Sales Training Focused wrong problemDuring the research for our most recent book, over 300 VPs of Sales shared their frustrations with sales training. And these were leaders that had prescribed to best practices of sales training.  The biggest complaint I heard : “We have invested in sales training yet quota attainment has not moved.” The problem: The sales leadership team is trying to solve the wrong problem in the wrong order.


The impact of this mistake is the sales force turns over because they cannot be successful and maximize their comp plans. The environment is negative. People walk the halls staring at the tops of their shoes. As a result of this, the head of sales loses his job and the CEO gives it a go with somebody else.


Last year, 83% of the sales force assessments our firm conducted revealed that sales training by itself would not have a material impact on moving the number. Sales training conducted in the right order with other sales force improvements can definitely move the number.


2 Step Solution


#1 – Observation and Validation —Before you can solve a problem (sales force productivity), you must have problem clarity. To achieve problem clarity, there are two types of activities sales leadership should focus on:


  • Observation—this is direct observation of a sales person.
    • Ride Alongs—nothing better than watching sales calls
    • Training Meetings– “real plays” where sales people  execute sales calls with each other
    • Panel—bringing together a group of top performers to understand what is happening and share thoughts from different vantage points

  • Validation –this is activity focused on validating what you saw.
    • Data—if you notice a rep or two are struggling with late stage opportunities and your pipeline reveals deals stalling/fading late stage, you have validated your observation
    • Rep Survey- a simple way to understand if what you see in 1 group is happening consistently. Allows you to quickly aggregate observation data across a wide group
    • Customer Survey—is the customer valuing what your sales force is doing and the manner in which it is done? Perhaps the pipeline problem is not a sales training problem, but a go to market problem? Maybe the customer wants to be called on virtually vs. face to face yet your model has not evolved.

#2 – Sequencing-   Poorly ordered sales training programs that cancel each other out.  The impact of incorrectly sequenced initiatives is change fatigue and lack of results. For example, if a sales leader spends time and money on training a sales process yet the sales force is starving for leads or does not have properly balanced territories, will the desired impact be felt? No. This is an example of not addressing the root cause.


How many of you have seen a CRM implementation touted as the save all? The impact of installing technology before determining the proper process is automating chaos. The three keys of a new initiative is Process, Technology, People. Determine your process first, then install the technology to automate the proper process and then put this new capability in the hands of ‘A’ players.


Call to Action–  Focus on problem clarity and the sequencing of your efforts. Click here to see if you are out of sequence. You may find, as many VPs of Sales have, that your problem does not lie with sales training as much as it does the performance conditions. What have you done to solve the right problem in the right order?


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Matt Sharrers

Leads the firm's focus on the CEO’s role in accelerating revenue growth by embracing emerging best practices to grow revenue faster than the industry and competitors. 

Matt Sharrers is the CEO of SBI, a management consulting firm specialized in sales and marketing that is dedicated to helping you Make Your Number. Forbes recognizes SBI as one of The Best Management Consulting Firms in 2017.


Over the course of nearly a decade at SBI, Matt Sharrers was an instrumental early partner guiding SBI as the Senior Partner. Matt’s functional responsibilities included acting as the head of sales where he led SBI’s double-digit revenue growth, and was responsible for the hiring function to build SBI’s team of revenue generation experts.


Prior to joining SBI in 2009, Matt spent eleven years leading sales and marketing teams as a Vice President of Sales. Matt has “lived in the field.” As a result, he is the foremost expert in the art of separating fact from fiction as it relates to revenue growth best practices. CEOs and Private equity investors turn to Matt’s team at SBI when they need to unlock trapped growth inside of their companies.



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