Sales Training is Like Viagra?

I once observed a panel of sales executives who answered the question, “What are the characteristics of a good sales training program.” As the discussion warmed up, one of the panelists, a Senior Vice President for a large financial service company, said, “Sales training is a lot like Viagra – it is over-prescribed and only lasts about two hours!”

He got a good laugh because there is a lot of truth to his statement. We could call this the “Viagra training syndrome.” Later in the discussion he made the point that there are external factors like competition, product design, and market place changes that should influence training for sales people. Then he made a point that is often overlooked: there are internal factors which include individual morale and skill, as well as the direct involvement of the senior sales executives as leaders in the training initiative.
That brings me to the question, “How do we avoid the Viagra training syndrome?” Here is what I think.
1. As our panelist pointed out, you can only know if training is successful if you define what success is before you start. For example:
     a. Increased sales are not necessarily such a measure. I have a client whose manufacturing plant is maxed out. He wants better customers, who want value and with whom they can align as partners, not just people looking for the lowest price. That may mean smaller gross sales, but greater margins and happier customers.
     b. More repeat business could be such a measure. It is significantly easier and more profitable to sell to a satisfied customer than to find a new customer.

2. Much of what is labeled as “sales training” is a one to three day motivational speech. Everybody has a good time, but 30 days later nothing in their behavior changes.

3. Sales training should not be just an event. It is a process that includes:
     a. Values-based content that seeks to uncover customer needs, not manipulate people into buying.
     b. A cordial learning environment that builds trust as people learn from each other as well as from the content of the program.
     c. A sales system, so sales people understand where they are in the selling process. This helps them know whether they have a genuine prospect.
     d. Accountability over a period of time such as six to eight weeks for application of the principles taught. This avoids the “two hour” part of the syndrome, and leads to lasting behavior change.

If you want sales training to result in long term sales person behavior change, and achieve specific business goals, consider these ideas to avoid the “Viagra training syndrome.”

Posted by: J. Mark Walker, VP of Client Development (Southeast), Integrity Solutions, LLC

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55 Responses to “Sales Training is Like Viagra?”

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  5. Schlichting Says:

    good blog
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    • integritysolutions Says:

      Thanks. It takes a lot of focus on the part of sales leadership to insure that success principles and effective processes are continually reinforced. Part of the challenge of leadership. Come again often.

      Mark

  6. integritysolutions Says:

    I will always be greatful for that sales VP who gave that line, “sales training is like viagra…” He is one of the genuine sales leaders in our community.

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