Many articles are written each year about the importance of sales training. Most of them assume that problems in sales can be fixed if salespeople are better trained.
Yet it is worth asking these two questions:
- What problem do we address with sales training?
- Is training sufficient to solve it?
Usually advocates of sales training identify sales productivity as the main problem. If salespeople were more highly trained, they could sell more revenue to more customers in a shorter amount of time.
But wait, is lack of selling skill the primary cause of low sales productivity? And how productive should salespeople be anyway?
Let’s answer the last question first. The best predictor of sales productivity is the number of meaningful sales conversations that a salesperson conducts each day with customers. The guidance from Justin Roff-Marsh suggests that field salespeople should be able to conduct four meaningful selling conversations per day and that inside salespeople should be able to conduct thirty.
Yet most salespeople do not come close to meeting this number. Why? Are they not competent at their work? Are they not motivated enough?
No, these are hard-working professionals. The problem is not competence or motivation, it is in how their work is structured.
Look at the activities of most salespeople. They include prospecting, selling, solution design, account administration, and customer service. It’s simply not possible for a field salesperson to do all those activities and conduct four meaningful, on-site, selling conversations per day. And the same goes for an inside salesperson whose goal is to conduct thirty conversations per day.
So let’s say that we changed the structure of the salesperson’s work. What would that look like? Another team would be responsible for identifying, nurturing, and producing enough sales opportunities for each salesperson. Other (less expensive) people would be given the tasks of customer service, account administration and solution design.
If these changes are made, salespeople can focus their time on meaningful selling conversations. With plenty of opportunities to pursue and without the distractions of other non-selling tasks, your salespeople may have no trouble meeting their goals.
If they are having trouble, you now know it has to do with their selling. You can identify where people are struggling and if more training is warranted, you can make that investment.