There has been much written lately about why sales training is so often ineffective and how to improve its impact on the sales team. Many of these articles can be found on The Customer Collective.
In a recent blog post Dave Stein discusses his email exchange with Tim Sullivan, a director of Sales Performance International, regarding SPI's public sales training seminar offerings. Dave's original question to Tim was how SPI could justify a public training seminar when both Dave and SPI agree that sales training has little impact unless there is an underlying change in the company's business process.
I'm in agreement with Dave and Tim that in order to maximize the impact and value of sales training it must coincide with a fundamental change in the company itself. That, however, is more wishful thinking than reality for the great majority of companies.
My experience as employee, trainer, and consultant is that few companies-especially small and mid-size companies-provide sales training. Most companies provide-or at least try to provide-substantial and effective product training, but little or no sales training. Many companies in fact believe that their product training is sales training.
Some companies do recognize the need for sales training and try to address it in a variety of ways from having their management team act as trainers to making available to their team a library of sales books, CD's, and DVD's to sending their team members to public training seminars. A few-these tend to be the larger companies-try to aggressively address the issue of sales training either through a steady dose of outside training companies or their internal training department. Some do it well, some do it very well, some are just spinning their wheels and spending large sums of money for little return.
Most salespeople are left to fend for themselves; hence the hundreds of thousands of sales books, thousands of sales training sites, personal coaches, and flood of CD's, DVD's, sales forums, article sites, and other training products and services targeted to the individual salesperson. Frankly, most of these resources simply parrot one another, although there are a few that challenge conventional thinking and offer new takes on addressing the increasingly difficult tasks of finding, connecting with and selling today's business and individual consumer.
Worse for the salesperson, the training industry in many ways is more an industry of credibility than effectiveness. Business is often acquired through credibility-that is publishing books, writing articles, giving great presentations, being quoted more than the next person. But having credibility isn't the same as being an effective trainer. One may be a great thought leader in training without having the ability to effectively train. Likewise, one may be a great trainer capable of taking the thought leader's insights and turning them into highly effective and behavior changing training, but not be able to make any original contributions of their own. The former has great credibility and little effectiveness; the latter no credibility but great effectiveness.
The problem for salespeople-and ultimately for trainers-is how to create some semblance of a comprehensive, workable, and effective training regimen out of this vast assortment of possible training options. Salespeople tend to pick up a book, watch a CD, or attend a training seminar based on what they feel they need at the moment. Often it is simply desperation that moves them to seek out and engage training, hoping to address a critical gap in their sales business.
In a fragmented industry where each company or individual trainer is free to seek business where they can find it and how they will (sometimes with less than ethical means and fanciful claims), is there a way for an individual salesperson or a very small company to acquire the objective guidance and direction they need in order to create a comprehensive training program for themselves or their small team?
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