This Will Make You Stop Traditional Sales Training

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If your sales team is not hitting quota the industry response is that more training is the answer!  If you want to modernise your team to embrace the new habits that are aligned with the changing age and behaviours of buyers, habits cannot be broken, and behaviours built in just one day and not even two or three.

The U.S. companies spend over $70 billion annually on training and 20% more on average on sales at $1,459 per salesperson. When it comes to equipping sales teams with relevant knowledge and skills, the ROI of sales training is disappointing low. Studies indicate that participants in traditional curriculum-based training forget more than 80% of the information taught within 90 days.

You must show not tell and sales reps must experience the transformation for themselves. When you tell someone to change, do they do it? No!

Sales reps must see the benefits of change unless you provide the system and individual support, they will have learnt a lot in training but will not be able to implement any of the disciplines into practice.

The problem with sales training will show you what to do and may even explain why, but sales reps will not know how to interpret it into their process until they work through all the barriers to change in their behaviours and habits.

If you want to change the habits that we all naturally perform to function efficiently, then sales leaders must commit to taking the change process in stages rather than one day and to provide personalised support to help sales reps follow through with the process of adoption and implementation of new tools and new habits.

Changes in behaviour are through mentoring and coaching, roleplay, support in the field and it is creating a culture in which the team support the new behaviours, sharing knowledge and experience that work for the customer types and the product range and the market. Here are 4 Key Areas to Must Master:

  1. The Forgetting Curve

Herman Ebbinghaus a psychologist in the 1880s came up with the concept of the “forgetting curve.” It showed that people would forget 90% of what they learn within 3 to 6 days unless learning was reinforced with multiple repetitions.

Published in 2010 Will Thalheimer argues that the percentage of forgetting is dependent on numerous factors such as learners’ pre-existing knowledge and their motivation level, nevertheless, a high rate of information is forgotten after tradition sales training.

There is pressure on sales leaders to get their sales team fully functioning and time away from the coalface is precious. Hence the standard practice quick fix is sales training. But the evidence is that quick fix is a waste of time and long term investment.  I will not work with a sales team unless there is buy-in from c-suite, this is necessary to champion organisational alignment, sales are not a function it is a corporate strategy that fulfils the business goals (I will talk more about this next week).  Then after the initial blended learning, followed-up with group interaction and one to ones as part of the programme.  My scores are high for group block training; however, I am not happy until the results of the essential follow-up programme have demonstrated the success with revenue results.  $6 million in less than one year is an achievement I am aiming to beat with my next engagement.

  1. Old Habits Die Hard

Dr John Medina, a molecular biologist, in his book, Brain Rules, support this essential follow-up and iteration, Medina says “memory takes an almost ridiculous amount of time to settle into its permanent form.”

Most sales training is going to waste not only because of the lack of memory recall but because of the lack of behavioural change. Traditional sales training does not invest in the reinforcement of behaviours and accountability.  Ideally, the actions or behaviour must become a habit, a regular practice one that is hard to give up.

In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg introduces the memory expert Dr Larry Squire’s simple framework, the Squire’s Habit Loop, first, there is a cue or trigger, then a routine or action, and finally a reward, usually money or recognition.

  1. Behaviour Not Goal Orientated

Sales coaches or mentors help sales reps draw connections between their actions and the goals in a focused action plan. So often I hear sales leader complain that information is not going into the CRM system. While sales reps do not see how they benefit from the time spent updating the CRM and so, not motivated to consistently complete the action when is it meaningless to them. Habit form when there is a compelling and personal reason to act. If the CRM was quick and easy to use and enabled the sales rep to win more deals that they could not do without the up to date CRM and it would be a good return on their time invested. It helps to link the behaviour to the personal goal.


Sales leaders must become proactive in developing personalised support not only at a team level but at an individual level. Even in coaching and mentoring I use a structure that helps the mentee to self-solve their problems and barrier. I developed the 4D Problem Solving Process as an effective system to resolve and remove barriers:

  • Define the problem, issue, causes, symptoms and barriers to help define the goal and connect the desired behaviour with the goal.
  1. Discovery through questioning, listening and analysis, unlike facilitated coaching, mentors can guide and give advice depending on the experience of the sales rep and the problem. Discovery identifies the mentees natural behaviours and helps develop what works for the individual. For example, not every sales rep will be a social seller, but they may be a fantastic closer, so create a sales process that plays to their individual strengths.
  2. Dissolve uncovers solutions and improvements and helps the sales rep develop the right behaviours and habits that will allow them to reach their goals and stated outcomes.
  3. Destiny creates motivation for the next steps and commitment to the results. coaches help sellers understand the current state of their capabilities and their possible New Reality and help build development plans.

4. Struggle to Implement

High-performance selling is the consistent execution of great selling habits. If you want to develop great selling habits, whether in the sales methodology, the customer’s engagement, the value in every interchange, the key account management, or the filling of pipeline opportunities. You will struggle to consistently implement and execute these great selling habits will show in the poor performance and revenue results.

One thing I’ve discovered is if the entire sales team is working productively to create the same habits, it reinforces the positive success habits. The team creates positive feedback loops that reinforce the behaviours of the individual sales rep and the sales team successful selling habits.

For Example, 1: Very few sale people like prospecting, but it is an essential part of the job.  Why not set aside a time each week when everyone in the team prospects together.  I would start the session with a brief discussion of the process each person is going to take and end with a short review of what went well and what they would do next time.  Sharing ideas and working collaboratively; will make a chore into a team effort and create a habit that the team can look forward to. The focus is not on quantity but quality, it is not competitive but collaborative.

For Example, 2: If you have a sales kick-off meeting or training after the initial blended learning, why not break the training down into bitesize trunks that is rolled out the same time of day each week. One Sales rep provides the bitesize iteration and the following week, those that have implemented explain how they did and sharing results. This encourages others to adopt the same habits of success and to go to their colleague for support.  The iteration gives the return on investment of the kick-off or training day. The practices get imbedded in the team by the team.

We all know the things we should be doing but somehow don’t. It’s tough to change individual behaviours and create positive habits.

Scale Your Sales framework enables both blended interactions off and online with built-in reinforcement and mentoring and on-going follow-up. While providing sale leaders and their team with the modern implementation and insights they need to hold salespeople accountable and gain high-performance results.

Helping salespeople change behaviours and form new habits is a process rather than an end game. Buyers are changing behaviour, and the sales process must adapt, it is inevitable that sales reps will backtrack. Hence follow-up is critical for sustained improvement, the more you can engage the team culture in the modernising change process; the more sustainable the positive performance habits will be.

Scale Your Sales provide your team with the motivation, tools, and support necessary to effect real behaviour change, from which higher performance results will flow.

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Scale Your Sales Janice B Gordon

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