Top TEN #8 – Sales training shelfware

The problem is not learning how to sell, it’s applying what is taught. A lot of sales training is never implemented. Like unused software of yesteryear, it sits on the shelf. 

Because sales happen in so many different ways, there’s a tendency to overcomplicate things. Sales consultants add to this by telling essentially the same story but in a thousand different ways. These stories can help provide sales insights but fall short of putting forward methods that can be integrated into our daily routine. 

I fell into this trap early in my sales career. Training, particularly corporate programs, was fun and a sort of one-week vacation. I did well and picked up a few buzz words, but applying new sales techniques was more difficult. Salespeople and management applauded the training, but the adoption rate was very low. 

Newly trained methods drop from memory in days if not put to the test. And, because these methods are new, errors will be made. When this happens, people tend to fall back on their old habits. Having regular in-house sessions to role-play is a must if we want a return on our sales training investment. More important, though, is to walk before we fly. 

In the simplest of terms, the sales profession is about getting to know people, understanding their needs, and showing how those needs can be addressed by our produce or service. Sales strategies and tactics don’t change this. Attempts to profile personalities, or pinpoint the optimal time of day to call, are distractions. These practices take sales into problematic dimensions and make what’s simple, complex. When this happens, salespeople become preoccupied with tactics and lose track of the fundamentals. 

A 2016 study conducted by Ohio State University and Insidesales (now shows where we’re failing, and it has nothing to do with how we’re selling.

Based on 15,000 leads and 100,000 phone calls made over three years, this study shows that connecting with a prospect is a matter of speed and persistence, not technique.

Of course, there’s much more to selling than making contact with a potential customer. But without that contact, the greatest sales tactics are of no value.

I have worked with many entrepreneurs who say they have no sales skills. Despite this, I’m often amazed by the sales they have made. Their playbook is simple: make contact with people who should have an interest in our product. To their advantage, these entrepreneurs are unaware of the latest sales methods and, therefore, not distracted by them. Out of sheer persistence, and maybe a degree of desperation, many entrepreneurs outperform the majority of salespeople. In fact, according to the Xant study, only 3% of salespeople persisted in making the needed six calls for getting through to a lead.[1] When one is determined to reach somebody, they call and keep calling until they get through. They may not even count the number of calls they’re making, they simply make them. That’s sales in its most basic and effective form. 


[1] The Xant study doesn’t specify a timeframe for making these calls, but based on my experience, I would recommend all are made between 2-6 days and definitely not spread over weeks.

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