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  • Brett Zalaski

Sales Training Misses


Over the last year I've put a lot of time and energy into learning about innovations in sales training. I've spoken to quite a few people outside of sports to understand where they put their training focus...and, not surprisingly, their trainings were very different to what I see teams do when they train. Sales is evolving and we need to evolve the way we train. Below you will see what most teams do vs. what most teams SHOULD do.


What #sportsbiz does: Product training ONLY in the first two weeks.

How we should train: Product training CONSTANTLY.

Why it's an important change: The most innovative companies are ensuring that their innovations are matched by their sales reps knowledge. At the most advanced sales companies you don't hear phrases like, '...know enough to be dangerous.' You hear, '...be an expert.'


Sports sales reps need to be constantly updated on team changes and why, product changes and why, leads they receive and why, and organizational focus changes and why. A rep is front line communication with the fan. If they can not speak to their team, their sport, their stadium, and/or their products, your organization loses credibility.


What #sportsbiz does: ROLE-PLAYING!

How we should train: Situational sales training.

Why it's an important change: General role-playing is good from a larger process standpoint...as in, how do all the pieces of a sales process fit together. You should role play. The problem with role playing is that you only do everything once. And doing something once is not practice.


Sales is all about situations. The moment of handling the objection. The moment of creating urgency. The moment demonstrating value. The moment of closing the sale. The moment you actually get an executive on the phone. The moment you leave a voice mail. Practicing these moments separately and in bulk will ensure a rep executes in those critical moments that truly make a difference in making the sale.


What #sportsbiz does: Not gameify training. Not have sales contests that reinforce sales habits. Not do improv comedy.

How we should train: Gameify training. Have sales contests that reinforce habits you're trying to create. Do improv comedy.

Why it's an important change: This is a lot to put into one...I agree. But we need to focus on fun. Play Jeopardy to support product knowledge growth and training. I've seen teams do a role play March Madness to support process development. Improv comedy is a TON of fun and helps reps gain confidence through thinking on their feet...and games like What's in the Box can also support critical sales development areas like objection handling.


These are just a few examples, but we need to elevate the way we train to make it more fun...which will make it more sticky. I've been in environments where reps roll their eye when it's time to train, which almost guarantees that it will not be effective. We need to reinforce training (as we discuss below), but we need to do it in a way that will draw our reps towards the content.


What #sportsbiz does: Hire outside sales trainers to train their staff.

How we should train: Hire outside sales trainers to train their staff...but, more importantly, their managers.

Why it's an important change: CEB reported that 87% of sales training is useless in one month without reinforcement. This may sound tough, but it's almost impossible for a sales rep to reinforce themselves. They can attempt to make changes, but they usually go back to their bad habits over time, because no one is reinforcing the positive changes they made immediately.


What #sportsbiz does: We train the reps on what they say to fans. AKA Scripting.

How we should train: Train the reps on the things they TRULY struggle with. Train them on time management. Train them on engaging ghost accounts. ASK THEM WHAT THEY WANT TO BE TRAINED ON! LISTEN TO THEM ON THE PHONES AND CREATE TRAINING THAT WAY!

Why it's an important change: We spend SO much time focusing on training from our manual, we forget to listen to our sales reps and look with our own eyes. We think we know better than they do, but the reality is that they are the ones making the bulk of the phone calls. Our responsibility is to support them with training we know will help...but also support them with training that aligns with the challenges we see they are having, and, importantly, what they tell us they are struggling with.


On this website I have reps write in with the challenges they see. I can promise you this, if you asked me to list out the top 10 things I would have thought reps struggled with and compare it to the top 10 things reps actually write in about...I can tell you that I would have been WAY off. And I teach sales training! I've amended my training because of it...how have you evolved?


At the exact same time, most managers are former reps and haven't been well trained in how to sales train, how to reinforce, and how to manage individuals. It's a huge dilemma. You fix it by making sure your managers are in the sales training and focused and participating. You fix it by taking some of that sales training time and allocating specifically to your managers (or whoever is in charge of the reps). You fix it by sitting with your managers after and deciding HOW you will reinforce the outside training. Putting effort into the training follow-up is actually MORE critical than the effort put into the actual training.

The goal of sales training, whether internal or external, is to create real changes in behaviors that translate to success. It's impossible for a training to do anything but fire reps up if a rep is not confident with the product, is not trained for specific situations, doesn't look forward to training, doesn't have the training reinforced, and receive training that isn't actually relevant.


I love the quote above. Henry Ford said this a LONG time ago. The quote above is still absolutely true...but it comes with modernizing and evolving our approach to training. You can start by taking a hard look at the ideas above...