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Why Salespeople Can’t Sell Beyond Their Training [Insights from Sales Expert David Hoffeld]

Feb 20th, 2017


When a salesperson is asked to sell a new product or service without fully understanding its value, purpose or differentiating features, the results can be disastrous. The same is true when salespeople are asked to sell to new personas or industries without understanding their roles and needs.

To successfully sell in new conditions or environments, salespeople need to master their message. Sales training creates the foundation for selling, which is why effective onboarding and training often tops the list of productivity goals for sales enablement.

The Science of Selling

When Sales expert David Hoffeld discovered that science was rarely being used to determine which sales strategies worked consistently, he began writing The Science of Selling. In this new book, Hoffeld explains how to influence decisions and close more deals based on research from the fields of communication theory, social and cognitive psychology, neuroscience and behavioral economics.

The Science of Selling teaches salespeople how to guide buyers through the buying process and points out which evidence-based sales strategies will help customers make the right choice, including:

  • How people influence each other
  • How we communicate both verbally and nonverbally
  • How the brain perceives, learns and retains information
  • How influence occurs and how buying decisions can be shaped
  • What inspires buying decisions

“Not being able to verify the most effective way to sell something amplifies your likelihood of failure, because it forces you to guess your way through the sales process,” wrote Hoffeld. “However, in sales, failure is not an option. If you’re a salesperson, your capacity to earn sales will affect your job satisfaction, the trajectory of your career, and your income. And if you are a sales manager or business leader, your success is tied to the performance of the salespeople who serve under you.”

Why Reps Can’t Sell Beyond Their Sales Training

Selling is not necessarily an innate ability; for most, it’s a learned skill which requires practice and continual improvement. Products, services, competitors and buyers’ needs are constantly evolving. Today’s sales reps need to understand how to provide value and adapt in this ever-changing environment. This is why leading companies place an emphasis on onboarding, continuous training and coaching as part of a comprehensive sales enablement approach.

Hoffeld describes the relationship between talent and sales skills as such: “Though some people do have heightened levels of natural ability, talent is not enough to become a top-performing salesperson. Because of the exceptionally crowded marketplace, you must continually improve your knowledge and skills.”

“Why do elite salespeople make selling look effortless? It’s easy to assume they have always been terrific at selling. But rest assured, they make selling look easy because they have been capably trained. Science has shown that these individuals’ brains have been altered by training, and this is what allows them to competently execute selling behaviors.”

Related: B2B Sales Has Changed – Why Your Training Should, Too

Additionally, when researchers analyzed how musicians, mathematicians, athletes and businesspeople become experts capable of superior experiences, they found “it was due to continual training,” wrote Hoffeld.

James Kouzes and Barry Posner, professors at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business and authors of The Leadership Challenge, wrote: “The investment in training will pay off in the long term. People can’t deliver on what they don’t know how to do… you have to upgrade their capabilities.”

Hoffeld echoed that same notion, “Salespeople cannot sell beyond their training. Because the training they receive is what creates their philosophy of selling, which I refer to as ‘sales truth.’ These are the core beliefs that govern how they sell, and especially which sales activities, behaviors, strategies and skills they use or ignore.”

For more information about David Hoffeld and The Science of Selling, visit

To learn how to get reps ready to sell new products or services, or into new markets or buyer personas, check out Brainshark’s exclusive eBook: Why Sales Readiness is Critical to Growth in 2017.