Guest Blogger: Phil Johnson on Why Sales Training Still Doesn’t Work

Bored Man

Phil Johnson is President of Revenue Revelation – a friend of mine and friend of the firm – The Complex Sale, Inc.  Revenue Revelation specializes in helping organization get the most out of their sales training and are experts on sales adoption / reinforcement.

PhilIf you read Scott’s first installment on this subject, you were probably not surprised by anything he said.  However, when confronted with the realities he cited, you may have gotten one of those “Ah Hah!” moments. More likely it was “DUH! Tell me something I don’t know.” Either way, he points out a problem that has been around for at least the 30 years I have been selling.  I’d like to address the same issue from a slightly different point of view.

It has been said that “People buy from people – people they like and people they trust.”  And to a large extent, I agree with that statement.  I would add that “people buy from people who help them achieve their personal and professional agendas.”  If there are more than one solution, the like and trust factors come into play, but when I am buying something, the main thing is that I spend my time and money on solving whatever issue I have determined to be important and expedient.  It gets very personal when I want it fixed.

Now, back to “Why sales training doesn’t work.”  When was the last time you heard a sales person say something like:

  • “I’m confused by what it takes to sell a solution rather than a product.”
  • “I really need a common vernacular.”
  • “Executives are a mystery to me.  I don’t know what to say to them.”
  • “On a day to day basis, I just don’t have a process to keep the deal moving forward.”

Or when was the last time you heard a sales manager say:

  • “I’m really inconsistent in the way that I manage my people.”
  • “I really don’t add that much value when I am coaching deals.”
  • “When we don’t win enough business – on time – it is mainly because I am not able to leverage my knowledge and apply my experience through clear investigative techniques.  In other words, it is just easier for me to take over the deal than it is for me to use it as a learning experience for my rep.”

Sales training fails at the most common denominator of selling.  It is not designed to solve the stated problem of the participants.  It is not specifically designed to solve personal problems.  The VP’s agenda gets met when the participants show up.  But the sales rep participants rarely confess that they have a problem at all, to do so is a kind of political suicide.  And the first line managers have rarely had enough exposure to the skill sets of leadership to see that they are anything more than “uber sales reps.” Especially now, when the dictate is to just get revenue in the door before the next round of layoffs.

Bottom line: Until the needs are fully defined, clearly articulated, and a desire to solve them is personally expressed by the participants, sales training will never have the impact – over time – that it should have.

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