Does your sales team really need training?

By Robert White September, 2014

Search Google for Sales Team Performance and you'll get well over 39 million results. Page after page of companies offering to improve your sales team performance if you'll only spend your training budget with them.

I'm sure they're probably right; training the sales team will improve their performance, won't it?

Well, in their book How to Hire and Develop Your Next Top Performer, Herb Greenberg, Harold Weinstein and Patrick Sweeney explored this subject. They compared the results of hundreds of thousands of sales assessment tests with actual sales performance measurements. Their view?

"55% of the people earning their living in sales should be doing something else"

"Another 20% to 25% have what it takes to sell, but they should be selling something else"

So, is throwing your training budget at training companies really the right way to improve your team? Perhaps not. What's needed is a more focussed view of your training requirements. And to get that, you need to

  1. Clearly understand the capabilities of your existing staff
  2. Target the training you undertake to move your business forward
  3. Track the effectiveness of your training

Skills and Capabilities

It's generally getting tougher to sell things – particularly as products and services become more complex. As complexity grows, you will probably look to combine products and services to create larger and longer term relationships with your customers.

However, as you move to focus more on selling complex deals, or more generally to up-skill your sales teams, it quite often becomes apparent that only a small number of your sales team are actually equipped for the new challenges.

Many of your sales people will be good at selling one or two products at a time – what we call 'simple' deals – and some can string several products together in a single sale – what we call 'multiple' deals. But usually only two or three people can sell the big strategic 'complex' deals.

So,what is needed, is a training programme is to move salespeople up the sales capability ladder from, say, selling Simple deals, through selling Multiple deals to being able to sell Complex deals.

Making Training Effective

To make your training effective, you need to follow three simple steps

First, to help you establish the future skills and capabilities that are going to be needed by your business. This can be a progression from Simple to Complex or it can be any transformation from one state to another – you choose the labels – sales remain the same.

Second, having established the future requirement, you need to assess the current capabilities of your sales teams. The nature of the gap between current and future needs will provide an objective base from which to design an appropriate training programme for individuals and the team.

Please note though, this assessment must work independently of the various sales training methods. It must help you to create a training programme that is highly focused on your specific business needs and tailored to the exact training requirements of each individual within your sales teams.

Third, having created an optimal training programme, you must be able to pre-emptively track the effectiveness of sales training against a range of specific targets. If your sales training isn't working, you want to know before you start losing sales, not as your potential customers are walking out of the door!

The Lucidus Approach

Lucidus have a tool called TrakSkill - Sales that approaches this process.

So, what does TrakSkill - Sales do? Well, a key design aim was to keep all of the inherent complexity behind the scenes to make the operation of TrakSkill –Sales as simple and quick as possible.

How do we approach the problem? We have a simple three step process:

To see how we approached the problem and to get a feel for the tool we developed to solve it, please have a look at the TrakSkill - Sales web page or the the web-cast; it lasts around 9 minutes.

Robert White