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Sales Training Fails for a Reason

All pumped up to attend that upcoming sales training workshop? Maybe a little anxious as it's been a while since you took a course. Expecting good things for the coin you are shelling out as the company isn't paying the freight this time around. Perhaps a tad concerned how well you will do, or how tough the content might be to master. Will it be better than the last sales training workshop you attended? Bottom line - will you improve your sales success upon completion? These are common anxieties. You have every reason to wonder about effectiveness. It is not just the financial commitment you or your company is making; it is the time investment as well.

I've always looked at sale training as an opportunity. I'd be surprised if you didn't learn something new, or at worst, a forgotten past learning is dusted off and put back in the arsenal. There is the advantage of benefiting from the knowledge of others in the class; some may be more experienced, or more successful. What makes them so? You no doubt are aware there is a plethora of sales training programs in the market place today. You can attend in person, participate interactively on the web, and work with a CD or workbook.

With so many options out there designed to appeal to your preferred learning style, why do so many sales training programs fail? In most cases, the course content is adequate to very good. I cannot recall ever having a facilitator that was not top notch in presenting the material. The facilities are generally not the culprit. So why do so many sales folks think back on training they have taken and question the return on their investment? In most cases, the shortcoming of the program may not be just the program. Let me explain. Any learning on any topic can only have impact when put into practice immediately after the training has taken place. This is especially true where the learning requires behavioral change. If you don't practice what you have learned, as awkward as it might feel at first, the longer you go, the less value you will receive. For a number of years I taught one of the leading programs on the market, many will know it. It started at Xerox and has moved about since.

The content, structure, and learning methodologies were, and remain, excellent. It was the first sales training program based on extensive empirical research. With literally hundreds of thousands having taken the program, why did they all not turn out as effective as the three in the video? Regrettably, what happens is we get back to the day-to-day sales environment. We know the pressure to produce; the emphasis to close business, with the stark realization, that failure to do so may result in not being paid. We get to our first appointment and forget to properly structure our opening remarks and establish the agenda. The first "concern" comes up and we can identify it as a misunderstanding, but what were those steps on how to respond? If only I could play that video back in my head, or visualize the wall chart at this very moment. The sad reality is that after many sales training programs, there is a lack of reinforcement and coaching necessary to become proficient. The classroom or the video or workbook is just the beginning. We have all heard, "practice makes perfect", well there is a lot of truth to this saying. If there were only one thing you could do to avoid the pitfalls of training this would top of the list.

What can you do to ensure greater sales success and avoid "failing"? You could buddy up with someone who took the same course and practice together to re-enforce the acquired skills. You could set up weekly reviews, or drills, with your Sales Manager or Training Manager to re-visit the material until it becomes second nature? You could commit to a weekly review of one element of the training program you attended. If you are in a corporate environment, you might suggest you have a formal annual refresher program to hone your skills and discover nuances of the program you took. Is it possible to obtain a better return on training programs? Absolutely. Looking beyond the training "event" to the recurring sales coaching and practice sessions is critical to leveraging the initial investment. After the sales training program, the real work begins. Changing techniques, modifying behavior and habits, being open to trying your new learnings, will all contribute to you becoming a more productive and efficient sales professional.


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