Why Sales Training Fails

38 Reasons Why Sales Training Fails: Identifying and Overcoming Common Pitfalls

Posted in: Sales Training

Have you ever wondered why sales training fails for companies? Sales training is a critical investment for organizations aiming to boost revenue and improve their sales teams’ performance. However, many sales training initiatives fall short of their intended goals, leaving organizations frustrated and with limited returns on their investments.

This article explores 38 reasons why sales training fails and provides insights into how organizations can address these challenges and tools to properly diagnose before initiating an effective sales training program.

Table of Contents:

I. Introduction: The Importance of Sales Training

II. Common Reasons Why Sales Training Fails and What To Do About It

III. Conclusion: Tools For Proper Diagnosis

IV. About the Big Swift Kick Team

I. Introduction: The Importance of Sales Training

What outcomes does management expect as a result of sales and sales management training? Typically, they are looking for ways to…

  • Improve the sales organization’s effectiveness
  • Help sales reps, consultants, and subject matter experts transition to a new business model
  • Get more appointments
  • Shorten the sales cycle
  • Close more business
  • Hit or exceed quota
  • Increase revenue, margin, or market share
  • Identify what issues training needs to address
  • Change the sales culture
  • And much more

Research shows that well-trained sales organizations have a close rate that is 200% and sales cycles that are 50% the length of their competitors. Training your salespeople and sales managers is essential for the success and sustainability of any sales-driven organization. Salespeople are on the frontline of your business, directly engaging with customers and driving revenue. 

Proper training equips them with the necessary skills, knowledge, and tools to excel in their roles. It ensures they can effectively communicate the value of your products or services, address customer needs, overcome objections, and close deals. Moreover, ongoing training keeps them updated on industry trends, market changes, and best practices, allowing them to adapt and stay competitive. 

Equally important, sales managers play a pivotal role in shaping the success of the sales team. They are responsible for coaching, motivating, and guiding the sales reps to achieve their targets and align with the company’s goals. Sales managers who coach regularly have 40% more top producers on their team! 

Effective sales management training provides them with leadership skills, performance management techniques, and strategies to foster a positive and productive sales culture. It enables sales managers to identify strengths and weaknesses within their teams, offer constructive feedback, and tailor coaching to individual needs. Ultimately, well-trained sales managers are better equipped to drive team performance, boost morale, and contribute to the organization’s overall growth and profitability.

II. Common Reasons Why Sales Training Fails and What To Do About It:

Let’s look at the common reasons why sales training fails and how to address each reason in greater detail.

1. Inadequate Needs Assessment

Challenge: One of the primary reasons why sales training fails is a lack of understanding of the specific needs and challenges that hinder sales performance.

Solution: Conduct a thorough needs assessment to identify skill gaps, knowledge deficiencies, culture, sales process, motivation to improve, management support, and performance obstacles. Tailor training and install a change management program to address these specific areas.

2. Failure to Identify Sales Team Hidden Weaknesses

Challenge: Hidden weaknesses within the sales team can limit the impact of training and sales execution.

Solution: Use sales-specific assessments to identify and address areas of weakness within the sales team through coaching and developmental performance reviews. Tailor training and coaching to address these identified weaknesses.

3. Lack of Clear Objectives

Challenge: Training objectives are often vague, making it difficult to measure success or align training with business goals and quota attainment.

Solution: Define clear, measurable objectives tied to key performance indicators (KPIs). Ensure that training outcomes align with the organization’s broader strategic sales goals.

4. One-Size-Fits-All Approach

Challenge: Generic training programs may not cater to the diverse skill levels and learning styles within a sales team.

Solution: Customize training content to cater to different experience levels, roles, and learning preferences. Consider a modular approach to allow for flexibility.

5. Poorly Designed Content

Challenge: Training content that is outdated, irrelevant, or not engaging can lead to disinterest and ineffectiveness.

Solution: Invest in high-quality, up-to-date content that is interactive, engaging, and relevant to the current market and sales strategies.

6. Ineffective Training Delivery

Challenge: The method of delivering training, whether in-person or remote, may not resonate with the sales team.

Solution: Choose training delivery methods that suit your team’s needs and preferences. Incorporate interactive elements, and real-world scenarios for better engagement.

7. Lack of Reinforcement

Challenge: Training is often treated as a one-time event, with little follow-up or reinforcement. One golf or tennis lesson doesn’t change your game.

Solution: Implement ongoing reinforcement through coaching, mentorship, and training. Ensure that newly acquired skills are continuously practiced and refined.

8. Insufficient Buy-In from Leadership

Challenge: Without support from top leadership the message is, “This isn’t important,” which is just another reason why sales training fails.

Solution: Secure buy-in from leadership by demonstrating alignment with their strategic sales objectives. Involve executives in the kickoff and emphasize their role in driving success.

9. Neglecting Ongoing Coaching and Feedback

Challenge: Salespeople need continuous feedback and coaching to improve, but this is often overlooked.

Solution: Train sales managers to prioritize and provide effective coaching and feedback. Create a culture of continuous improvement and make coaching a regular practice. Limited Integration with Sales Tools and CRM:

10. Inadequate Sales Enablement Resources

Challenge: Sales training methodologies and processes may not integrate seamlessly with the tools and technology that sales teams rely on.

Solution: Ensure that methodologies and processes align with the tools and CRM systems used by the sales team. Provide hands-on training on technology adoption.

11. Inadequate Sales Enablement Resources

Challenge: Sales enablement resources, such as collateral, scorecards, and playbooks, may not be readily available or effective.

Solution: Invest in creating comprehensive and easily accessible sales enablement resources. Regularly update these resources to align with changing strategies.

12. Cultural Misalignment

Challenge: A misalignment between the training culture and the overall corporate culture can hinder adoption.

Solution: Foster a culture that values learning and development. Ensure that training aligns with the organization’s values, mission, and daily practices.

13. Overemphasis on Theory Over Practice

Challenge: Sales training that focuses solely on theory without practical application can lead to limited real-world impact. You wouldn’t watch a video on mixed martial arts and think you’re ready for a fight in the ring.

Solution: Balance theory with practical exercises, role-play, and simulations. Encourage sales teams to apply what they’ve learned in real sales situations.

14. No Measurement of Training Impact

Challenge: Without measuring training’s impact on performance, it’s challenging to gauge its effectiveness.

Solution: Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) and regularly evaluate the impact of training on sales performance, revenue, account penetration, and customer satisfaction.

15. Unrealistic Expectations

Challenge: Setting unrealistic expectations for immediate results can lead to disappointment.

Solution: Manage expectations by communicating that sales training is a long-term investment in continuous improvement. Emphasize that results may take time to materialize especially if you have a long sales cycle.

16. Resistance to Change

Challenge: Sales teams may resist adopting new techniques, learning, changing, or improving.

Solution: Address resistance through change management strategies, open communication, and highlighting the benefits of change for both the organization and individual salespeople.

17. Poorly Defined Metrics for Success

Challenge: If success metrics are unclear, it’s challenging to assess the sales training’s impact on revenue.

Solution: Define specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) metrics for success. Ensure that these metrics align with overall strategic sales objectives.

18. Lack of Sales Manager Support

Challenge: Sales managers may not fully support or participate in training efforts.

Solution: Train and involve sales managers in the training process. Hold them accountable for coaching and reinforcing training concepts among their teams.

19. Unmotivated Sales Team

Challenge: A lack of motivation among salespeople can hinder the application of training.

Solution: Recognize and reward achievements resulting from training. Create a motivating environment that celebrates growth and success.

20. Trainers Who Lack Sales Experience

Challenge: Trainers who lack real-world experience can lead to disengaged learners.

Solution: Select trainers with real-world experience who are actively selling when they aren’t training.

21. Limited Accessibility to Sales Training Materials

Challenge: Salespeople may struggle to access training materials when needed.

Solution: Create a centralized, easily accessible repository for training materials, making them available on-demand and mobile-friendly.

22. Neglecting Social, Virtual, and Digital Selling

Challenge: Ignoring the rise of social selling like LinkedIn, remote selling, and digital channels, can hinder success.

Solution: Integrate sales training that covers virtual selling, online prospecting, and leveraging digital tools effectively.

23. Failure to Address Remote Sales Challenges

Challenge: Remote sales teams face unique challenges that may not be adequately addressed in training.

Solution: Develop training modules specifically addressing remote sales challenges, including effective virtual communication, collaboration, and proper use of video platforms.

24. Limited Attention to Sales Ethics and Compliance

Challenge: Neglecting ethics and compliance training in highly regulated industries can expose organizations to legal and reputational risks.

Solution: Integrate comprehensive ethics and compliance training into sales programs to ensure that salespeople understand and adhere to legal and ethical standards.

25. Ineffective Sales Role-Play Exercises

Challenge: Role-play exercises that lack realism or depth may not adequately prepare salespeople for real-world situations.

Solution: Enhance role-play exercises by using real customer scenarios and providing constructive feedback for improvement.

26. Ignoring the Buyer’s Journey

Challenge: Focusing solely on the sales process and not addressing the buyer’s journey can result in a disconnect or unnecessary friction between the sales approach and customer expectations.

Solution: Align sales training with the stages of the buyer’s journey. Train sales teams to understand customer needs at each stage and tailor their approach accordingly.

27. Inconsistent Training Across Teams

Challenge: Inconsistencies in training content and methods across different sales teams can lead to confusion and suboptimal results.

Solution: Establish standardized a common playbook, language, and methods that ensure consistency across all sales teams, regardless of location or specialization.

28. Insufficient Training Frequency and Duration

Challenge: Sales training that occurs infrequently or over a short period may not provide lasting benefits or keep up with changing market conditions.

Solution: Implement a regular sales training cadence, including ongoing skill development sessions, to ensure that sales teams are continually learning and adapting. Mastery typically takes 12 – 18 months.

29. Overloading with Information

Challenge: Overloading salespeople with too much information in a single training session can overwhelm and hinder retention.

Solution: Break training content into manageable, digestible modules with spaced repetition to reinforce learning progressively.

30. Ineffective Sales Playbooks

Challenge: Sales playbooks that lack practical guidance and relevance to real-world scenarios may not be used effectively.

Solution: Develop and maintain dynamic, actionable sales playbooks that provide step-by-step guidance for various sales situations and customer profiles.

31. Poorly Timed Sales Training

Challenge: Timing training poorly, such as scheduling sessions during peak selling seasons, can disrupt sales operations.

Solution: Plan training schedules carefully, taking into consideration the organization’s sales cycles and peak periods to minimize disruption. Or, have shorter training sessions.

32. Neglecting Beliefs and Mindset Training

Challenge: Beliefs about selling and proper mindset are often overlooked in sales training, despite their critical role in sales execution.

Solution: Integrate supportive beliefs and mindset that support sales execution into the curriculum to help salespeople improve performance.

33. Focusing on Short-Term Gains

Challenge: Sale training programs that emphasize immediate results over long-term development may lead to missed opportunities for improvement in revenue, market penetration, and account retention.

Solution: Emphasize the long-term benefits of training, highlighting how continuous learning and skill improvement contribute to business success and career advancement.

34. Inadequate Sales Training Budget

Challenge: Insufficient budget allocation for training can lead to subpar training materials, limited resources, and inadequate support.

Solution: Prioritize training as a critical investment in the organization’s future success. Allocate a sufficient budget to ensure high-quality training materials, resources, and ongoing support. Top-performing companies invest between $2500 – $5000 per sales rep annually.

35. Lack of Alignment with Sales Strategy

Challenge: If sales training is not aligned with the broader sales strategy, it may lead to conflicting approaches and confusion among sales teams.

Solution: Ensure that training programs are closely aligned with the organization’s sales strategy, focusing on the specific skills and behaviors required to achieve strategic sales objectives.

36. Ignoring the Importance of Voice of the Customer and Feedback

Challenge: Neglecting the Voice of the customer and their feedback and insights can result in a disconnect between client personas, sales strategies, messaging, and customer needs.

Solution: Encourage sales teams to gather and incorporate customer feedback into their training and sales processes, fostering customer-centric approaches.

37. Resistance from Experienced Salespeople

Challenge: Experienced salespeople may resist training, believing they already possess the necessary skills and knowledge.

Solution: Emphasize that training benefits sales professionals at all experience levels, including experienced salespeople who can enhance their sales effectiveness, and adapt to changing market dynamics.

38. Failure to Evolve with Industry Trends

Challenge: Ignoring emerging industry trends and best practices can lead to outdated sales techniques and missed opportunities.

Solution: Stay informed about industry trends and regularly update sales training content to reflect the latest strategies, technologies, and market insights.

III. Conclusion: Tools For Proper Diagnosis

Effective sales and sales management training requires a Sales MRI before planning a program. A Sales MRI goes beyond the observable symptoms and identifies the hidden issues that will sabotage the success of an effective program. Once addressed you should expect a massive increase in sales performance.

An effective sales training MRI tool will help you answer the following questions…

  1. Why aren’t we more effective in sales?
  2. How much more effective can we be?
  3. What will it take to accomplish that?
  4. How long will it take to accomplish?
  5. What kind of ROI should we expect?
  6. Who can become more effective in their roles?
  7. Who is trainable and what kind of sales training do they need?
  8. What are the short-term priorities for accelerated growth?
  9. How does sales leadership impact our sales organization?
  10. Can sales management become more effective?
  11. What are our current sales capabilities?
  12. Do we have the right salespeople in the right roles?
  13. How motivated are our salespeople, and how are they motivated?
  14. Can we generate more new business?
  15. Are we working strategically?
  16. Can we execute our strategy?
  17. Can we be better at reaching actual decision-makers?
  18. Can we shorten our sales cycle?
  19. Can we sell more consultatively?
  20. Are we selling on price, and who can become a value seller?
  21. Is our value proposition compelling?
  22. Can we close more sales?
  23. Do our systems/processes support a high-performance sales organization?
  24. Can we be more consistent with our sales process?
  25. How well are our sales leadership strategies aligned?
  26. Do we need to change our hiring/selection criteria?
  27. Can we improve ramp-up?
  28. Can we improve our pipeline and forecasting accuracy?
  29. Can we improve our sales culture?

IV. About The Big Swift Kick Team

Big Swift Kick is an international sales strategy and sales performance consulting firm that specializes in helping middle-market companies accelerate their sales performance.

Our team of internationally recognized sales development experts and consultants have 25-40 years of experience across 200 markets.

If you want to talk more about why sales training fails for companies, contact us at amiller@BigSwiftKick.com or C: 703-405-6036.



Check out our Sales Training Services page to learn more about how to make training and onboarding more effective.


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