Why your sales training is failing your salespeople

The typical response to slumping sales is to hire an external trainer, in the hopes they can somehow arrest the slide. I should know, on many occasions over the past 5 years, my company Trinity Perspectives has been wheeled in and told to work our magic. If only it were that simple.

“You train animals, you develop people” – Anon

Ask yourself this: If you’ve put your team through an external training or coaching program in the past 12 months, how much of that expensive information have they retained or are actively putting to use today? The likely answer would be not very much at all. Instead they will recall less than 5% of what they heard and instead will have defaulted back to their old comfortable selling habits.

A study by Sales Performance International states that within 90 days, a staggering 84% of that initial training will be lost forever.

That’s because traditional sales training has two fundamental flaws:

  1. It doesn’t focus on evaluating your sales team’s individual performance from the perspective of the buyer.
  2. It doesn’t recognise that just as every sales cycle is different, so too every sales person is different and a one size fits all model, should not apply.

Traditional Sales Training Misses The Power of “Why?”

Traditional (some might call it generic) sales training rarely works in the real world, because it’s based on a collection of assumptions and theoretical scenarios, as opposed to the commercial reality facing most sales professionals in their day-to-day activities. These training courses are designed to scale and to be delivered to a broad cross-section of sales teams. That’s great for the company delivering the training, because once the course content is built, you get to continue reselling it with very little effort.

The problem with this model is that the content often isn’t relevant and tailored to the key focus areas for your individual team members. Imagine for a moment sitting down with your sales team at the start of a sales training meeting and preparing to introduce your trainers for the day.

“Everyone, can I have your attention for a minute please. This is Sarah O’Toole, she is the CEO of ACME Inc, our largest customer.”

The entire room goes silent in a split second and Evan, the ACME Inc account manager, begins to get heart palpitations. Everyone in the room knows that this is going to be more than relevant. It’s going to be spot-on, and whatever they’ve been doing – well or poorly – is going to be revealed.

“Sarah is going to be running this morning session today. After the tea break Greg Watson CEO of Amalgam Holdings will be sharing his insights.”

At this point there are audible gasps amongst the sales team and every single set of eyes in the room are locked on you and Sarah.

“For our afternoon session we’re lucky to be welcoming Edward George CFO at eTel Communications, where you may remember we just lost our biggest deal of the year.”

Irena, the senior account manager responsible for the eTel Communications tender response, suddenly sits bolt upright in her chair.

“To round out the day, I’m, delighted that Satyam Sarad, founder and CEO of our newest customer Xcel Electronics, has agreed to be your final sales trainer”


“Why” may just be the most powerful word in the English, or any other language, for that matter:

  • Why did my customer respond that way
  • Why did we lose to that competitor, in that deal, on that day
  • Why did my prospect suddenly become engaged when I talked about Risk Mitigation strategies
  • Why do I win some deals and lose others
  • Why….

At Trinity Perspective’s our work usually begins by interviewing customers and prospects to get to the heart of these questions. Through our Win/Loss Analysis programs, we’re afforded a very privileged position, at the intersection of the customer buying cycle and the vendor sales cycle, where the sales magic happens.

As an independent 3rd party, we’re able to pose the questions which you might struggle to ask yourself and extract candid, honest and actionable insights from the one audience that matters most, your customers and prospects.

The knowledge we glean from these customer interviews and surveys provides a clear basis for actionable, individualized behavioral improvements that, when understood and acted upon, can have an immediate impact on critical aspects of your sales process (e.g. the quality of your demo’s, pricing against key competitors, the structuring of win themes in RFP responses).

Ask and you shall receive

Why do our clients never run training courses for our sales team, you may ask?

  • Because we never realised that was an option available to us
  • Because we don’t know how to ask for their help
  • Because hearing candid, unfiltered feedback from our customers makes us nervous

Win/Loss Analysis provides a template to hone-in on key aspects of your sales team’s future sales activities and create more successful client relationships and better sales outcomes. It removes the theory and provides real-world, targeted insights that will help your sales team adjust their approach to accommodate what works in the marketplace – and what doesn’t.

Learning how to sell from your customer’s perspective is the key benefit of Win/Loss Analysis that traditional sales training completely misses.

My advice to you, is to incorporate some form of feedback loop with your customers in every sales training course in the future. Whether they are physically in the room or represented by an independent 3rd party like Trinity Perspectives, without their feedback, you’re just throwing mud at the wall and hoping it will stick. Nothing can compete with the combination of the real-life experiences of your salespeople, and the real-life insights of your customers.

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Cian McLoughlin

Cian McLoughlin

Cian McLoughlin is the founder and CEO of Trinity Perspectives, a boutique sales consulting and advisory business. He is passionate about the world of enterprise selling and committed to improving the negative perceptions of this industry.

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