Create the Right Timing to Maximize Sales Training

When you think of sales training, what comes to mind first? A way to get sales people up to speed, or to quickly boost sales?  Maybe a swift fix for a slouching sales department? Sales training often has these misconceptions. While sales training can be a valuable tool in your sales toolbox, it has a time and place. To maximize its value and payoff, sales training should come AFTER the sales organization is prepared. Here’s why.

Which Comes First – Sales Strategy or Sales Training?

Optimally, a company should improve its sales organization in an order, focusing on its sales strategy first, structure and processes next, and finally on people. If you don’t maintain this order, investment in sales training will most likely go wasted. Focusing on sales training before you have prepared your sales organization will deny real success.

Prior to any sales training, make sure there is a solid job description written for each position. Ensure that the desired training matches the job role and goals of the position. For example, don’t train for hunting skills if the role is really to farm existing accounts.

Sales training can help an aspiring sales person improve communication and discovery, learn sales methodologies, and quantify and develop value. Investment in an aspiring sales person to improve his or her performance will be significantly diminished if your company doesn’t yet understand its sales strategy and hasn’t developed the tools and processes to execute.

Unfortunately, too often management will send people to sales training as a final straw, to validate whether they should be given a few more months, or should be dismissed.  When sales training is used as part of an Improvement Plan, it is almost always a total waste of resources and frustrating for everyone.  Investing in a sales person without full confidence of their success feeds the employee misplaced confidence in his future at the organization.  Further, if management does decide to release the sales person, this can only cause bigger dismissal conflicts.  Fast forward the movie – make the decision now.

So, What Makes a Sales Pro Successful?

One day I made sales calls with Greg, and while driving back to the office he asked me for some coaching feedback. I was expecting the question, and I replied, “Greg you are a talent, but you are not talented.” Greg was alarmed by my reply and asked what I meant?  I said, “Greg you are very personable, intelligent, and your customers really enjoy being around you. However, effective sales require engaging in a progression of strategy, technique, financial understanding, and process management. You are a talent, but not yet talented.”

So, what did I mean?  While the dictionary definitions are very similar, when managing sales people the two words, talent and talented, describe very different results.

There are five primary skills found in “talented” sales people:

  1. Creating trust in your customer relationships.
  2. Effective processes used to develop the sales opportunity.
  3. Utilizing effective questioning in the discovery process.
  4. Preparation and performance for powerful presentations.
  5. Positioning yourself and the company to win the opportunity.

Having talent will not win a single new customer on its own, but becoming “talented” will win many.

Managers, if you try to invest in sales training before creating an effective sales organization, you could be keeping a sales person from becoming truly talented. Sales training on its own, or out of the right order of progression, is just spinning your wheels, wasting time and money. Do it right and give your people a chance to be really successful.

Michael Wills is the founder of Top Line Solutions, powered by Sales Xceleration. He specializes in Outsourced Sales Leadership, focusing on revenue growth and sales organization for small and medium-sized businesses. Connect with Michael at