Is Sales Training a Scam?

We’ve all seen the statistics – 87% of new skills are lost within a month of the sales training class (Xerox). 85% of sales training fails to deliver a positive ROI (HR Challey Group). Not only can you find many more examples of how sales training is failing salespeople, but you can also find hundreds of articles about how to fix sales training – including several written by us.

But that’s not the point of this article. The point here isn’t to pile on with the group of people pronouncing the demise of sales training (though I did exactly that in jest a couple years back at this Sales Management Association event). In fact, this article will argue the exact opposite – that sales training events are essential, provided they achieve a singular but critical objective.

Training isn’t an Event

We’ve argued multiple times in a variety of posts that effective sales training isn’t an event. The fact that we think of sales training as an event says something about how the term has been co-opted over the past several decades. After all, if I told you I am training for a triathlon, would you actually think I was going to attend a three-day class and then I’d be done? Of course not, and we shouldn’t think that about sales training either.  

That’s because training isn’t achieved when we are introduced to new information or skill, it’s achieved when we can do something different or perhaps better than we did before. Training is generally an ongoing process of learning and improving our ability to perform. Yet, if we tell someone we are taking sales training, a two or three-day event is precisely what will come to mind because for decades now that’s been the model for sales training programs. Sure, there would often be follow up activities, refresh sessions, or other reinforcement. But the training itself was primarily the event.

Sales Training Events aren’t too Short, They are too Long

So, now you may be thinking based on the comments above that we’d argue that sales training events are too short. After all, when the sales profession was originally brought in-house by companies like Xerox and IBM, sales training programs lasted a full year. Only through decades of budget cuts and operational pressures did companies shorten training classes to a few weeks or even a few days.

However, that’s not the point we are making. In fact, we’d argue the exact opposite – most sales training classes are not too short, they are far too long! And the reason they are too long is actually quite simple, they have the wrong objectives.

Good training programs are naturally built around learning objectives. Learning objectives are stated in terms of things people will know, or even better, things they will be able to do as a result of the training. The problem with most sales training events is that the learning objectives are far too ambitious for the content and time available. Good sales methodologies often include a dozen or more new skills that are then introduced in training sessions lasting only a couple days. Unfortunately, we now know from neuroscience that acquiring a new skill actually requires a complete learn, practice, apply, evaluate (LPAE) cycle and that each new cycle requires sleep for the mind to fully process the learning. Therefore, it is physically impossible for participants to become proficient with a dozen or more new skills in a couple days, it simply cannot be done.

However, rather than arguing for longer training events, we propose they actually be even shorter. Yep, shorter! After all, why would a sales training company need to keep people in class for several days if no one is going to get good anyway?

Unfortunately, the answer to that question will likely make some readers uncomfortable. The simple truth is that sales training buyers have been conditioned to pay more money for more content and longer classes. Therefore, if a training company wants to charge you $1,200 per person, they really need to cover lots of information and keep your people in class for at least a couple days in order to justify that expense. While it may not work well for the participants, it often works well for the companies that provide the training.

A Radical Approach

So how long should a sales training event be? Before we answer that question, let’s go back to the objective for the event. We’ve already established that people cannot get proficient with skills in such a short time, so what is the purpose of the event? In a word, OWNERSHIP. That’s because sales training that works will facilitate the ongoing improvement of one’s skill and knowledge such that they engage with buyers more effectively. That makes training a change initiative, and we all know that in order for people to change, they must believe that doing so is in their personal best interest. So, the natural objective for an event at the beginning of training program (change initiative) is to provide people with enough information to decide IF they are committed to learning and applying the new skills.  

And how long does it take to provide people with enough information to make that decision? Much less time than you’d think. In fact, it is possible to provide participants with enough information to evaluate even the most comprehensive sales models in just a few hours. Assuming they agree that developing proficiency with the new skills will benefit them, their buyers, and their company, they can then begin a regular cadence of LPAE learning cycles that will help them become progressively more proficient with each element of the program.

But What About the Money

Of course, spending a few hours with your team instead of a few days makes it hard to justify the crazy up front “licensing fees” charged by some sales training providers. After all, how much would you be willing to pay for the privilege of being introduced to their methodology or intellectual property but not get good at it? Probably not very much. Unfortunately, the length of many sales training events today is masking the fact that companies are actually paying very high fees for just this privilege … and in some cases much more down the road for reinforcement or refresh training programs.

Time to Make a Change?

So sales training, when done properly definitely isn’t a scam. However, expensive multi-day events may well be. If you want to avoid paying crazy fees and pulling your people out of the field for days only to find they are unable to apply what they supposedly learned, we can help. At Axiom, we help sales teams achieve amazing results, with less stress by transforming how sellers engage with buyers. Our training events launch the program, last only a couple hours and are 100% guaranteed. If your people don’t agree that selling the Axiom way will produce better results for them, their buyers, and your company, you pay nothing.

When they do agree, we leverage that enthusiasm to implement an ongoing program that embeds continuous learning and improvement into your existing sales cadence. With Axiom, you don’t pay to see our methodology, you pay to get good at it. If you’d like to learn more about Selling the Axiom Way, click here to download an overview. Want to talk about your situation to figure out if Axiom is right for you, click here to schedule an introductory conversationwhere you’ll get help, not hype. We are dedicated to elevating the sales profession and are anxious to help you in any way we can. 

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