1. “I don’t have time for selling-skills training.” For sales training, or anything else, “I don’t have time” often translates either as, “I don’t care enough about it” or “I don’t have a clue how to do it.” This is particularly lame and pernicious because for some reason lack of time is a socially acceptable excuse for weaseling out of things that matter. I think respondents voted this the most common excuse because there’s truth in it. Training and developing people does take time. Bottom line: If we perceive something as important, we make time for it, not excuses.
2. “I just do some coaching and mentoring as needed.” No you don’t. In the BizDev calls I listen to, I’ve noticed that the more sales managers are taken aback by the question, “What training are you currently doing?” the more likely they are to give this answer. It suggests that they know they should be doing something, feel bad because they’re doing nothing, and want to give the impression they’re not entirely clueless.
3. “My reps say they don’t have time.” Who cares what they say? You’re their leader and your job is to help them increase their sales, which is what they want more than anything in the world. If they viewed training and development as a means to that end, they’d embrace it. If you believed it, you’d sell them on it. The tail doesn’t wag the dog.
4. “My reps are all experienced and don’t need sales training.” Translation: “I’m scared to death of my sales team.” Tiger Woods is an experienced golfer, but can you imagine him saying, “I don’t need practice and coaching”? Why is it that world-class athletes, musicians, artists and actors all train like crazy to perfect their craft, but only a small percentage of experienced salespeople recognize that what they learned in Sales 101 needs to be continually revisited and reinforced? Part of the reason may be that they work for a sales leader who either doesn’t get it or doesn’t want to rock the boat. It’s easy to teach know-nothing new hires. Giving more experienced salespeople the development they need requires skill, conviction and courage.
5. “Our industry is unique; generic selling-skills training doesn’t work.” Nonsense, of course it does. I’ve heard this comment, by the way, from sales managers in every imaginable industry, though it seems most prevalent in manufacturing. I suspect people who say this spend their entire budget on product training. They live in the 1970s when technical knowledge may have been enough to survive. Today, technical expertise is a given. It’ll get reps in the door. But the sellers who close big deals leave technicians in the dust. They’re life-long learners who practice relentlessly, hone their communication, discovery, negotiating and relationship-building skills, and search under every rock for ideas that will give them an edge.
6. “Higher-ups don’t support selling-skills training.” Translation: “I don’t believe strongly enough in talent development, so I haven’t crafted a persuasive argument in favor of training sales reps.” I addressed this issue in another post, where I made the case that it’s a fool’s game to try and quantify a return on investment for training, even sales training. How would your CEO respond if you said, “Do you want a well-trained salesforce that masters sales fundamentals, deploys selling best practices day in and day out, and makes our company look world-class? Or do you want an untrained salesforce that practices bad habits and makes our company look sloppy and mediocre?” Almost all CEOs would say they want the former, and they’d fund you if they sensed that you believed in your effort and had the expertise to pull it off.
7. “My reps don’t want to learn.” Not many survey respondents said this was a common problem. I recall hearing it a couple of times when I was on a two-year speaking circuit talking to CEOs. My translation at the time was, “My managers are so bad at training that their people don’t even know what effective learning looks like, so how could they possibly see its benefit?”
Some of the comments from the Evangelists who responded to our survey:
“I find all these excuses unconvincing – but the ones that push responsibility for not doing it on to someone else are the worst.”
“I don’t like any of the excuses. I feel we can all learn something from sales training. Most often it is a fundamental we learned years ago and forgot over time.”
“Refocusing on foundational elements of Selling ALWAYS pays dividends.”
“It is important for every Manager to ensure that you have the right talent and that your team is well resourced with skill.”
“Everyone is interested in things that will help them make money. We have product and sales training every week for all salespeople because we believe it is critical to their (and our) success.
“Obviously all reps need training even if it’s just a tune up. If time is not made to train them, inertia will turn to decay.”
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