Training is not a panacea for improving sales performance. Yet it is the almost automatic choice of sales managers when it comes to fixing a sales issue. Why? It is an easy option; in the greater scheme of things it is not expensive but is it effective? Well that depends on how it is managed. Here are a few quotations to set you thinking.

“87% of sales training is lost within thirty days” according to Neil Rackham the creator of SPIN Selling and the Professor of B2B sales. Xerox also support this view.

“Up to 85% of sales training fails to deliver a positive Return on Investment” HR Chally, and

“Up to 80% of new skills are lost within 1 week of training if not used” – ASTD

Sales training doesn’t sound like a compelling way to improve sales performance to me. The issue is that sales training, or any training for that matter is the start of a learning journey, not a journey in its own right. This is why more and more larger companies are establishing their own sales enablement teams, to make training what it should be, which is a continuous process. Think about something like learning to drive. Few people would consider taking their test after one lesson. A course of lessons on the same subject makes it stick, and delivers a positive Return on Investment.

If we take a broader view, a recent survey from CSO Insights identifies that that sales target achievement, on a global basis for professional sales people, suffered its fifth successive year of decline.
Here is a summary statement from their report

“Stand still and you move backward. Improving or even maintaining performance means countervailing (Offsetting the impact of…. Ed.) the forces of change: more informed and demanding buyers, economic and political uncertainty, new disruptive technologies and more”. They liken it to running up the down escalator, which is a good analogy. They also identify the following relationship factors of top performing sales organisations

They were perceived by their customers as being:

– Trusted partners
– Strategic contributors
– Solution consultants
– Preferred suppliers

These are not attributes that you pick up from a two day off the shelf training course. These particular skills and characteristics are more often seen in partners of professional services companies. This is another reason why larger organisations are developing their sales enablement capabilities.

However, many of our readers do not have hundreds of sales people and cannot afford the cost or luxury of a sales enablement facility. Some of you don’t have any sales people at all. So why is this relevant to you?
Firstly, all those people charged with selling should have access to sustainable sales skills training that is available at a reasonable price, that delivers a positive return on investment.

Second, those companies that can develop their customer relationships so that they are perceived as a trusted partner, solution consultant etc. will have significant competitive advantage over those who don’t.
And, finally at the heart of any growth strategy is a well-tuned sales capability. These requirements cannot be met through training alone. Rather it is a blend of training, coaching and personal development.

In next month’s SalesPulse we will demonstrate how the small to medium enterprise can get large company sales enablement and associated benefits cost effectively.