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Is sales training and technology a broken model to improve sales performance?

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 1/23/17 8:45 AM

A few weeks ago I was talking with an executive whose “... expenses have gone up 40% in the last few months but haven’t seen the results yet.” They had already spent a lot of money on technology and consultants to try to improve their sales and revenue, and even though they believed sales coaching could help, they didn’t have the cash to invest. Worse than that, the previous investment made them leery of investing more in sales development without a guarantee of success.

This executive is not alone. And unfortunately, there are no guarantees in anything. I say this despite the CEB research that shows that reps who “receive just three hours of coaching a month exceed their goals by 7%, boosting revenue by 26% and increasing the average close rate by 70%.”

And that combining training with coaching improves returns fourfold relative to training alone.

And even though reps lose 87% of the training within a month without reinforcement, as one sales director of a large technology company said, most organizational leadership see coaching as a fluffy, intangible investment in people that has a slow trickle down intrinsic effect. Yes, even the best sales coaching in the world is still not a guarantee that sales performance will increase.

And like most executive leaders I talk to- this one is laser focused on increasing bottom line revenue now. But how?

As Tony Hughes and Steve Hall commented on LinkedIn recently; 

“...everyone wants to hire sales superstars but no one wants to train them, or even pay to train them. When they do some training it's often ad hoc or covers only one small area, and it's often forgotten and not followed up. Of course, the great salespeople take responsibility and train themselves. But should it be this way, is this broken?”

To which I replied,

“'s broken, possibly always been broken and now the internet is forcing it to be fixed. It would seem that for many companies, the investment in people is never as high on the list as things like new strategies, trainings, processes and even tech. It's just easier to go with the one-to-many solution. But as the phrase goes, if you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans (and strategies, and new tech.) Why? Because God knows that it all comes down to relying on people to do it and communicate, and that's where it falls apart.”

And even though companies spent $26.3B in 2015 (up 12.3% from 2014) on CRM, the percentage of sales people who make or break quota didn’t go up. In fact, according to the CSO 2016 Sales Performance Optimization Study, the percentage of salespeople making quota went down to 57.1% in 2015. And let's not forget all the other sales technology other than CRM. Still no results. 

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Your salespeople are the connection between a problem and a solution. And at the end every of the day, your organization's success comes down to the salespeople who execute all of your training, technology, processes, and strategy. Is training and technology needed? Certainly. But is it the answer in and of itself? The research says no. One to one coaching is the glue that makes the technology and training effective.

Are you making the same mistake that the executive leader we talked to did? Are you investing in, and focused on, the wrong thing first? Or missing the piece of the puzzle that makes your investment worth while? The only thing worse than making a bad investment is when that mistake snowballs into more mistakes that cost you growth.

Do you want to improve your sales? Who doesn't- right? What do you really know about who is going to implement your strategy, technology, or training? Who can do it already? Who can learn to do it? Who can coach, not just manage? Who should be doing something else other than sales?

How much money have you already spent on training? Or on a technology stack? Your last sales kick off? What about that e-learning system? Did it result in happy customers that refer you and evangelize you to others like them? No? What's the one thing you haven't done yet?

Topics: sales coaching, sales training, sales technology