10 Reasons Why The Traditional Sales Training Industry Is Broken & How You Fix It
In the ever-changing, increasingly challenging world of rural sales, training is crucial to ensure your sales team remain relevant and performs to their highest potential.
However, the traditional sales training industry – aka. Auckland and Sydney-based cookie-cutter franchise types – who have long claimed to hold the secret formula and panacea to transforming average salespeople into top performers are deeply flawed.
It’s time to unveil the truth and expose the broken system that hinders true sales success. Brace yourself team for a reality check as I share some alarming facts and statistics that reveal the traditional sales training industry’s inherent flaws, broken promises and outdated methods.
1. Lack of relevancy and real-world application
Hypothetical, academic, generic examples won’t help any rural sales team.
They want specific sales training to help them with the specific sales problems they are facing at that time.
Text-book training doesn’t achieve this for them.
The use of outdated techniques and hypothetical scenarios using FAB models (features, advantages and benefits) leaves your team ill-prepared for the savvy, sophisticated rural buyer of today.
2. Theory vs reality
Theory is all fine n’ dandy until you hit the real world and face a gruff, hard-arse farmer who’s having a bad day.
Training and role-playing realistic, real-time sales scenarios are where you get breakthroughs.
The confidence from practising some real and applicable lifts the confidence and conviction of your sales reps because they are simply ready.
Like any professional sports team, you should be training harder than you play.
3. One-Size-Fits-All Approach
63% of organizations reported that their sales training programs were generic and not tailored to their specific needs (CSO Insights).
The generic cookie-cutter model that traditional sales training providers peddle might work for them as a repeatable, predictable business model but it won’t for your sales team.
Effective sales training needs to be customised to the individual and his or her strengths. Maybe your team think they know it all and have a general lack of self-awareness that makes your farming customers feel unsafe when they are selling. Maybe others are quieter and more introverted and don’t ask the necessary questions to qualify if their prospect has a pain that makes it urgent enough for them to take action.
4. An obsession with closing
Closing is rewarded in sales because it signals a tangible outcome. But before you can close, you have to do several things right.
You have to put your customer at ease, listen, signal safety, ask the right questions in the right way, and adopt a non-assumptive curious buyer-focussed mindset (rather than one that serves your own).
Hard-core closing techniques went out of fashion in the 1980s like power suits. Super naff to use nowadays.
5. Lack of continuous learning
A study by the Sales Management Association found that less than 50% of salespeople continue to improve their skills beyond their initial training.
This one n’ done, hit n’ hope the sales training approach is good at creating short-term memory structures but not long-lasting effective ones.
Sales managers throw their hands up in frustration when their teams revert to type days if not weeks later.
All that time and money spent flying them into a hotel room somewhere in the city works out to be nothing better than a feel-good, team-bonding exercise at best when you don’t create effective behavioural change.
When training stagnates, sales stagnate and that will only hurt and harm your rural business.
6. Misalignment with Modern Buyers
Modern farming clients are more informed, digitally connected, and have much higher expectations than the “good ol’ days”.
Buyer behaviour – like human behaviour – is complex.
The modern farmer is a ferocious researcher. She or he will have done their homework and will come armed and prepared for any sales conversation.
Alignment with your farming customers happens when you can successfully surface their pains or problems that are having a present and direct impact or implication on the profitability or productivity of their farms.
7. Failure to address and teach emotional intelligence
According to TalentSmart, emotional intelligence is responsible for 58% of a salesperson’s performance.
Emotional intelligence plays a significant role in sales success.
Most traditional sales trainers lack emotional intelligence themselves with their happy, clappy one-way diatribes. Hardly fantastic role models.
Being able to “read the room” is a vital sales skill.
Being able to observe yourself and how you are being received and perceived is the first victory – the inner victory as Covey reminds us.
Watching your prospects closely can tell you things too. You can see if they are engaged or disinterested. Whether they are bored or frustrated. Or even – god forbid – signalling a buying signal.
Adapting and aligning your sales approach to the persona of the prospect in front of you is where you will succeed.
8. Ineffective Measurement of ROI
A study by CSO Insights revealed that only 11% of companies could effectively measure the ROI of their sales training programs.
We have a company policy here at Agrarian of always asking for a pre-training baseline across all the usual data points: sales revenue, GP, conversion rates, cost of sale (cost to acquire) and average sale amount.
Without these prior benchmarks, you and your sales training provider have no meaningful way of measuring whether the intervention has had any impact.
Training should have attribution. You should be seeing a lift in sales when the correct tools and training are applied and used as they’ve been taught.
9. Lack of specific sector specialisation
You have to live in a market to know the market.
You can’t know the nuances of rural living, working and playing in downtown Auckland or Sydney. Saying you spend the summer holidays on your wife’s sister’s farm is not qualification enough.
You cannot properly relate and command any kind of real respect if you haven’t “walked a mile in their shoes”. An urban environment is completely different to a rural community. The dynamics, social structures and hierarchies are vastly different systems to town folk.
Don’t pretend to be the expert if you are not.
10. An absence of up-skilling
Too many training providers rely on their overseas owners or franchise systems to teach them what to teach and train. Most of it comes out of the US which is a different culture and market.
All knowledge has an expiry date and the very best continually learn. Or – at best – you’re like one of those old-time professors spouting the same rhetoric year after year to mind-numbed students who are tuned out and disengaged.
Hardly a rich, learning environment. Sharpen your saw. Always.
Change in the sales training sector is long overdue. Status quo is not an option as it only offers a law of diminishing returns.
Heartache for sales reps and massive headaches for sales managers.
The traditional techniques taught in the 1970s don’t work in the hyper-connected world of the 2020s.
Technology changes and therefore so do markets and customers.
Traditional sales training providers are not adapting their practices quickly enough to ensure paying participants are properly equipped with deeper skills to succeed in an increasingly cynical world where all sales reps are greeted with the same scepticism and suspicion.
The traditional sales training industry’s lack of focus on teaching true emotional intelligence, enabling continual recall and reinforcement and a failure to keep up with the depth of science of human psychology and buyer behaviour means they are doing their clients and themselves a disservice.
I’d go as far as to say it’s irresponsible, lacks professional conscience and instead of setting sales teams up to succeed, they are only setting them up to fail.
Your rural business and sales team deserve much better so make a better decision when it comes to training your sales team next time.