During my sales career, I had the experience of going through many different sales training programs. There were training programs I had to go through as a new hire and then also many recurring and annual training programs.
Based on my experience, I believe there are 5 significant gaps in the training that most companies provide to their sales people.
1. Too Much Fluff
A lot of the that is provided by external training companies and motivational speakers can be classified in the category as “Too Much Fluff” in my opinion. Great stuff, and yes always very motivational, but there are programs and speeches that lack real substance in terms of telling you what to do to be a better sales person.
An example of this is where you might sit through a workshop or presentation where someone is up talking very eloquently about stuff that you can easily find relevant and interesting. Topics that remind how you can do better, why you need to do better, what will happen if you do better.
You feel really good right after the training and look forward to doing better. But when you get back to your desk, you really do not have new knowledge that tells you what you need to do be better.
2. Too Complex
On the other extreme side of that gap is the gap of sales training programs being too complex. This is where the training program has a lot of really great content and substance, but it is almost too much and too complex to actually implement.
The issue with this is that sales people can often be creatures of habit and also sometimes have a little ADD (attention deficit disorder). Not really that they have ADD, but more so that they want to be out selling and do not want to take their attention away from that. With these two factors, a complex methodology is less likely to be fully adopted and embraced by a sales force.
One example that I can think of with this is an external training program that I went through when taking on a new software sales role. The content the sales training company provide was really great stuff, but it was too complex and cumbersome to really adopt and incorporate.
In this program, the company taught you to fill out two different forms (sheets) when prospecting. There was one form that you should fill out for the target area that you are selling to and then the second form is to be filled out for each company that you are trying to sell to.
Each form had some really great thought provoking questions. The answers to the questions would definitely position you better when prospecting. But these forms were such a distraction and time consuming to fill out.
In a perfect world, a sales person would fill out the forms and then sell after that step and they would be the best sales person they can be. In the real world, a sales person will see that as cumbersome task that is getting in the way of selling.
The only time I ever filled out the forms was in the workshop where the training company taught me how to fill them out. I never looked at them again and I am one to geeks out a little more around tools like this, so if I didn’t use them, I am sure that nobody in the class used them much.
The company paid thousands of dollars for me and my peers to attend this sales training program and I am pretty sure we went back to our old ways right after the sales training program.
3. Too Product Focused
This next gap refers more to internal programs than the programs where a third-party comes in to train sales resources and this is that programs can be too focused on the details of the product being sold.
The issue with this is that when you are prospecting and trying to generate leads, you are usually not in a place where it is good to talk too much about the product as you are initially just trying to get your foot in the door and establish a conversation. Not only do you not really have time to get into all of those details that you have been trained on, it is also not real effective to talk primarily about your product at the beginning of the sales cycle.
My career was spent selling technology products and services and just about every company that I worked for was guilty of this. They would put you in a room and go through all of the details on how the software worked and what it did. Really cool stuff quite frankly and this type of training actually motivated as you wanted to go out and sell all of this new technology you have been trained on.
For example, my company would train me on all of the features and functionality of a new executive dashboard software product that was introduced and then they would say to go contact C-level executives to sell the dashboard. But it does not make sense to reach out to an executive and start out by talking about the new dashboard that you now have to offer.
What the training needs to focus on is how the dashboard helps from a business standpoint and once you understand that, you can reach out the executive to have a business conversation and this can lead to you showing them your new dashboard at some point. When you focus your sales training only on product details, you do not teach the sales resource how to do this and give them the knowledge they need for this first step.
4. Does Not Teach You What to Say
I feel that you can just about put most sales training programs in this gap category and that is that they do not teach you what to say and ask when you are prospecting. You leave a training program and go back to your desk and look at your phone and have no new knowledge about what you should say and ask when you pick up the phone to call a prospect.
You may have some new knowledge about your products; you may have new knowledge around a process to take the prospect through once you are engaged; but you really do not know what to say and ask in order to get things going.
A good example of this is going through a sales training program that teaches you how important it is to look for prospect problems instead of talking about your products. Great advice and the correct way to go. But once you leave the training, you might not know how to get a conversation going with a prospect to figure out if they have any problems that exist. You might not know what to say and ask.
The training taught you to find problems. But it did not teach you what to say and ask to find problems.
For each feature or product, there is some sort of value offered. For each area of value offered, there is a problem resolved. For each problem that you can resolve, there is a question that you should ask to identify it the problem exists or is a concern.
5. Too Focused on Dealing with Current Prospects
There are many sales training programs that teach you great processes that include steps and stages to take a prospect through. How to qualify them. How to negotiate. How to close the deal. All good stuff. But the thing missing here is, how to get engaged with the prospect in the first place.
While these methodologies are usually really good stuff and extremely important, they do not really help the sales person in the area where they need help the most which is getting engaged with a new prospect.
It is sort of like teaching someone how to best handle a romantic relationship. Very important but the majority of single people need help with simply meeting new people and getting the date. This is the same for sales people as the main reason that many are not successful is that they have trouble getting engaged with new prospects and generating leads.