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Why does sales training fail?

Thursday, August 9th, 2018

Sales Training

In short it is about motivation, not ability. I’m going to make this really personal. My first ‘real’ job was a sales role. I was attracted to a career in sales at the time because my house mate who had graduated a year before me had embarked upon his own sales career and was enjoying all the trappings of success; a flash company car, full Sky Sports package and no concerns when it came to paying for our regular Sunday evening Domino’s pizza.

After a robust selection process culminating in an indepth interview and a range of psychometric tests I was delighted to be offered the job. Whilst it was an entry level role, the organisation seemed very enlightened (certainly compared to my summer jobs working the checkout of various supermarkets) and sent me on a 6-week training course to immerse me in their products before I was even allowed to speak to their customers. Happily for me, when I was ready to engage with clients they were generally happy to talk to me (I was fortunate to work for the market leader in a sector where there was very little proactive selling at the time). So my job should have been easy- I was well-trained in the company’s product range and I had clients who were happy to speak to me. And yet, despite modest targets I struggled.

Why?

I like to think I am an intelligent person, able to hold a conversation. I was able to explain features and benefits and people always sounded interested when we spoke.

In hindsight I now know that in that particular role (at that particular time) I was lacking what I have now. Not my ability to follow the sales process as taught to me during my induction, but my own Personal Drive.

Quite simply my motivation to undertake the actions required to make a sale was low. If marketing needed a volunteer, or the database needed cleansing or a colleague was struggling I’d be the first to help. Anything that would take me away from the monotony of sales calls.

Underpinning this was a lack of self-belief. I was a naïve 22-year old, fresh out of university talking to experienced managers and directors. I realized that I knew nothing about their function, their business, their industry and the issues they were facing. Every unanswered call, every curt response, every time a sale didn’t come through, my self-belief faltered and my motivation dropped further.

Finally, and less obvious to me at the time was my lack of clarity about my own goals. I had no idea of why I was doing the job and how it might benefit me in the longer term. Goal-setting is shown to increase motivation and persistence, making individuals less susceptible to the undermining effects of setbacks and disappointments. Without it I was not able to look to the long-term benefits in order to overcome the short-term issues or challenges I encountered.

In order to be effective, a salesperson must have a combination of good levels of each of motivation, goal clarity and commitment (or self-belief). In other words, a salesperson must want to perform well and have sufficient focus on their goals in order to be able to direct their energy towards activities that will enhance their sales performance. I hate to say it but they should never have hired me!

When the sales team is lacking in Personal Drive, that is the reason that sales training fails.

The Acuity® for Strategic Sales model comprises 3 distinct dimensions of which Personal Drive is one. Underpinning the 3 dimensions are 9  sales capabilities that research indicates will drive success in a complex sales environment. Acuity® for Strategic Sales can be used to assess salespeople for recruitment or training purposes.