Does Sales Training Really Work?

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By Steve Bookbinder

It’s a weighted question, and the answer depends on whom you ask.

Far too often, sales managers give lip service to sales training, but never really do what’s required to make it worth the time and effort.

Merely checking the box and providing a once-a-year training event is simply not enough. Both sales reps and managers must perceive training as an integral component to the culture of the organization, and not something that’s optional or extra.

For sales training to really make an impact, it needs to be personalized, ongoing, actionable, and supported by a coach. Training is about changing behavior.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re training for a marathon or learning a new skill, training means you’re changing your habits and activities in order to reach a specific goal.

To help you make the most of your training efforts, here are three tips to help you do just that.

Establish a Clear Objective.
What do you want to accomplish through training?

In the bestselling book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey’s second habit says, “Begin with the end in mind.”

Where is this journey going to take us and how will we know when we get there?

Clearly defining and stating the objective of sales training to all involved parties is absolutely essential. It’s important to be very specific about how you’re describing your goals, too.

Broad descriptors such as “get better” or “improved performance” are too vague and subjective. Instead, create goals such as “increase the number of first appointments you have per week” or “make sure you have X number of prospect-opportunities in pipeline stage 1.”

What’s measured is managed. When you have a clear objective and metric to measure your progress against, it’s a lot easier to stay committed and on track.

Customize Frequency and Timing of Training
When encouraging behavior change, also consider frequency and timing.

What’s the cadence of training delivery? Once per week? Per month? Per quarter?

Your team has unique needs and learning styles; customize your implementation to optimize the nature of your delivery methods and frequency.

You may consider intertwining two types of learning: macro-and micro-learning engagements.

Macro-learning includes deadlines that create accountability to complete advanced preparation. Micro-learning is delivered in small pieces and allows flexibility for learners to revisit areas where they need more practice.

Another important consideration is what kind of competing priorities are present during the training timeframe? Are organizational changes happening, or will quarterly business reviews interfere with learning?

For example, training reinforcement might come through learners’ phones at times they schedule for themselves.

When possible, shifting the learning responsibility to the learner to allow them to schedule and train themselves on-demand helps to minimize distraction and increases the likelihood of completing the training.

Get Managers Involved
Coaching suggests it is the skill and art of helping someone improve their performance and reach their full potential, as defined by Dan McCarthy from The Balance in a recent article.

Dan defines coaching skills as either directive or non-directive.

Directive skills include:

  • Teaching
  • Advising
  • Giving feedback
  • Offering suggestions


Non-directive skills include:

  • Asking questions
  • Listening
  • Guiding
  • Inspiring

These are two very different types of skillsets, but both are extremely important for making an impact with training.

Great managers and coaches know how to ask the right question at the right time. They know how to get their team to focus and be accountable by inspiring them to come up with their own solutions.

There’s no denying the effectiveness of sales manager involvement. Coaching is essential to growing and nurturing a team of sales professionals.

Effective sales training doesn’t just happen…it needs to be clearly defined, seriously supported with adequate resources and a custom implementation plan, as well as action on getting each and every manager involved and engaged in coaching.

Steve Bookbinder is the CEO and sales expert at DMTraining. For more on sale training from DMTraining, download the ebook 3 Questions to Ask Before Investing in Sales Training.