Are You Wasting Your Sales Training Budget?

Sales training is a multi-billion dollar industry. And yet, time and again, we hear and read the same shocking statistic: 90 percent of sales training has a short shelf-life — the impact only lasts 90 days.

Sales training isn’t cheap, either. With organisations such as Mercuri, Sandler Training and Huthwaite International (now part of the Miller Heiman Group) charging sizeable fees for dozens of iterations on the SPIN selling concept, created by Neil Rackham in the 1980’s.

Rackham, a psychologist and researcher at the University of Sheffield, came up with the “SPIN” selling concept, based on behavioural psychology. In its most basic format, Spin Selling is a process where a prospect is walked through a series of questions: Situation, Problem, Impact and finally, the Need-Payoff question, which is supposed to result in a successful sale. It doesn’t always work. Otherwise, everyone would hit targets all of the time and there would be no need for sales training or tools, but that’s the theory.

In theory, the impact of sales training should last longer than ninety days. But these seem to be a widely accepted, albeit embarrassingly low ROI. In effect, those buying sales training are accepting a 10% long-term success rate, therefore a failure rate of 90 percent.

Why accept this low success rate?

Over time, new concepts have been thrown into the mix. New spins put on old concepts. Numerous variations and iterations have appeared, but the basic approach has not evolved much beyond the concepts Rackham created. He didn’t remain a researcher for long. In 1974, he founded Huthwaite International. Giving birth to the modern sales training industry, with hundreds of consultants and smaller firms offering versions of the classic Spin selling methodology.

As a concept, many of the theories, methods and approaches to sales training make sense. In practice, the impact of training is severely limited by the information a training provider is given by clients. Let’s break this down:

  • A sales manager has a training budget to spend. Or they realise a team member or several in the team are struggling. Sales training is the solution.
  • They give the firm they always use a call, or put out a request for referrals on LinkedIn, through networking groups, or ask around on other channels.
  • One or more firms give a series of quotes, proposing sales training over one or more days: Often involving in-the-field work alongside sales people and classroom or online-based study modules.
  • Everyone seems to gain a lot from this experience. Maybe the numbers pick up afterwards, reassuring managers and budget holders that it was a sound investment.

But these results don’t last forever. One thing is missing from the process: An outline of the problem. Generally speaking, managers want their team to perform better.

However, more often than not, the actual nature of the problem is unclear. A sales person who struggles to hit target is the output from a flawed process, with multiple potential faults throughout their individual sales process.
Without a clear understanding of why someone struggles, training is only going to improve performance temporarily.

It serves to boost confidence. Give sales people a few new tools, questioning techniques and strategies. It can’t provide a long-term fix unless an organisation and sales managers have a clear understanding of the issues affecting individual team members. Some many not make enough calls. Others could be spending time on accounts that hardly spend any money.

Training would be far more effective when those getting the training know what is preventing them from hitting target in the first place. Investing in a diagnostic tool, such as i-snapshot, would give managers buying sales training a much clearer understanding of the problems that need solving.

Find out how you can get the data you need to manage your sales team:

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