Meet Rick, a Director of Marketing at a successful consulting agency. Rick is 53 years old and exercises five days a week. Staying physically active and maintaining a healthy diet has been a part of Rick’s life since he was a varsity athlete in high school. Rick also makes sure to meditate two to three times weekly in order to keep things in perspective and preserve his mental health.
By all objective measures, Rick maintains a level of physical and mental health that all adults should aspire to. Is that enough for you to trust him to be your doctor? I would hope not. So, as sales professionals, why are we so quick to trust self-proclaimed sales “experts”?
If you’ve been in sales long enough, you’ve probably seen it before: a sales person with an accomplished career claiming they have discovered the formula for success. Something along the lines of, “It worked for me and it will work for you too!”
We’ve heard many a horror story from clients who previously worked with these self-proclaimed sales experts who never produced meaningful results. In reality, training sales people based on the anecdotes and personal experience of one sales person, no matter how successful they are, is not a viable path to long-term revenue growth.
We trust medical doctors to give us accurate diagnoses and an effective prescription because they studied the topic for almost a decade before passing medical school. Then after school, they have experience scientifically examining patients and accurately diagnosing ailments.
Compare that with our industry’s alleged “sales gurus.” Is it any wonder they frequently misdiagnose gaps in sales skills, and rarely prescribe the right type of sales training needed to achieve results? It’s because very few sales trainers, if any, have actually studied the science behind the selling profession across multiple data points. Understanding statistically verifiable and proven techniques in sales requires studying thousands of sales calls and deals made by real sales people.
Extensive field research in the selling profession is few and far between but it does exist. If you rely on opinions of sales “experts” to impact your team’s performance, you are setting yourself up for failure. Look for sales training that’s backed by empirical evidence derived from a large data set.
The self-proclaimed experts in the sales training world also fail to deliver sustained results because they rarely follow up their training with robust reinforcement and coaching resources. According to the American Psychological Association, practice plays a vital role in habit change and learning new skills.
Sales leaders are starting to become aware of the importance of reinforcement and practice, and in turn, more “sales experts” are offering reinforcement. However, it’s important to closely examine what their reinforcement process actually entails. According to the APA article above, a one-size-fits-all approach to practice is not ideal. Reinforcement sessions, what you practice, and how you practice need to be deliberate and catered to individual learners.
It’s important to recognize that sales is a skill just like anything else. It can be learned and honed over time. There is a science to sales success and accepting that is a vital step in winning with sales training.
There are a lot of people out there who think they are qualified to train your team. If you wouldn’t trust Rick to be your doctor, don’t put your faith in these self-appointed gurus. They may tell you about the “research” they did to create their training—be sure to explore whether it's actual research or simply their opinions and experiences presented as science.
Sales leaders also need to embrace that practice and reinforcement are necessary to develop the right skills. If your sales trainer can provide robust reinforcement that allows for individuals to customize the coaching and practice they need, you and your team will be set up for success.
Want to train your team in proven prospecting techniques? Check out our comprehensive guide to sales prospecting, based on an analysis of 100,000 sales calls.