Sale Boat Races

You Know You Have a Sales Challenge. Now What?

Let’s suppose you run or support a large sales team, and you’ve got a sales challenge. It could be because of missed top line or perhaps shrinking margins. It could even be the wrong product mix or inaccurate forecasts. Or maybe, growth simply isn’t meeting aggressive expectations. Regardless, you definitely have a problem.

So now what?

You analyze the sales problem to find THE root cause, only to find a plethora of underlying issues:

  • Your people don’t qualify well.

  • They aren’t even attempting to sell the full portfolio.

  • No one puts anything into the pricey CRM until the last possible minute, and even then, only when coerced.

  • Forecast accuracy is really forecast inaccuracy.

  • Tons of time and resources are being invested to pursue opportunities you don’t win.

  • Price pressure is intense, and the sales team is constantly asking for better pricing, eroding margins.

So, you decide you are going to do something about it; you are going to train them!

They’ll be trained on everything from bringing insightful ideas to customers to developing buying criteria. You’ll set some standards for what goes into the CRM and start holding people accountable. And perhaps most importantly, you will emphasize coaching so that your managers play an active role in driving better skill, knowledge, and selling.

Investing in a Solution

And what will all this cost, and what return will you get? Well, the typical sales training event will run a large enterprise customer anywhere from $500 to $1,200 per person just to conduct the event. Want to have live events where people meet in person instead of web conference? You’ll need to add travel at approximately $300 per person per day. So, just getting this thing started for a 500-person team and a two-day event requires an “investment” of somewhere between $550,000 and $900,000.

And don’t forget the logistics of scheduling all this. Chances are, if everything works out right, you can get everyone through the training sometime in the next six months, and hopefully, the CSO and CEO will give you that much time and money.

The Impossible Objective of Sales Training Events

All this would be reasonable, of course, if the training actually worked. However, there is mounting evidence that it won’t. In fact, a cursory Google search of “sales training doesn’t work” returns more than 296M hits. Interestingly, many of the articles are actually written by … wait for it … sales training providers. Your training event MAY provide all the right information about all the skills and knowledge your people need to be successful. However, within 30 days, most will forget most of what they learn, and precious few will use, let alone master, any of it.

This phenomenon is illustrated by the now famous Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve shown here via The reality is most sales training programs have far more information, and more skills to develop, than can be absorbed by participants in the allotted time. The reason for this is simple. Neuroscience has shown us that people must go through a cycle of learning a skill, practicing that skill, applying it, and then evaluating their effectiveness (preferably with a coach) for each new skill and/or iteration of a current skill. Key to this cycle is sleep! At least one sleep cycle is needed for each skill or major iteration to allow the brain to properly process what it has learned. A good sales training program will likely have dozens of new skills for your people to learn, but only a couple days in which to make that happen. It is simply impossible. 

Of course, there is an option to overcome the forgetting curve: Pay the training provider to keep coming back or trickle follow-up training out to your team. This may actually help IF they have everything you need (or will ever need), and your entire team has a single homogenous development path. Unfortunately, neither is true.

However, some people do become proficient with new skills – if they didn’t no one would invest in sales training, but they do. In fact, in a recent webinar with more than 100 participants, more than half had implementing a new sales methodology as a primary sales enablement initiative. Having worked with Western Michigan University’s Evaluation Center to analyze why and how this happens, we know that the difference between high adopters and low adopters has little to do with the training events. The difference is what happens after these events, and therefore the solution isn’t to abandon sales training, it is to reimagine how we do it.

An Alternative Approach

Instead of depending on sales training events, sales skill development needs to happen on the job, one skill at a time, when learning can actually be applied to real selling scenarios. In order to accomplish this, learning must be continuous as a part of the normal sales motions. And, critically, sales managers must transition from feedback to coaching that drives continuous learning and improved execution. Finally, technology must be employed to help promote the adoption of new skills by surfacing key concepts as they relate to real-world opportunities. Meanwhile, online learning content must be accessible to coaches and sellers with as little friction as possible.

Teams that get into a cadence of learning and coaching as an integral part of their regular sales motions are able to realize dramatically better adoption of new skills, corresponding business impact, and program ROI. More importantly, they develop the habit of continuous improvement through regular learning and coaching, making them more adaptable to their environment as markets, solutions, and buyers evolve. They truly develop a sustainable competitive advantage – better learning, better coaching, and better selling.

Want to learn more about how you can embed learning and coaching into your sales motions? Connect with us and we’ll help you determine the best approach for your sales organization.

Axiom provides a unique alternative to traditional sales training. Unlike traditional sales training events, we embed our methodology into your sales cadence, delivering dramatically better sales results. To learn more about our Mindful Selling Methodology, Kinetics Sales Effectiveness Platform, or our unique, guaranteed approach, please visit us at

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