Training Industry

How Does Your Sales Training Stack Up Against Top Performers?

  • How Does Your Sales Training Stack Up Against Top Performers?

One of the enjoyable parts of my job is I get to see what dozens of companies do—and do differently—for sales training. Some are amazingly effective, and some bash their heads against the wall year after year trying to figure out why it isn’t sticking or making a difference.

Until now, we only had examples and stories of good and bad. Now we have hard data on how effective sales training is at mid-size and large companies, and the correlations between sales training effectiveness, sales skills, and business results.

For the Top-Performing Sales Organization Benchmark Report, the RAIN Group Center for sales research studied what the top-performing sales organizations—companies that have higher win rates, meet their annual sales goal, have challenging sales goals, and achieve premium prices—do differently than the rest.

We bucketed respondents into three performer groups: elite performers, top performers and the rest (click here for definitions of these groups).

One of the key findings was the difference between sales training investment and effectiveness among performance groups. Top Performers are:

  • 63 percent more likely to say they have a good or excellent investment and focus on sales training
  • Twice more likely to believe their sales training is very or extremely effective

Only 14 percent of the rest agreed that their training is very or extremely effective. That means 80 percent of the companies we studied rated their training between mezza mezza and outright poor.

The gaps between the top performers and the rest related to sales training investment and effectiveness cannot be overstated.

Top Performance and Sales Skills

The study also asked respondents to rate the sales skills of their sellers. Across every skill area we studied, top performers are much more likely to say they have the skills they need to find and win business consistently and at a high level:

Sellers Have the Skills They Need to Find and Win Business Consistently and at a High Level

Sales Training 1

While top performers are significantly more likely to have the skills they need to succeed, no single skill area was a key driver of elite or top performance. This is similar to sports. In basketball, dribbling does not make for team wins. Nor does passing, shooting, defense or good coaching. But together, in the right combination, the right skills add up to wins.

A few areas do stand out:

  • Driving Sales Wins—The Highest High: Driving and winning sales opportunities was the skill area where elite and top performers scored the highest at 86 percent and 68 percent, respectively. It’s no wonder companies that focus on driving sales wins actually win more sales opportunities.
  • Core Consultative Selling Skills: The second highest skill area for elite and top performers was core consultative selling skills. Nearly two-thirds of top performers and three quarters of elite performers agree their teams have strong skills in this area, while only 41 percent of the rest do. In fact, of the 72 factors we studied, core consultative selling skills was the fourth greatest gap between top performers and the rest. Sixty-nine percent of elite performers agreed their teams have strong advanced consultative selling skills, such as inspiring buyers with ideas, and helping them see issues in new lights. Just under half of the top performers had these skills, as did only 32 percent of the rest. This data signals an opportunity to improve across the board in these areas. Based on the What Sales Winners Do Differently research, these skills are what buyers want from sellers. In this study, we found that strong application of core and advanced consultative selling skills drive both sales wins and client loyalty.
  • Sales Management: Only 31 percent of the rest agree or strongly agree they have the skills to manage and coach sellers. It’s surprising that this skill is even lower than prospecting, which is a notorious complaint area in all but the best sales organizations. Sales management also scored the lowest and second lowest for the top performers and elite groups respectively, representing an area where most organizations can improve.

As you look at your sales training initiatives and budget for the year, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Would you rate your sales training investment and focus as good or excellent?
  2. Is your current sales training very or extremely effective?
  3. Does your team have the full set of skills in each area they need to consistently win business?

If you’re unsure or answered no to any of these questions, it may be time reassess your training and emulate what the top performers do.


Mike Schultz is president of RAIN Group, a global sales training and consulting company. He helps companies around the world unleash the sales potential of their teams. Mike is bestselling author of Rainmaking Conversations and Insight Selling. He is also the director of the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research.

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