8 Reasons Sales Prospecting Training Fails

8 Reasons Sales Prospecting Training Fails
October 31, 2016

Sales prospecting is hard, and it’s getting harder. In fact, 1 in 3 salespeople surveyed in HubSpot’s 2016 State of Inbound report said prospecting is the most difficult aspect of their job.

What is it about sales prospecting that makes it so inherently tough?

Brainshark’s Senior Director of Sales Enablement Mike Kunkle says negative feelings about prospecting can surmount early on in a sales rep’s career, especially when prospecting training goes awry.  

This was the main focus of a recent Brainshark webinar Mike co-hosted with Funnel Clarity’s Tom Snyder. During the webinar, Tom noted that the approach most salespeople are taught or learn on the job actually has been proven ineffective.  

If your training isn’t working – or is not working to your level of satisfaction, check out the following 8 reasons why your sales prospecting training could fail.

#1. You’re using the wrong content  

“No matter how well you implement the rest of an effective learning plan, if the content won’t get results, your success will be limited, or at least less than it could be,” Mike says. (He recently penned a post on creating better sales onboarding content.)

The kinds of training content you deploy is especially important for today’s young sales reps. Millennials, as Forrester Principal Analyst Mary Shea noted in a recent video, make up about one-third of the workforce and by 2020, that figure will rise to 50%.

Where training is concerned, Mary says Millennials don’t “want to sit in a room and be trained.” Instead, they prefer video-based mobile platforms so they can learn wherever, whenever and however they want. They want training on their own terms, which means video and mobile accessibility.

#2. You have a poor learning design

If they don’t learn it well, you might be wasting time and money.

“There’s an art and science to instructional design,” Mike says. “Far too often everyone thinks they’re a training expert and they don’t hire the help they need, or maximize the available technology to design and build courses and curricula that will help people learn as quickly and effectively as possible.”

When building out a training program, Mike recommends a “Chunk, Sequence, Layer” approach. With this type of system, you break up curriculum in a way that you only teach what’s necessary to get to a specific milestone, before moving on to the next milestone.  

“People cram so much stuff into such a short amount of time that no human could possibly ever absorb it. And then we wonder why it takes people so long to ramp up,” says Mike. “If you define your terms, milestones, and what content needs to be taught when, you can have a much bigger impact.”

#3. You have no knowledge sustainment plans

You can’t use what you don’t remember. And research shows 87% of what’s taught in training is forgotten within 30 days.

 “Sales training without knowledge sustainment (remembering what was taught), skill transfer (applying skills on the job), and sales coaching (to develop skills mastery), does not increase sales performance,” Mike says.

The best way to sustain knowledge? Mike recommends “effective learning systems,” which ensure the right training content gets taught well, is sustained and transferred, and integrated into performance management practices.

Learn more about effective learning systems here

#4. You have no transfer plans

Even if reps remember, they may not apply it on-the-job without some guidance and help.

One of the best ways to ensure reps transfer what they learn in training is to validate that they know what they’re doing. When skills are practiced, recorded, reviewed and verified by a sales coach – reps will not only work harder to get their messaging right, but they’ll feel confident to use the new skills they’ve gained in front of prospects.

#5. There’s no coaching to mastery plan

Just because they do it, doesn’t mean they initially do it well, right? Think about learning an instrument – very few people can call themselves a pianist after a single piano lesson.

This is where coaching can play a gigantic role in a rep’s success. It enables managers to ensure their reps are prepared to have buyer-focused, value-focused conversations – and depending on the technology used to implement coaching, you can provide a safe space for reps to practice, refine their sales interactions, and spark friendly competition.

Learn more about Brainshark for Coaching

#6. There’s no measurement

We can’t know what we’re doing well (or poorly) if we don’t measure results – and in this situation, analysis should be applied to your learning plan as well as post-training sales performance.

When it comes to training, it’s imperative for managers to gauge the effectiveness of their learning content and be able to track who’s passed courses, who has or has not enrolled, and who’s completed training.

Likewise, after training is complete, managers need to be able to understand what content their reps are using, monitor presentation performance, and identify best practices at every stage of the sales cycle.

#7. No performance management

Usually, the expected behaviors for both reps and managers are not wrapped into the company’s performance management process. If you know what behaviors will make reps successful, and what behaviors make a sales manager successful in supporting them, you should structure your compensation (for managers), performance management, and talent development processes around them. This includes having an easy-to-use system for capturing actions plans from coaching session and performance reviews and being able to follow-up on them.

Alignment, ease, transparency, reporting, and follow-through for accountability will build a positive culture of development and performance, which only leads to better sales results.

#8. No aligned change plan

Last but certainly not least, there needs to be an aligned change plan.

“We expect people’s behaviors to change magically, without weaving all the above into a plan that leaders are aligned around and support,” Mike explained.

To achieve a structured training program across your entire sales organization, keep in mind the following things:

  • Develop a common language or approach to how training should be done
  • Establish training expectations
  • Create a strategic plan for when are where to implement training after onboarding is complete.

Want to see Mike and Tom’s entire sales prospecting presentation? The webinar is available for on-demand viewing here.

Learn more about sales training best practices: