Category Archives: – Sales Training

Wise Saws and Modern Instances

Quotation Marks

It’s always fun to come across a perceptive comment someone has made which I can quote. Whether attributed to Confucius, Socrates or a more contemporary figure, for me, a wisdom can inspire a blog, a tweet or simply be used to add interest to a training topic.

This week I came across a brilliant one from an unexpected source – in this case from the 20th century. Before I share it with you, let me take the opportunity to tell you about one of my long-held favourites – made by none other than the Queen (although not personally to me).

Many years ago, on one of those ‘fly-on-the-wall-but-not-really’ documentaries about the monarch’s everyday life, the Queen was asked how she manages to carry out such a unique and unusual job so supremely well.

She said her answer was exactly the same as the army officer to whom she had once presented an honour for an act of great bravery. Pinning the medal onto him, she asked a similar question: how did he know what to do? “Well, Ma’am” he replied, “I didn’t really stop to think about it at the time. I just did it. I suppose it’s the training.”

She completed her elegant reply to the interviewer by repeating: “It’s the training.”

But back to my newly discovered quote…

Last week, the death of a 91 year old Japanese war veteran was announced. Hiroo Onoda was the soldier who remained hidden in a Philippines jungle for 29 years, refusing to believe that the Second World War was lost. His story of survival is one of dogged loyalty to his commanding officer, self-discipline and endurance; his later years dedicated to inspiring Japanese children with outdoor activities. Reading his fascinating obituary, I learned that his first job – keeping the accounts for a trading company – came to an abrupt end in 1942 when he was drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army. A capable soldier, he rose to officer rank and enrolled on a gruelling training programme. The army instructor leading it was as tough as the course itself and would repeat this motto to his men:

Better to sweat on the training ground than to bleed on the battleground.



7 Reasons Why Your Sales Team Training is Failing

Trainer at Graph

1.  You’re not spending enough time with each team

Everyone is different and everyone will vary in their experience just as they will vary where they are on the Winning-or-Not-Winning spectrum. Little and often is better (and in the long run more cost-effective) than holding long, intense sessions once in a blue moon. To some extent, frequency will depend on how fast your sales environment is and how often the reps are in the office. If they work remotely, organise a specific time for training or else schedule your sessions for when they are due in.

2.  Performance data is being ignored

It’s almost impossible to successfully develop sales people without some form of statistical information. Whether it’s month-on-month, year-on-year or a comparison of different reps’ performance you need some hard and fast figures in addition to what your instinct sees and hears in the everyday sales mêlées of your department. Peter Drucker – he who first popularised the now commonplace practice of ‘management by objectives’ says in The Practice of Management: “What’s measured, improves.”

If your company doesn’t have a fully integrated CRM system, check on past actuals to understand where performance should be and identify shortfalls. Don’t be afraid to introduce new measures which can be used to incentivise reps as well as to track their progress.

3.  Sessions are never scheduled

If sessions are always spur of the moment, this can leave individuals unsure about planning their day or week. Giving good notice of a forthcoming session will also give you a useful reason for demanding that reps organise their week more effectively since they will be losing some selling time. This will have the benefit of reps becoming more disciplined about managing their time and structuring their sales activity – which can only be positive.

4.  Reps see sessions as repetitive and/or boring

Pre-planning your training sessions means that they will never be repetitive or boring. Work out a programme of topics and allocate dates of when you’ll lead them. Think about using senior or experienced members of the team to conduct other sessions later on. As well as easing the burden on you, this ‘curiosity factor’ will keep sessions motivating.

5.  Sessions are conducted in a one-way manner

The best form of business skills training is participative and involving – the same goes for sales. Build-in some practical exercises, simulations, brainstorming and mind-maps into your sessions to challenge as well as sustain reps’ interest.

6.  Sessions are seen as irrelevant or a waste of time. 

One possible reason for this may be down to individuals’ experience being at variance with each other’s. For example, there may be recent school leavers as well as highly experienced sales people on the same team, meaning that sessions will fail to hit the mark for some.  Another reason could simply be because training never seems connected to the current challenges of the market. Alternatively, training may be used as the scapegoat for negativity rooted in missed targets or a tough market. Draft half a dozen topic headings which you see as top priority, present them and then invite the team to add their suggestions.

7.  Sessions are seen as a negative ‘sign of trouble’

Is the fact that you are spending dedicated time with a team interpreted as a sign of trouble? If this is the case, then the most carefully crafted sessions will fail because negative environments are never conducive to motivation. As openly as you can, present your reasons (it’s fine to say you think everyone should be doing better) and ‘sell’ this as the positive it really is – both for their individual development as well as for the company.

Finally, it’s always worth reminding them that, as sales people, an improvement in their performance is likely to mean improved bonuses!