Father Guido Sarducci on Sales Training

Father Guido Sarducci

The Legacy of Father Guido Sarducci

Yesterday, I spent hours perusing the richest cache of entertaining time-wasters ever gathered  – YouTube. What began as a search for a political speech devolved into a meandering sojourn through my past. I found myself reviewing snippets from sitcoms, sports moments, concerts, and comedy routines. Rainy Saturdays will never be the same. I came across my favorite SNL character, Father Guido Sarducci, while watching vintage Saturday Night Live clips.

The Cleric of Comedy always makes me laugh. But one of his routines got me thinking. The skit was “The Five Minute University”. In the segment, the good Father states that he is going to open a school. After just five minutes in this university, you learn what the average college graduate gains in four years.

For example, in Spanish class, you learn, “Como esta usted?”  The answer to which is, “Muy bien.”  “This is enough,” says Sarducci. Because, if you take college Spanish, five years later, that’s all you’ll remember anyway. In Economics, you learn supply and demand.  Accounting teaches one thing. Assets equal liabilities.

The Comedy + Sales Connection

Hilarious stuff, no doubt. But like most good routines, it’s funny because it resembles reality. We attend college in order to gain a competitive advantage in the job market. A job interview is not a good place to come in second. Neither is selling. Sales is a winner take all competition. And as such, salespeople are among the most frequently trained individuals in the business world. However, studies show that far too often, sales training doesn’t drive improved performance or results.

An ATD study states that salespeople lose 80% of new skills within one week if not used. What’s more, an HR Chally study found that 85% of sales training fails to measurably improve results. In addition, Xerox’s research concluded that 87% of new skills are lost within one month. It turns out Father Sarducci was on the right track.

Sales training isn’t an event. But statistics are what they are because that’s the way most companies treat it. The best-selling methodology, trainer, and classroom presentation won’t move the needle if that’s all you do.

Making Learning Available

In order to actually drive lasting behavioral change and produce sustainable results, learning must be readily available. Furthermore, these need to be within the context of business processes and tools used every day by sellers. Managers and salespeople engage in metrics reviews, account planning, joint sales calls, sales meetings, etc. Learning that is typically presented via a three-day class must be inherent in all of these activities. Additionally, a step-by-step, guided process by which managers coach must be included.

step by step - father guido sarducci

With that said, I’m not recommending the Five Minute University approach. Imagine if a seller spends five minutes prior to a customer meeting reviewing a key skill while working in a tool he uses every day. Managers then get specific coaching recommendations by spending five minutes reviewing an opportunity with a seller. That’s better than Father Sarducci’s Business class. “Buy something, then sell it for more.”

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