A lack of consensus exists as to when the foundation for modern day sales training was established. One date around which a number of practitioners have rallied is October 1936 when Dale Carnegie first published How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Since then Dale Carnegie sold 15 million copies and many people have spent lots of time building the content and methodology of modern day sales training. The good news is the sales training circa 2011 bears little resemblance to the versions of 25 years ago when product pitches ruled the land and closing tricks such as the trial close and the puppy dog close were the sophisticated skills of the period.
But time also provides an opportunity for the creation of misperceptions. Now, in the case of sales training most of the misperceptions are harmless. However, three often heard troublesome misconceptions are:
1. “We just did sales training a couple of years ago so it’s not time to do that again.” The need for sales training is now driven by changes in the market not the elapsed time since the last program. As companies enter new markets, launch new products, deal with global competitors, and cope with ever changing demands within customer organizations, sales people need help to adjust and adapt their skills to the new reality.
Sales training needs to help and it needs to provide that help now rather than later. Possible negative consequences of postponement range from reduced revenue to lost accounts to the departure of top performers.
2. “Which sales training we do doesn’t matter that much. All programs are fundamentally the same. What really counts is what we do after the program.” This misperception persists because it is a half-truth. What you do after the sales training program in terms of reinforcement, like sales coaching, is really important. For that matter, the leadership and communication that occurs before the program also significantly impacts success.
But which sales training program you select does matter. The good news is considerable innovation has occurred in the last ten years so the number of sales training options have increased significantly. Today’s sales training is not the “same old – same old.” Sales training programs differ widely as to sales best practices, level of customization, and learning methodology. You can make a difference but you must know there is a difference.
3. “Given all our budget priorities we thought it best to postpone the sales training until next year.” Given the economic uncertainties of the last couple of years, sales training has frequently been postponed. In some cases real budget issues existed; hence, postponement was a necessity. On the other hand, in many cases the “we will do it later” idea is based on some variation of – “it cost too much”. The “it cost too much” notion qualifies as a misperception because it is one of those compared-to-what propositions.
If you believe that sales training works, and it shouldn’t be considered unless you think it does, then most sales training is a bargain when compared to the increased probability of – closing more business, closing better business, or closer business sooner. This misperception persists because it’s easy to calculate the money saved if you don’t do the training – it’s difficult to calculate the money gained if you do.
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