The Fear of Sales Training


Do you want SuperStar Salespeople? You can either hire them or train them. Hiring them is expensive and difficult to do. If they are true SuperStars, they are happy where they are or will cost a bundle to lure them away. Then there are non-competes and other obstacles to overcome. Training them is easier but has mixed results. Most won’t try the training route.

Why do companies fear sales training?

Selling is a Profession

Selling is a profession like any other and it takes work to become a professional of any type, including sales. Professional salespeople put in the hours to learn their craft. They ask questions and read books. They dig into sales brochures to learn about products.

Most have to do it on their own because most companies don’t offer the necessary training to turn their people into SuperStars. Make no mistake, the salespeople must want it enough to put in the work.

Why is that? Embarrassment? Lack of confidence? Fear of knowledge?

I’m not sure what the answer is but real, substantive training makes a difference in lives. It can be as simple or complicated as needed.

Sales Training is Essential

When a new salesperson is hired, they must go through the Human Resources department to complete piles of paperwork. Then meet with their sales manager to discuss the specific requirements of the job if those weren’t covered during the interview process. They are then assigned a laptop with which they are required to enter customer and prospect information.

Most companies don’t offer much in the way of computer training but will do a cursory overview of the CRM software along with any other special software needed for the job.

Then as one of my former Sales Managers said, “There’s your territory. Go call on anyone you want.” I’m serious. That was my formal training for my very first outside product sales job.

Unfortunately, I’m not alone in that aspect.

Since then I have worked as a professional salesman for many different companies and only one had a real, formal sales training process. It was a breath of fresh air at the time.

The company required thirty days after hire to gain product knowledge. No sales calls allowed. Sit at your desk and learn about your products. They furnished a huge binder with everything you needed to know.

Then off to the corporate training facility for a week of days that stretched deep into the night. What was the first agenda item on the first day of training? A product knowledge test. A score below 90% and you were taken back to the airport and sent home without a job. They were serious but effective.

Some of the most effective training I received was how to present the product in a demo. Whether a hard product or software doesn’t matter. The ability to show a prospect how you can solve a big headache for them is gold once you get to that stage.

Company Reluctance

Blank PlannerWhy are most companies reluctant to build a sales training program. Some possible reasons might be:

  • Cost of meetings/personnel to decide what to include in the program
  • Cost to build a program
  • Time spent building a program
  • Personnel required to build the program
  • Personnel required to implement the program
  • Location to implement training
  • Time and Cost to build metrics to measure the effectiveness of the program
  • Personnel to measure and develop metric reports for management

I get it. However, if you think investment rather than cost, it changes the perspective.

Trained sales reps will make more sales and with a higher margin than if you just throw them out into the field. The latter has only one weapon, the price.

Also, the turnover cost is high. A few years ago the statistic I saw showed more than a 50% turnover rate for sales professionals. Not all if from a lack of training but a lot is directly related.

Companies have no problems making requirements from their new salespeople.

  • Sales Quotas
  • Number of Dials
  • Number of Appointments
  • Number of sales/week/month

Company New Hires

It seems that with the cost of hiring a salesperson, companies would be more willing to invest in their own profit. The hiring cost is substantial but look at the ongoing costs.

If you use an agency, there is an additional cost associated with the new hire for a specified period of time. And even with their assistance, the company must conduct additional interviews to make sure the person is a fit for the company.

If you do all the hiring in-house, there are many people involved that are either pulled away from their normal duties or are full-time and have a significant salary themselves. There is the testing, the multiple interviews, and the onboarding process. It adds up quickly.

Pay Structure

Blue dollar signOnce a salesperson is hired and placed in the field, they will get paid. Three of the following pay structures cost whether the salesperson is successful or not. Whether he ramps up fast or slow. The last one will cause a considerable turnover rate in today’s market.

  • Salary only
  • Salary + Commission
  • Salary + Bonuses
  • Commission only

When you add up the hiring cost and the ongoing expense of having salespeople, how can you not be instrumental in their ongoing success?

What is Minimum Training

When considering training, what is the minimum a company needs to cover? Here is a beginning list to get started.

  • Product knowledge – What does it do for the customer.
  • Competitive knowledge – What is our competitive advantage?
  • Competitor knowledge – Maybe a SWAT analysis after identifying them.
  • Time management – How should their time be split for their duties?
  • Territory management – A Zip Code is different than 3 states for a territory.
  • Appointment setting – Why should the prospect meet with you?
  • Conducting/handling meetings with prospects – What are the “need to know” items?
  • Prospect research; who, what when where and how? – Do your work!

Without this information, it is hard to succeed at a new company, a new market, or a new industry.

I’d like to expand on much of this in the coming articles, but will leave it for another day.

What is your experience?

Does the company you work for have a training program for their newly hired salespeople?

If so, what is helpful to your success?

Did it cover everything you needed to succeed?

How is it going now?

I’d like to know and include any details you feel free to share.

Thank you!

Pursue The Top 4%

Do you want to be a professional salesperson? Are you sure? If we acknowledge that selling is a profession, you must make a few decisions.

Are you willing to do what it takes to be a professional? Do you have the desire and motivation to be a professional? Selling is a profession. It’s that simple. Unlike other professions though, it doesn’t require a board of review or a certain standard to achieve before calling oneself a salesman.

Many professions require a license to practice. Doctors, Lawyers, Beauticians too, are required to pass a minimum set of requirements to get a license. Then there are the continuing education credits to keep the license in good standing.

Selling is a job many “just fall into” without the real knowledge of what it takes to succeed. How many people do you know that went into sales because it “beat working for a living?” The dropout rate is high because of one thing: SELLING IS HARD!


Sales training was non-existent for every sales job I’ve had, except one. One company handed me a 3-ring binder with a few pages inserted. Pointing at a map of the area, my new manager said, “You can call on anyone you want east of this line.” That was it: my training was complete. Go forth and sell.

The truth is you must take responsibility for your own training. If the company offers it, great. Participate with zeal and enthusiasm. If not, take charge and begin your own “self-training.” It’s more difficult but completely possible,  speaking from experience.

Professional Sales

What does it take to become a professional in selling? More than most people are willing to give. There is a difference between selling and becoming a  professional salesman. Professionals take selling seriously.

It’s not “just a job” for a pro, it is more than that.

All the real salespeople I have known had a genuine desire to succeed. They quickly determined where their skills were lacking and then took steps to correct and improve.

The Top 20%

The top 20% make 80% of the sales in an organization. My experience as a salesman and a Sales Manager bears this out. If you want to be considered a professional, you must strive for the top 20% in your organization. Amateurs settle for average.

The top 20% act with integrity and take pride in their work. They take the extra time to stay up to date in their industry. They work on their profession of sales. They develop habits that allow them to succeed.

What does it take to succeed at this level?

  • Study your craft of sales
  • Read books on sales
  • Watch videos on sales and training
  • Take courses in subjects that apply
  • Listen to sales podcasts and tapes
  • Attend sales and motivation conferences
  • Form a Master Mind group
  • Hire a coach

Now that you are a member of the 20% club, you need to step up to the next goal. The top 20% should be the first goal, but not the end game.

The Top 4%

The top 20% of the top 20% are the most professional of all. This usually takes the additional desire to achieve the best. It is not easy to reach this distinguished level but it’s a worthy pursuit.

Think about it. This group is 4 out of every 100 salespeople. It is such a small percentage because it is the hardest to break into.

Attaining this level makes you part of a very elite group. It is the pinnacle of the profession made up of people that never have to worry about a job. Companies are seeking these people and recruiters look for them. The 4% are the best.

How Can You Get There?

It is a simple 5-step process. Simple in form, but difficult in implementation.

  1. Determine you want it enough
  2. Develop a plan
  3. Implement the plan
  4. Make course corrections
  5. Rinse and Repeat

It doesn’t take the smartest or best looking. However, it does take a person that understands the hardships at the beginning and the knowledge that it gets better with time.

It does take effort.  Hard, dedicated effort. Oh, and determination.

So is it worth it? All this work? Absolutely. Selling is the most gratifying profession.

The Sales Life

The sales life is one of joy and frustration, fun and stress, and excitement and upheaval. What follows are some thoughts I have on sales.

The most joy a salesperson can have is helping a customer solve their problem.

The most frustration a salesperson can have is dealing with support staff.

The most fun a salesperson can have is getting to know a customer better and sharing lives together.

The most stress a salesperson can have is dealing with a sales manager that doesn’t trust you to do your work.

The most excitement a salesperson can have is playing golf with a customer who have become a good friend.

The most upheaval a salesperson can experience is dealing with upper management that has never sold anything, yet continues to tell you how to do your job.

What do you think? What are your thoughts about the sales life?