How to avoid wasting a sales training budget?

Sales training is built on a billable hour business model. The sector alone, composed of freelance consultants and multinational firms, is a multi-billion dollar industry.

Software Sales Coaching

Why then, time and again, do we see and hear the shocking news that 90% of sales training is wasted? Only 10% of sales training has any meaningful impact beyond six working months. That’s billions wasted on short-term boosts.

Making the most of every minute

In a growth-stage startup time is your most valuable asset. Your team should be spending it effectively on: prospecting, managing accounts (encouraging them to spend more) and jumping on instant demo calls with sales leads. Managing this process gets challenging when results don’t appear as quick as the founders need them to be, especially when you’ve got to answer to investors and board members.

Training and coaching could be a solution to the problem of not hitting targets. It seems to work for larger companies. Except, does it really? If this 90% long-term failure rate affects most companies that buy sales training, perhaps it doesn’t?

As John Doerr, author and co-president of RAIN Group, a sales consulting firm, says in the HubSpot Blog: “Training can be a disappointment right away when it just doesn’t go well, or it can be a disappointment months later when results don’t materialize. Regardless, sales training strikes out a lot.”

Growth-stage startups can’t afford sales professionals to take their foot off the gas, nor can they waste budgets on activities that don’t generate results. More often than not, founders and sales managers are going to blame sales trainers for any failures. Most don’t have time to stop and reflect either before or after training to assess what their team needs.

In practice, taking some time before buying training could make a huge difference to the outcome.

Make the most of sales training

Determine training needs Before you even consider booking training, review everyone’s performance and activity. If your reps are consistently unavailable due to prolonged lunch breaks you may not need to look for solutions in training, but rather in the total time put into the work.

Is your team making enough sales calls? How many contacts daily is enough? At what conversion rate and within what kind of time-frame? Is your team aware of the business requirements that need to be met for profitability, or are they constantly in learn and experiment mode?

Are they doing enough prospecting? 

Better yet - do sales capitalize on leads generated by marketing? Does marketing generate useful leads for sales? Is your team able to respond quickly and effectively? Could you set up an instant demo pipeline and ensure someone on your team can take ownership?

On the calls and instant demos: Is your team doing and saying the right things?

Correlating activity, effort and effectiveness with results should show certain trends. Those who make more calls, jump on more instant demos and prospect harder than others, and are more effective on calls/demos will close more deals than those who don’t. Growth-stage startups should not have a problem with sales calls not resulting in new business due to miscommunication.

Do they need more product knowledge?

Salespeople lacking product knowledge aren’t going to do well. Period.

Your sales team does not need to know the ins and outs of product architecture, but if they’re on a call, jumping on an instant demo or doing a one-on-one screen share, they should know enough to answer questions and sell the benefits.

Make sure they understand the original pain points, and how the product solves them. Assuming you’re scaling and these are new hires (for whom you’re considering to get training), tell them the story of how the company started. Outline the various benefits and any objections that may come from different audience groups and potential buyers and stakeholders.

Budget holders and end-users may have different goals, questions and objections, so ensure your team are trained to handle everything that could be thrown at them. Arming them with sufficient product knowledge and ability to sell the benefits could be all they need. Consider a tool like ClozeLoop to manage this process. Don’t invest in sales training until you’ve worked through all of these steps.

Is activity at the right level? Here’s how to calculate it.

Sales activity should be in line with sales targets. Work backwards from your annual or quarterly targets. Take that number and estimate your conversion rate. That should give you a way to divide a much larger figure: The number of leads you need in the pipeline.

Sales Activity Tips

Now break that number down over the number of calls/demos your sales team should be taking in the average week (knowing that a percentage of these should convert) and compare that against the current level of activity. If current activity is less than that number then find out why and make changes, which could mean monitoring activity more closely to ensure your team are making enough calls/demos to deliver the results your company needs.

Are they effective on calls/demos?

Here is a quick way to assess this: Listen to some demos. Sit down with sales and just hear what they’re saying. It’s an eye opener!

See if they’re asking good questions. Or any questions at all. Are they listening a lot? Are they providing solutions to problems the prospect is talking about by using their product knowledge and a demo of relevant features? Are they overcoming objections and building rapport?

Each area this article has covered is a lever you, as a sales leader or founder, can pull to improve performance. In-house coaching is the next step, assuming activity and product knowledge are at the right level, which could involve peer support or a manager spending more time with a sales agent.

If, however, performance still doesn’t improve, sales training is another solution you could try in order to ensure a salesperson steps up to the performance level you need. It’s far more cost effective to try these methods first before investing in sales training.