Why most sales training fails

Consider this question; How successful are:

  • Baseball players that strike out 9 out of 10 times?
  • Hockey goalies that let 9 out of 10 shots through?
  • Entrepreneurs looking for funding that failed in 9 out of their last 10 businesses?

Here is something to think about:

9 out of 10 sales training initiatives have
 no lasting impact beyond 120 days…



Sales training can be a disappointment when it just doesn’t go well. It can be a disappointment months later when results don’t materialize. Regardless, sales training strikes out a lot. When it does, it’s usually because of common and predictable reasons.

Sales training has virtually no chance of producing lasting results if business leaders:

  1. Base their objectives and expectations of results on wishful thinking versus strong analysis
  2. Fail to analyze the real learning needs of their team

You need to figure out:

  1. Where your sales team is now regarding the skills, knowledge, and attributes needed to succeed in their particular sales role (Point “A”)Each individual’s improvement potential
  2. In what sales role each individual is most likely to succeed (and where they’re not likely to)*
  3. What it looks like when you’ve succeeded (Point “B”)
What kind of effort and time it’s going to take to get from “A” to “B”


What Happens When You Don’t Assess Needs

This produces sales training initiatives that:
Focus on content that the team doesn’t need Leave out content that the team does need
Fail to deliver content at the right level of sophistication (e.g. too basic or too advanced...getting it just right is left to chance)
Fail to build learning processes rigorous enough to actually develop needed skills and knowledge to the point they transfer to on-the-job behaviors

Why Skills Training is Not Enough?

One of the most important skills in sales is, as many people refer to it, asking great questions. In skills training, this often takes the form of:

  1. Defining what asking great questions means
  2. Giving examples of what it looks like when it’s done right
  3. Walking through the process of asking great questions in specific stages (e.g. prospecting, needs discovery, overcoming objections) of the sales cycle
  4. Allowing participants a little time to craft a handful of great questions
  5. Practicing asking great questions in role plays and case studies
  6. Sharing and discussing all the great questions everyone came up with
  7. Assuming the training is designed and delivered well, this is laudable. But is it enough?


Ask yourself:

  1. Even if your salespeople practiced these skills in a training class, could they ask questions that uncover needs across all products and services your company offers?
  2. Could they appropriately include all of your products and services as solutions to the various needs that prospects might have?
  3. Would they be able to position the company’s value proposition the right way for the different situations they encounter?
  4. Would they consistently get all of this right in the moment during a sales conversation?

As noted in the Harvard Business Review, “Organizations are competing on analytics not just because they can – business today is awash in data crunchers – but also because they should. At a time when firms in many industries offer similar products and use comparable technologies, business processes are among the last remaining points of differentiation. And analytics competitors wring every last drop of value from those processes.”

Employ analytics and you’ll be able to join an elite club: companies that actually succeed with continuous improvement. When everything comes together, you’ll have salespeople that:

  • Can do
  • Will do
  • Know what to do
  • Get it done and keep getting better...


When sales training is deployed properly, you look at it as below:
You need people that:

  1. Can Do – Are Capable – Have the skills – Have Knowledge
  2. Will Do - Have these Attributes – Have these Drivers in place to do
  3. Know What to Do – Have Action Plans – Have Processes and Goals – Have Methods in Place
  4. Get It Done – Are Evaluated regularly - Are Accountable and Continues to Improve


If this sounds easy, think again and look at why only such a low percentage of sales people are really successful. Also look at why such a high percentage of sales raining fails. We are dealing with individuals that mostly form part of an organisation, and are vastly different from each other insofar as needs and skills required, are concerned.

I have seen first hand that there has to be individual intervention and that blanket coaching and training has an impact, but not one that lasts! There has to be continuous evaluation and discussions with each individual. There also has to be a system in place for continued intervention and coaching, as changing mindsets, adding skills and most importantly ensuring that the added skills become a part of the sales persons methodology and armour, take time and effort. Blanket deployment might help for beginners and as added information for salted sales people, but there has to be separation.



When we consider how much training an athlete does, daily, and we now see how much training we do in sales, its no wonder that we get the results we do.

This is a sensitive subject for most coaches and trainers as it takes experience, the correct approach and most importantly, the ability for coaches to examine their approach with their “students” and know when things work and don’t. You need to approach and assess the subject without “EGO” and know when its time to intervene and change….

Need some advise on taking your team to the next level, I can help.