increase company revenues, a sales manager wanting to improve your team’s results, or a sales professional looking to invest in your own self improvement, you need to evaluate any sales or sales management training course properly before buying it. All courses are not created equal and a high price tag does not necessarily guarantee results.

Do You Really Need Sales Training?

The first decision you need to make in choosing a sales training program is whether you even need sales training in the first place. Is sales training really necessary? To answer that question, you need to look at the facts.

Numerous studies show that 25 percent of sales representatives produce 90 to 95 percent of all sales. Clearly, most sales people are not selling up to their potential and therefore not making the incomes they could, nor producing the revenues they should. Why is this case? It’s not that the job can’t be done because 25 percent are doing it, and doing it well. It’s because the other 75 percent either are not in the right sales position or they truly don’t know how to sell. If all sales people knew and did what the top 25 percent do, then all sales people would be selling more!

You want your mechanic well trained, you want your financial advisor well trained, you want your doctor well trained and yes, you should want your sales team well trained. It is amazing that some companies today spend more on photocopier maintenance than they invest in those employees in charge of driving revenue for the company, the very lifeblood of the business!

Both managers and sales representatives alike need to buy into the fact that, regardless of the years of experience in the trade, the learning should never stop. If most of the sales are produced by so few of the sales representatives, obviously there is room for improvement for the rest. Great sales people and sales managers are not born, they are made! They are the result of hard work, passion, motivation to excellence and most importantly, training.

Why Most Sales Training Programs Fail

Many sales representatives and companies who have invested in sales and sales management training have been disappointed with the results. In many cases, after spending tens of thousands of dollars on a training program, there was no positive change in behavior or no measurable improvement in sales results.

The reason for these failures is not because of the size of the investment or the skill level of the participants, it’s because of the methods of the training program itself. As quantified in a study by Dale, the average person forgets 90% of what they hear in a lecture based training program. Yet most sales training courses still consist of only seminars given around a board room table.

When you think about it, lecture based training is like trying to train a professional sports team by inviting a “facilitator” to talk to your athletes about how to play the game and then sending them into competition and expecting them to be successful. Sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? So why then do so many companies believe they can train their sales people by sending them to training programs where they only listen to a lecture for a few hours and expect them to be able to sell when they hit the streets the next day?

How You Should Evaluate Sales Training Programs

To achieve the desired results from sales or sales management training, you must look for programs that take into account how people learn. As summarized from Sullivan et al, there are eight principals required for effective adult learning:

1. The student should be ready to learn.
2. The program should build on what the student already knows or has experienced.
3. Students should be aware of what they need to learn.
4. A variety of training methods and techniques works best.
5. Opportunities to practice skills are essential for skill acquisition and competency.
6. Repetition is necessary to become competent or proficient in a skill.
7. The more realistic the learning situation, the more effective the learning.
8. Feedback should be immediate, positive and nonjudgmental.

The keys to success are ensuring that each participant has the opportunity to actually practice their newly learned skills (as opposed to just being lectured to), and that each new skill introduced builds on a previous one learned. It is also critical that the participants have access to their trainer/coach after the training course is complete for ongoing feedback and support. Unfortunately, most lecture based sales training programs do not provide any of this, and therefore ultimately fail to provide the desired results.

In addition to the need for practical exercises and ongoing coaching support discussed above, other questions to consider when evaluating sales and sales management training programs include:

• Do the techniques and materials being taught actually produce measurable results? Are the training programs guaranteed? Its one thing for a training company to say they have great programs, but it quite another for them to stand behind them with a guarantee.
• Are you learning from a qualified trainer? Anyone can attempt to provide sales training by reading a book and delivering a seminar. To be successful, your trainer should be experienced, knowledgeable, and have a proven track record of success.
• Are the programs customizable for you and your products? You don’t just want to talk about theories about how to sell any product, you want to be able to put those theories into practice so that you start to sell your product.
• Is there a mechanism like testing or accreditation exams in place to ensure that the participants are learning the materials? If you don’t keep score, how do you know you are winning?
• Are the training programs broken into sessions over a period of time or are they a one shot deal? Sales is a process that can be repeated, but no one is going to learn that process in one afternoon.
• Are the programs available in different formats, like self study programs, online interactive webinars, as well as just the traditional onsite programs? You must consider travel time and expenses when evaluating your training options, and today’s e-learning alternatives may be a better fit to your budget.

There is no question that investing in yourself or your team is the right way to go to point you down the road to achieving your sales potential. However, if you want to improve your sales or sales management training results, then you have to change the way you deliver your sales training!

For a free copy of the B2B Sales Connections Training Program Decision Matrix to help you choose a training program that is right for you, send me an email and I will send you a copy immediately. Whatever program you choose, we wish you nothing but success in your future.

Aim Higher!

Susan A. Enns, B2B Sales Connections

Author's Bio: 

Susan A. Enns is managing partner of B2B Sales Connections, the online sales training website with free sales resources, a specialized sales job board and free resume listing services dedicated only to business to business sales professionals. She has a proven track record of success, with over 22 years of direct sales, management and executive level business to business experience. Her accomplishments include being the top sales rep in Canada, managing the top sales branch, and achieving outstanding sales growth in a national channel sales organization. She has written the downloadable e-courses “Action Plan For Sales Success” and “Action Plan For Sales Management Success”, as well as many automated sales tools, and as the B2B Sales Coach, she writes and edits the company’s newsletter, AIM HIGHER. Currently Susan serves on the Leadership Executive of the Sales Professionals of Ottawa as Vice President. For more information, visit www.b2bsalesconnections.com or contact Susan directly at senns@b2bsalesconnections.com, www.twitter.com/SusanEnns, or www.linkedin.com/in/susanenns.