What most people in corporate training call “training” should probably be called something other than training. Athletes, musicians, dancers, first responders, and elite military units train, because they practice in a way that creates meaningful skills development and progress.
Here are the common elements of how they train:
- The training has a significant and never-ending element of frequent repetition
- They do the same drills over and over as they achieve increasingly high levels of mastery
- After mastery, the drills and practice continue, often with even more intensity
- They train with a coach that knows how to set up and run practice drills
- Practice is measured carefully, analyzed, and reported around practice metrics while game performance metrics are tracked differently
- Practice routines are carefully planned and are seen as the key to performance
Now, let’s look at typical corporate sales “training”:
- Training is typically delivered through special training events, usually over 1-3 days, often associated with awards ceremonies that are, for many participants, more important to them
- New hire training is mostly built around orientation, exposure to corporate culture elements, product knowledge, and a few introductory practice exercises
- Most of the so-called training is really education and exposure to concepts, models, and organizational systems
- Even in training events, when practice occurs, 90% of the practice is peer to peer, with a practice partner that is often unable to practice in a way that is productive or helpful
- A tiny percentage of sales organizations have a clear, ongoing practice system with practice tools
- Very little, if any practice is measured and reported
- Progress is nearly always built around ROI in terms of whether it is moving the big metrics
- A tiny fraction of front-line sales managers know how to run an effective practice session
- Most corporate sales trainers spend the bulk of their time presenting classroom style training events
Our point is, corporate sales training should actually be called “corporate event-driven sales education,” because that’s what most of it truly is.
We have worked with and interviewed thousands of salespeople from hundreds of companies all over the world over the last 25 years. When we ask them how often they go through challenging, effective practice sessions that impact their skills, the answer, 95%+ of the time is “rarely.”
The interesting thing is, the athlete/dancer/musician practice model works fabulously with salespeople but very few sales organizations even try it, let alone commit to it.
Why is this type of effective sales training overlooked or undervalued by sales leaders?
- Serious legacy problems with executives, training teams, and front-line sales managers that don’t know how athlete-centered training really works. They have a lot of sales education background that blinds them from noticing that typical training approaches are not effective when it comes to basic selling skills.
- It is difficult to integrate repetition and ongoing practice into the weekly routine. Practice is hard work that many sales managers become good at avoiding.
- Our education system relies on a learning model that focuses on studying and analyzing information rather than requiring practice and repetition.
How to Take Action on this Research
Salespeople learn very quickly and their verbal skills improve fast if they’re put through the kind of drills-based practice athletes get – analytic, strategy-based training and coaching has minimal impact on their verbal selling skills.
Most companies find it extremely difficult to organize their competitive advantages in a way that salespeople can learn them and use them in sales interactions. This is absolutely an essential first step to raising the level of sales communication coming from the sales team.
The reason salespeople use so many ineffective closed-ended questions is their sales messaging is ineffective and they don’t practice how to connect great questions with their sales messaging.
Salespeople do not get the kind of practice they need to break bad verbal habits and learn to communicate the way top performers do. Most sales managers simply don’t know how to do this.
It’s critical to have an effective, relevant measuring and scoring system to track the progress of practice the same way elite athletes track their progress.
If you don’t do something about these bad habits, 50-70% of the sales team is interacting with decision makers and influencers in a way that is unlikely to generate positive results.
Salespeople respond very quickly to the type of coaching athletes get – strategic and planning-based coaching, which most sales managers are more comfortable with, has virtually no impact on the core selling skills that many salespeople lack.
Questions about athlete centered training for your sales team? Contact us today for a free team evaluation.
Get expert sales knowledge with our FREE newsletter
Sign up for our monthly newsletter to access top sales training techniques.