Business Training

The Seven Deadly Pitfalls in Designing Sales Training Programs

Different organizations have different focus, mindset, set-up & budgets for sales training depending upon various factors like their industry, turnover, business strategy, outlook/philosophy of senior management, etc. They may or may not have a dedicated training & development department to identify sales training needs & conduct sales training accordingly. Irrespective of this fact, there are certain pitfalls that organizations need to be aware of & avoid, while designing sales training programs. This is very imperative to ensure effectiveness of the training programs & to get the maximum bang for each penny spent on them.

Here are the top seven pitfalls that we feel are critical to watch out for & avoid, while designing sales training.

Pitfall 1: Not having a clear and easily definable application or relevance to the training

Many organizations fall into the trap of looking to conduct sales training based on the current fad in the industry led by some newfound simulation, game, sales process, model or formula. This propensity reflects a herd mentality rather than a training program based on a real business need aimed at achieving a real business & learning objective. Sure, new developments in sales training might be useful, but organizations should judiciously evaluate if they are really relevant for their business & industry and then go for them. After all, the concepts & skills from the training must find application in your business & give your sales people some real firepower to make better deals.

Pitfall 2: Only the frontline sales team needs training

Many organizations are of the belief that the frontline sales teams, who go out into the market & personally interact with prospects/clients, should be the recipient of most and in some cases, all the sales training. Sure, the frontline sales team needs to have a very high degree of selling skills as they personally are in contact with the market and would have a very high level of positive and /or negative impact on the business. Having said that, the importance of continually training the immediate supervisors of the frontline teams and others in sales leadership role cannot be overlooked. As they are ultimately responsible for the performance of the frontline teams, the skills needed for motivating, coaching, leading & driving productivity through teams need to be regularly honed. Also, the people in managerial roles play a big role in ensuring the application of training by the frontline team on day to day basis.

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Pitfall 3: Our sales team is already trained & evolved and therefore doesn’t need a structured training program anymore.

True, your sales teams might have highly experienced sales people, might have undergone sales training in the past, come from reputed institutes and performed satisfactorily so far. All this, unfortunately, cannot guarantee success in the future as well. With the changing dynamics of the business, the fluctuating economic scenarios & ever increasing competition, all the sales people need continual “up-gradation” of knowledge & skills. Also it is often seen that many sales people have very sound technical expertise but lack the selling skills to make the sale. Lastly, research on effective sales people has shown that the performance of a sales person is also due to several external factors which are either unknown to the sales person, or worse, rejected by him or her as not important. Either ways, this spells trouble if undetected as the sales person in question takes undue credit while not letting his or her weakness come to the forefront to get developed.

Pitfall 4: That’s how we did it till now

Many organizations are comfortable following the historical practices for conducting sales training programs like following the same set of training calendar programs year on year, following the same training methodologies, etc. With changing times & business complexity, they need to be flexible & change with time to do what is required currently to best equip their sales teams.

Pitfall 5: Concluding once the workshop is over

Many organizations do not have a clear plan and/or commitment to ensure the sales team is applying the learning post a well-structured workshop. The real business impact from a sales training comes from its application more than the workshop itself.

Pitfall 6: Only thing that matters is how the trainer is delivering during the workshop.

No doubt about the importance of the quality of the trainer & his or her way of facilitating a workshop. But it is also very critical to ensure that a thorough pre-workshop diagnostics & customization is done by the trainer to understand the ultimate business objective to be achieved from the training, the dynamics of the company & the sales team, etc to ensure effective delivery of the workshop.

Pitfall 7: Cramming too many modules or topics to be addressed in a single workshop

Organizations should resist the temptation of cramming too many topics to be covered in a workshop as it can have serious implications on the quality of learning by the sales person. “Lets add Negotiations Skills as well” can be extremely detrimental and counterproductive if the two day program’s key objective is to develop better listening and probing skills among sales people. A good way to ensure this pitfall is avoided is to look at your sales process and identify all the challenges across the sales process, which occur to make a successful sale. Thereafter, prioritize them in terms of the following categories to conclude on what can wait or be deferred for later development:

Applicability – the number of sales people with this challenge

Degree of Acceptance – how many people believe in the criticality of the challenge?

Business impact – What happens if this challenge is not overcome?

Ripple Effect – How early in the sales process does this challenge occur and does it impact give rise to any other challenge

Developing your sales force on a regular basis can have a substantial positive impact on company performance provided it is properly designed and the above pitfalls are avoided.

Have you come across any other pitfall that has limited the success of a sales training initiative? We would love to hear your perspectives and how you overcame those pitfalls.

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