The Right Time For Sales Training
By Dave Kahle
Question: I wanted to do some sales training last year, but it just wasn’t the right time for it. We had too many things on our plate. Looking at our calendar this year, I am coming to the same conclusion. Am I ever going to have time to do sales training? Will it ever be the right time?
Answer: Great question. Probably the number one reason sales managers don’t provide sales training for their teams is “the timing just isn’t right.”
Why is it that some companies, regardless of urgent pressures and the demands of customers, find time to provide regular training and development opportunities for their sales force, while others just can’t make the time?
The answer really does not lie in the ebb and flow of “things to do.” Nor does it lie in the open spaces of the calendar — if only you could find some empty days, you could slot in a sales training event. Rather, the answer lies inside ourselves and our organizations — in our attitudes, our values and our corporate culture.
Let me lay some groundwork with a bit of thinking about effective sales, in general, and then circle around to address the question head on.
1. I think everyone would agree with this statement: Better salespeople sell more than average salespeople.
Better sales performance is not a matter of inheriting the best customer, or falling into a lucky deal. Those things happen occasionally, but year in and year out, the best performing salespeople are those who “sell better” than the rest. They do something, and usually a lot of things, better than their colleagues. As a result, their customers respond more positively to them, and the salespeople post better numbers.
There is a direct relationship between what the salesperson does and how much he sells. Here’s a simple example. One study found that 74 percent of purchasing agents said they would be “much more likely to buy from a salesperson, if that person would just listen.” Doesn’t it follow, then, that those salespeople who listen better sell more than those who don’t? So, if you could help your salespeople listen better, wouldn’t that result in more sales? Of course it would. And listening is just one of a number of sales practices that are essential to better sales performance.
And that’s my point. What a salesperson does directly and measurably impacts how much a salesperson sells. And better salespeople, because they do things better, sell more than average salespeople.
2. Most of my readers would also agree with this statement: Almost every salesperson can become better.
One of the things that I have most enjoyed about my career as a salesperson has been the fact that I have never yet reached my potential. I can always do better. And, frankly, I’m a pretty good salesperson.
I’m not perfect yet, even though I have tried to get there my whole life. Rarely does a day go by that I don’t find myself saying, “I should have done this or that better.” Unfortunately, it is in the nature of sales that one is never as good as he can be.
Put these two paradigms together (1 and 2 above) and you have a pretty good rationalization for immediate and continuous sales training. If better sales practices bring in more money, and every salesperson can become better, then investing in making them better will bring in more money.
How can you afford the luxury of not improving the practices of your sales team?
3. But wait, some of you are saying, sales training doesn’t automatically mean better sales practices.
You’re right. It doesn’t. But it sure outperforms the alternative of not doing anything and expecting everyone will just automatically improve by trial and error. I’m going to make a radical statement here: I believe that there is not an exceptional performer in any endeavor who is entirely self-taught (with the once in a generation exception for the occasional savant). Even Tiger Woods, for example, has a swing coach.
The more sophisticated and challenging the endeavor, the more likely that the exceptional performer has had multitude of coaches, mentors and trainers along the way. Sales is an incredibly sophisticated endeavor, where learning on your own can only take you so far.
Everyone who wants to improve sooner or later puts himself in a situation where he learns from a coach, trainer or mentor — someone who has gone before and has a gift of being able to discern and communicate the intricacies and insights of the field. It takes someone outside of ourselves to help us see and realize our real potential.
The dedicated salesperson, for example, buys all the books, gets the Ezines, listens to the podcasts, goes to the seminars, etc. The sales manager who wants his team to perform well constantly injects them into learning experiences. He brings in the videos, distributes good articles, sends them to the seminars, etc.
4. One more point. Have you ever stopped to calculate the cost of maintaining the status quo?
Today — just this one day — how many opportunities did your salespeople not discover because they haven’t been trained in how to better uncover opportunities? How many opportunities did they miss because they have not been trained to listen well? How many new customers should have been developed this month, but weren’t because your salespeople have never been instructed in how to develop a new customer? How many high-potential customers languish in business-as-usual because your salespeople have never been taught how to penetrate large accounts?
Just play around with those numbers and the conclusion will stagger you. The greatest cost in most companies is one which never makes it on the Profit and Loss statement — the cost of opportunities lost, customers not created, and sales not made due to a sales force performing at far less than its potential.
Now that I’ve laid some groundwork, let me go back and answer the question. Is there ever a good time to do sales training? It depends on your values, your attitude and your culture.
If you believe that your salespeople cannot become any better, then NO, do not make the time for sales training.
If you are perfectly content with the numbers your sales force is producing, then NO, do not make the time for sales training.
If you think everyone will improve on their own, then NO, there will never be a good time for sales training.
If, on the other hand, you believe that just a small change in the behavior of a salesperson can leverage into huge increases in sales and profits, then by all means make the time as soon as possible.
Is there a good time to do sales training? That really is the wrong question. The question you should be asking instead is: How can you justify continuing to bear the costs of a sales team performing at less than optimum? How can you justify the maintenance of the status quo?
Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales educators. He’s written nine books, presented in 47 states and eight countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. His Sales Resource Center houses 455 training programs to help bump every sales person up a level. All delivered over the internet, 24/7, for one low monthly fee.