Does that sound a little harsh? In my opinion, hundreds of millions of dollars world-wide are wasted every year on irrelevant, unnecessary or inappropriate sales skills development, and there are four obvious reasons.
To begin with, the one-off program may supply a short term motivational buzz and provide the delegate with a number of thought provoking ideas. However in reality, once they are back at the "front-line", the day to day pressures of hitting quotas etc. take over again and the reactive mindset returns.
Secondly, too many courses on offer today deliver what I term "generalized" skills development.
For example, a person operating within the aerospace sector negotiating multi-million pound contracts can find himself sitting next to a young salesperson who markets insurance policies and is based in a call centre. On his/her right is another person who is developing a successful career in manufacturing, selling hydraulic components and next to him.....I think you will appreciate my point.
To achieve sustained success in all of these disparate industries requires specific skills sets - the "generalized" workshops simply cannot deliver them.
Thirdly, I would estimate at least 80% of training organizations today make the assumption that all delegates are at the same level in terms of experience, expertise and have the same "commercial bandwidth" - this is of course totally unrealistic.
Whilst it is not possible to equate age and experience with success, the reality is that although some professional salespeople do have ten years experience, most have one year's experience ten times!
The very best salespeople - the ones that consistently exceed expectation, have usually received ongoing skills development from the "emerging" stage all the way through "advanced", right up to "consultative/collaborative level" if appropriate, but the keyword is "ongoing."
Finally, and this is the most significant and blatant error of judgment most Sales Directors make, every member of the team receives the same training - i.e. they are all dispatched off to the same course, regardless of whether or not they already have those skills or if indeed they need to have them in their current role.
The point here is that there is far too little planning, assessing, and objective setting. It is much easier to abdicate responsibility to the training company. The downside to this approach is of course, so much money is wasted. So what is the answer?
The first step for any company deciding to make a change in their sales approach is always an assessment of the situation. What processes and methods are currently being employed by the company? What has their sales performance been? What percentage of sales people are delivering against plan? What are the biggest obstacles to success? How dynamic or stable is the company's environment? What are the practices and expectations of the buyers? These are only a few considerations.
Training must be based on what the salespeople need and should be tailored to address diagnosed performance gaps. Using a diagnostic approach - a formal sales team skills audit saves an organisation money and time, because there is nothing to be gained from teaching people something that they are already doing well or, conversely, that they don't need to do in the first place.
A well-targeted program is far more likely to engage the participants' full interest, because they'll see its immediate relevance to their daily results.
Any training program will be more effective when the skills that participants learn are reinforced on a regular and continual basis. For maximum impact, every level of management must reinforce training. Such reinforcement can come in many forms, but the best way is for the sales manager to serve as a "model of excellence" who provides an ongoing demonstration of required skills so salespeople begin to live and breathe them.