I’ve been writing a lot about our Sales Execution Framework and a “Back To Basics” approach to sales management and selling. These articles have generated some interesting calls and reactions.
A lot of the discussion has been around sales training programs, new approaches, or new tools that companies have implemented–or tried to implement.
I had a tough conversation with the EVP of Sales of a mid sized company. He was angry and declared he would never invest in sales training again. He said, “Over the past several years, we’ve invested $100’s of thousands in training our people on new sales methodologies, they simply don’t work!”
I asked, “What were those programs?” He responded with two well known suppliers. While I might quibble with their approaches, they are basically very good and I know they produce results. I shared that observation, expressing my surprise that he hadn’t seen some improvement.
I asked, “Tell me about your follow up reinforcement and coaching. Tell me how you incorporated the principles into your execution cadence. Tell me about….”
Ineffective sales training is simply a failure in implementation, execution, and leadership!
You can guess his response. They didn’t do anything. They expected sales people to use the new skills, but didn’t have a disciplined reinforcement and coaching program on them.
We know the data on sales training uptake, something like 90% of sales training is not being utilized within 30-60 days after the training is completed. Yet we continue to invest billions, every year, in training.
Alternatively, organizations invest in new technologies aimed at improving sales efficiency. Months later, we look at the adoption of those technologies, finding “compliance” very low.
It's management's fault
The tragedy is this stuff works! But if you don’t implement or execute consistently, you are just wasting time, money, resource, and sadly, opportunity. With some caveats (I’ll get to these later), it is not the fault of the vendors, but the fault of sales management.
I know I am sounding like a broken record, but time and time again, I see the same issues in organizations. Most of the organizations I work with are very mature. They’ve spent millions on training and technology. At all levels, at least theoretically, they know what they should be doing and they know how to do it (through the methodologies, training, programs, technologies they’ve implemented). The issue is they simply don’t do do those things they know should produce results! They fall back into doing what they have always done, but which is no longer working as well.
This is simply a failure in implementation, execution, and leadership! Shame on any sales leader that blames the failure on the vendor (assuming you are dealing with a high quality vendor). you are responsible for putting these things into practice.
Having said this, vendors have culpability in this issue. Responsible vendors will insist their customers have an implementation, coaching, and reinforcement plan in place. Responsible vendors insist in participating in formal progress reviews in the 30-60-90 days following the implementation. Vendor who don’t have this as part of their plan shouldn’t be considered.
This may sound schizoid, there are a lot of new technologies, new methods, new ideas that help improve our effectiveness and efficiency in engaging our customers and doing our jobs. But unless we actually use them in a disciplined way, if we don’t use them consistently and grow our abilities to execute them well, we are wasting our money, and, more importantly, our resources and time.
Afterword: Our sales execution framework provides a “back to basics” guide to the fundamentals of sales execution. Reach out if you want a copy, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.