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Why Your Sales Training Is Falling Short

Sales must help its reps apply what they learn to make the most of expensive corporate training investments

Delegates Trainees Sitting in Seminar TrainingWith the sales environment becoming ever more complex, sales skills of the past are no longer sufficient (for CEB Sales members).

Building a successful sales training program is a top priority for every organization. However, creating a best-in-class training program is only the first step. To help reps acquire new skills, sales organizations must find ways to make that training “stick” in the field.

When talking with sales organizations about their leadership training activities, we often hear them tell us that they have put together superior training content, that they are delivering it with the most innovative techniques, and that they’re using the best people to train their reps.

Effective Leadership training with CEB

Good Education, Poor Implementation

Yet, when they asked their reps how they are applying their newly-learned skills on the job, they hear a variety of disappointing responses.

Some say that they tried applying new skills, but gave up after repeated customer resistance. Others mentioned that they want to try these new skills, but that it was the end of the quarter, and they didn’t want to risk not meeting their goals. Still others admitted that they didn’t get many immediate opportunities to apply the new skills.

The fact of the matter is, no matter how effective the training curriculum and delivery are, a number of obstacles in the real world prevent reps from applying what they learned on the job.

Help Reps Apply What They Learn

To help reps apply what they learn in costly training programs, sales organizations must create opportunities for reps to practice new skills in a safe, yet real-world environment. Below are some strategies that some of the most progressive companies employ:

  1. Rapid-fire, real-world practice with managers: Siemens Water Technologies engineers a series of pre-planned, rapid-fire experiential opportunities as part of manager/rep coaching trips.

    Several weeks in advance, managers and reps schedule two-day coaching trips in which the rep focuses on practicing pre-agreed upon behaviors. This allows reps to immerse themselves in the skill while receiving immediate feedback from managers, thus improving retention.

  2. Realistic role-play sessions: St. Jude Medical employs an elaborate role-play in its training efforts—instead of using managers or coaches as role-play partners, they use customer proxies.

    This results in immediate and sustained increases in rep performance because the role-plays are much more realistic and closer to a real customer interaction.

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