Why Sales Training Fails: Ignoring Mindset
Sales training is usually essential to salesperson success. Ineffective training makes a bad situation – salesperson turnover – even worse. Yet, many companies obtain little or no ROI from sales training. Why? An essential problem is a lack of mindset training.
To appreciate the importance of sales training, consider that CSO Insights reports an average annual sales team turnover rate of about 25 percent, and the National Automobile Dealers Association reported turnover of over 65 percent among sales consultants at U.S. dealerships in 2015. It’s a costly problem. One poor hire can cost a firm hundreds of thousands of dollars, between the hard out-of-pocket costs and the lost potential.
Hiring the wrong salespeople is a major contributor to the turnover problem. Tepid leadership support for training almost ensures failure. Assuming these two factors – good hiring and leadership support of training – appropriately reinforce sales training, are we home free?
When we want strong business development, we must complement sales skills training with sales mindset training.
Most people enter the workforce embracing “social values”; they want people to like them. This value can be a double-edged sword for salespeople. Being likable can give you access to decision-makers, but one of the best ways to encourage a buyer to like you is to cut your price.
For effective business development, we need salespeople with business values – who want profitable customers. These salespeople are willing to be sufficiently assertive, to challenge the prospect’s thinking and to overcome resistance. They will act on a “do or die” premise rather than “best efforts.” (In business development, best efforts fail 100 percent of the time.)
This mindset suggests we need entrepreneurs, but there aren’t enough to go around. According to the DiSC profile estimates of the population, no more than 18 percent of our population is entrepreneurial. With 300 million people in the U.S., about 54 million are entrepreneurial, and half are in the workforce.
The good news is there are plenty of hybrid entrepreneurs, potential salespeople with many of the entrepreneur’s qualities, who need support, including mindset training. Are you providing this training?
We need to train and coach salespeople to be bolder, take more chances and be more entrepreneurial. How can we do this? Often, we need to affect a mindset transplant. Too many salespeople have been influenced directly or indirectly by Willy Loman, the slimy loser in “Death of a Salesman.” When they enter the workforce with social values, despising Willy Loman, they have taken themselves out of the game.
This is so unfortunate, because business development salespeople are heroes. In “Hero with a Thousand Faces,” Joseph Campbell traces the power of myth and the hero’s quest; the champion becomes a hero when he or she accepts the quest and leaves the village to face the unknown. Business developers do this every day. They are heroes!
We need to celebrate this heroism with bold behavior stories. At the outset, we prime the pump by telling stories; in short order, those stories have to be replaced by the stories from the salespeople in the training. We need to give them easy ways to achieve wins so that team members will learn from each other.
If we don’t train for mindset, we run into the “rubber-band” effect. When we teach the skills and behaviors needed for sales success, we stretch the salesperson’s mind. But if we don’t achieve a mindset/values shift, the mind snaps back into its original shape, just as a stretched rubber band does when you release one end.
If we don’t embrace mindset training, we may be dooming sales training as a profession.
Andy Gole has delivered sales training and consulting for over two decades and taught for eight years at Farleigh Dickinson University’s Rothman Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. A typical client increases sales 10 to 20 percent.
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