The Key to Why Sales Training Fails

JonathanFarrington
Jonathan Farrington Chairman, The JF Corporation

Posted on August 17th 2014

The Key to Why Sales Training Fails

If the objective of a training program is for people to apply that learning in the workplace and make an observable difference to an organization’s results, then almost all corporate training fails to achieve its objective.

In a fairly recent study, the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) reported that only 3% of training reached Kirkpatrick’s “level 4 of training evaluation results” where there is an impact on the organization. In contrast, 95% of training reached “level 1” where the participants liked the training.

A further breakdown of the study revealed that 37% of training reached “level 2” where participants learnt the material and only 13% of training reached “level 3” where participants applied the learning in the workplace.

There are several failures, which lead to this huge waste of training dollars …..

When training is not related to the organization’s objectives, strategies and management’s day-to-day behaviour, training is ineffective in delivering the desired results. Generic “off the shelf”training which has not been designed for a specific purpose with people from a known organization in mind, may increase an individual’s knowledge, but it does not increase their ability to apply the knowledge. Even if training is devised specifically for an organization, it will still be ineffective when it does not relate to the day-to-day life at the coal face of managers, supervisors and shop floor personnel.

Understanding the coal face before commencing training is the most significant preparation a trainer can achieve.

An organization spending considerable money on training should insist on the training company having that understanding. The first utterance by the trainer which results in a response from their audience, “That does not happen here” is the moment that the trainer begins to lose the trust of the audience.

When trust is lost, so is value and significant parts of the audience stop listening and participating. The worst part of it is that, most times, the response is silent and the trainer may well continue unawares.

A further cause of wasted training dollars is the use of methods, which are not designed to achieve the change in behaviour, skills or knowledge that is desired.

For example, lecture style methods used to change behaviour are inappropriate as they are best used to transfer only knowledge.

To change behaviour, the training needs to be of an experiential type and must be supported after the training is completed by coaching and a structure of formal and informal rewards. If the method used to train is useful for achieving the required change theoretically, it is still at times inappropriate for the audience.

For example, role-plays are effective for improving skills as they allow participants to practice what they have learnt. However, if the participants are unlikely to be comfortable with role-plays, then the method is still unlikely to be effective.

The most significant waste of training dollars however, rests with the lack of thought in determining what training is needed. Training is seen as a classroom exercise rather than a combination of learning interventions, which in combination results in developing the change in behaviour, skills and knowledge required. The failure of mangers and supervisors to determine what needs to change and developing an intervention framework to achieve the change is common. The failure of trainers to insist on finding out before completing their instructional design is more common.

Behavioral change needs personal coaching of the individual and support by a strong framework of goal setting and two-way feedback, if not 360 degree feedback. Skills development needs coaching of a different kind, one where the emphasis is on demonstration and practice. The practice needs to be in an environment where mistakes can be made and learnt from.

Knowledge can be learnt from books, lectures and interactive CDs to name a few. However, knowledge needs to be used in context to breed confidence. Therefore, training in knowledge must be quickly followed by the individual being placed in an environment where it is used.

The fact that training fails so often because of a lack of clearly understanding the changes we want to develop and developing a broader training intervention beyond the classroom is not good. Combine it with the habit of many individuals to treat training as a CV builder, absorbing little but the most basic understanding of what was being taught and a recipe for systemic low productivity is created as the blind lead the blind.

Trained individuals using the most basic of understanding learnt in a classroom to make decisions, implement projects and manage their people have a false sense of competence, which impacts far beyond the classroom.

It is the responsibility of managers, supervisors and most importantly, the trainers, to make sure that training does not fail.

Failure costs far too much, and not all of those costs are instantly visible.

Photo Credit: Sales Training/shutterstock

JonathanFarrington

Jonathan Farrington

Chairman, The JF Corporation

Jonathan Farrington is a globally recognized business coach, mentor, author, consultant, and sales strategist, who has guided hundreds of companies and thousands of individuals around the world towards optimum performance levels. He is the CEO of Top Sales Associates, Chairman of The jf Corporation and the creator of Top Sales World. Jonathan is based in London and Paris.

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