LSA Global Insights Newsletter: The 6 Top Reasons Sales Training Fails

February 26, 2017

The 6 Top Reasons Sales Training Fails

a cartoon runner trips over a hurdle

Most sales training initiatives fail to deliver.

At a minimum, the ROI is fuzzy, bolstered by only a few anecdotal stories strategically captured to make everyone FEEL a bit better about making the training investment. 

The critical question...why do most sales training programs fall short and what can we do about it? 

From our experience at implementing hundreds of sales training initiatives over the last two decades, we have put together a list of the top six pitfalls-the most common mistakes organizations make when rolling out a sales training program-and a checklist of how to avoid them.

Pitfall 1 - Focusing on the What vs. the Why
The first hurdle of any change initiative, whether in a one-to-one coaching session or in a classroom, is ensuring there is actually a desire to change and grow. With so much to learn, most programs are designed to jump into the learning without investing the appropriate time to ensure participants understand (1) change is needed and (2) it's in their best interest to change. 

The first step for senior leaders is to "get the troops on board." Consider the following Four P's to ensure participants will embrace the need to change. 

Personal Goals
People change for two simple reasons. First, because they believe it's in their best interest to change and, second, because they believe that change is possible. You need to position any sales training initiative as a resource to help reps reach THEIR personal goals and not a workshop designed to "fix them" for the sole benefit of the company. 

Ensure participants understand the personal payoff for change and that the organization has the will and the means to fully see the change through to completion.

Then address the "why" to change by identifying the principles that support every pillar of the program. There are fundamental laws at work for every effective approach to selling. Whether you are trying to improve response rates to emails or creating receptivity to a presentation, there are principles that, if understood, remove the mystery as to why one approach fails and others succeed. These principles provide a framework to guide hundreds of decisions. If you define and gain agreement to the guiding principles for each core competency to be learned, you ensure that the recommended approach will be embraced.
As you think about the design of your sales program, have the fundamental principles been defined for building the relationship? The sales process? How you engage a new prospect? Discovering needs? Building value or advancing the opportunity? Negotiating and responding to resistance?

Problem-Based Learning
The next step is to describe situations or scenarios in which the desired outcome was not achieved and the principle was ignored (the problem). Buy-in grows as participants roll up their sleeves to address the problem and share their assessments of the recommended approach. The student becomes the teacher and, if the principle is sound and applied to the situation, success is guaranteed. 

Lastly, the person chosen to deliver the program is at least as important as the design itself. Choose a facilitator the participants would want to emulate. When they throw out situations or challenges they face, will the facilitator be able to respond in a way that builds credibility with the audience? Can the facilitator go off script and apply the model to any situation, based on real life experiences? If not, buy-in diminishes and the learning objectives are jeopardized. 

This also holds true for the development of exercises, examples, and training simulations. You need an instructional designer with "street experience" or participants will decide the program was built by a person who never "carried a bag" and the engagement level and chance for behavior change and improved performance plummets.

About LSA Global
Founded in 1995, LSA Global is a leading performance consulting and training firm that helps high growth technology, services, and life-science companies create a competitive advantage by powerfully aligning their culture and talent with their strategy. Learn more about getting aligned