• Mike Poledna

3 Strategies To Make Sure Your Sales Training Will Actually Stick

Updated: Jan 13

Though the average cost of sales training per employee varies, businesses typically spend $2,236 annually on it. It's important to note that spending varies by company size and industry, but companies devote $15 billion each year to training sales reps.

So why do so many sales training initiatives fail?

It's because the average approach to sales training is all wrong. Now that said, training is needed, just not for all companies and not for all sales reps. So how can you make it work for your business?

If you follow these strategies, as outlined in this post, you can greatly increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your sales training long term.

From this blog post, you’ll learn:

• How to identify whether your team needs coaching, or training

• Understand what it is that individual salespeople require

• What impact do your sales managers have on training outcomes

• The one rule to make sales training work

Strategy One

Assess the capabilities of your team – they may need coaching, not training.

Most sales training is average at best and ineffective at worst. Luckily, there are several things you can do to make sure that your training programs stick long term.

At least not in isolation. Some training programs can be successful when they form part of a larger strategy. However, expecting training alone to make your team think and sell differently will only disappoint you. What’s the key to successfully upskilling them? Assessing the capabilities of your entire sales organization, from sales reps to the sales leader. In other words, you need to ask some tough questions and put all of your sales growth processes under the microscope. The goal is to identify your strengths and weaknesses to decide better what areas really need improvement.

If you want to improve your sales performance, then you need to be prepared to identify what is currently slowing your team down––even though this means being honest about embarrassing truths.

30% of people are not trainable in the skills required for sales. If you evaluate your staff, some people might reveal themselves as unable to quickly and easily learn necessary skills from coaching or training courses.

Evaluating your team is not easy but can be extremely rewarding. Conducting an evaluation forces you to assess the effectiveness of strategies, enabling you to make better strategic decisions moving forward. It requires dealing with your weaknesses (e.g., letting some reps go) and transforming them into strengths (e.g., hiring sales rockstars) if needed, which is worth it in the long run.

Once you have evaluated your team and determined whether individual salespeople require coaching or training, training can be effective. Working with a training provider may seem daunting, but it can help your business grow. Look for a company that will evaluate and report on your current skill set, develop an appropriate strategy from the findings, and provide long-term measurement and reporting services.

Even though conducting an evaluation may seem daunting and time-consuming, it is a great opportunity to let go of past mistakes and confidently go forward. Think of the evaluation as a chance to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. You won’t regret doing so because once you see your sales numbers increase, you will be glad that you did.

Strategy Two

Understand your sales reps' needs at the individual level

It’s common practice for all teams to be offered the same professional development opportunities. After all, you can’t send one team member on a course and not another…or can you?

Although well-intentioned, sometimes providing equal opportunities for all your staff can have a negative outcome. You may end up spending unnecessary money investing in training programs that quite simply don’t work for your entire team. Everyone is different and therefore has different sales training needs. Before you invest in team-wide training, it’s important to answer whether or not everyone needs training or just a few members of the team do. The reality is, some of your reps will have more capacity than others.

Typically top-performers want to improve and are happy to take feedback as a way of getting better. Others might be struggling a bit with their targets and could use additional support. A small percentage of your sales reps might have even hit their ceiling regarding growth and development in the sales profession.

Before investing time or money in sales training, ask yourself whether the team needs coaching - not training. It's better to know ahead of time before wasting time, money, and resources.

An assessment has to be the first step. To achieve the best results, you need first to achieve absolute clarity about your present situation. You can then tailor your training efforts around the assessment results.

Conducting an assessment can help you to:

• Avoid generic training

• Identify strengths and weaknesses

• Set measurable outcomes as a result of training

• Ensure you have the reps on the team and, therefore, in the room for training

• Define what success will look like for you

When armed with this information, you'll be able to make better decisions moving forward and ensure each team member receives the training opportunities they require.

The importance of pre-training evaluations is documented in several industry reports from leading experts such as Objective Management Group, Professor Neil Rackham, and the Gartner (formerly Sales Executive Council).

Our proven process requires conducting an assessment first based on data from a million salespeople and global organizations. You need to know what you're working with before you can find solutions. Next time you demand that everyone on your team needs training, be sure to go back to the drawing board and conduct an assessment of your people and processes.

Strategy Three

Don't forget your sales managers – they are the most important ones to train


Sales performance starts with management. This can seem like a difficult truth to swallow- especially when you see how hard your sales managers work. There’s a difference between hard work and effective sales leadership. Sometimes the most dedicated managers require additional training. The challenge lies in providing them with development opportunities without dampening their confidence.

According to Gallup's research, the majority of managers are ineffective. In fact, their research shows that approximately 82% fall into the ineffective category. That’s a big number and points to a widespread problem. Would you like your managers to be part of the 82% or the 18%?

Encouraging your managers to pursue further training can be difficult, but the sales team must reach its full potential. Before you have that conversation with your managers, it pays to evaluate your own sales performance and the team's overall effectiveness. This is best achieved by working with an external provider who can ask the right questions and provide you with a framework to guide this evaluation process.

Once you have done this, you’ll now know where your managers could be going wrong. It’s much better to approach them with a specific request for improvement than to reach out and say, “Hey, something isn’t working, but I don’t know what."

When it is time to have the conversation, avoid making it personal. Talk about where your sales team is falling short and present a solution to move forward as per the evaluation. Demonstrate how continued training will add to their work satisfaction and lead them towards the desired results they are trying to obtain independently. Investment in training for themselves and the company should not be seen as something to fear but rather something that can add tremendous value personally and professionally.

To optimize your business, undertake a team-wide assessment to understand where the gaps are. You can identify solutions to your sales training problems by finding concrete examples. It’s difficult to solve a problem without understanding where the issue starts, but once you find its root cause, you will fix it efficiently and with minimum stress for your team.

To learn more about structuring a productive sales interview, get a copy of our ebook, 3 Essential Resources for Interviewing Sales Candidates. You’ll get an outline for the perfect interview, a list of questions to ask (and ones to avoid), and a candidate evaluation form to ensure you and your team have a unified scoring method for candidates.

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