Sales Leadership Training: Jump In The Trenches With Your Team

Sales Leadership Training: Jump In The Trenches With Your Team

Are sales leaders missing a trick when it comes down to sales training?

Did you know that in the UK ‘sales training’ is entered in Google search over 28,000 times each month on average*? Would you venture a guess as to how many times ‘sales leadership training’ or ‘sales management training’ is searched?

Unbelievably, the answer is only 20 (!) searches for sales leadership training and 170 for sales management training! We assume that these searches are all broadly driven by the same thing … a need for assistance in improving sales performance. Why is it then, that ONLY 0.68% of people looking to increase sales performance are approaching it at a management or leadership level?

It’s a common assumption that once an individual rises through the ranks to a Management or Leadership position (often with very little personal development to support them in the transition into their new role), they no longer require as much guidance and support. Their job is to manage, educate and motivate themselves as well as their people. After all, this is what they’ve been hired for, this is what their substantial salaries and bonuses pay for. Right, that’s clear.

Or is it?

The Google search results paint a very interesting picture.

When I combine it with my 14+ years experience in sales & sales leadership training and my 25+ years experience as a sales professional, I can’t help but think that there are countless businesses searching for a solution that will never deliver the outcomes they focus on … but it doesn’t have to be this way!

Let me explain.

Over 28k of Google searches a month in the UK aim to find suitable sales training. This could mean, that 99% of the people performing these searches believe the key to improving results is to get a sales trainer in. Problem solved.

I’d agree that the 28k searches for ‘sales training’ are absolutely justified, if all of these people are part of organisations with a thriving coaching culture. Sales managers and leaders coach the mindset, skill set and activity of their teams on regular basis. They spot gaps in their skills, find a decent sales training provider, roll out the skill training, keep up the coaching afterwards, to finally see their bottom line shoot up. Easy.

There’s just one snag. This is simply not the case.

A high-performing sales coaching culture is as rare as hen’s teeth.

In reality what’s happening is, businesses and leaders are increasingly shifting the responsibility for change onto a/ their teams and b/their chosen sales trainer. As a result, sales leadership and management do not see themselves as an integral part of the equation. Sales Leadership training rarely becomes a necessary part of the training exercise.

Moreover, leaders or managers often demonstrate this mindset by not attending the sales training at all. By doing so, they send a very clear message to the people being trained:

  • This is about you, not me.
  • You are not performing at the level we need you to perform.
  • I believe you need to change … I do not.
  • You are 100% responsible for the change required without me having to be involved.

Consequently – swift, effective and consistent follow-up by a leader or manager after a sales training event is often lacking. This in turn results in an inability to measure progress and coach the new skills and behaviours that their people have been exposed to. What follows is, the significant investment in sales training quickly evaporates into thin air. I firmly believe this approach and thinking will NEVER produce lasting results.

As Bob Davids explains in his Ted Talk ‘Leadership Without Ego Is the Rarest Commodity’:

‘Jump in the trenches with them’

Let me give you an all-too-common scenario.

A sales leader claims the reason for not hitting targets is that the sales team needs better skills, motivation, behavioural training, etc. It is not his job to train his people. He/she will bring in a training specialist to do it. They will expect the trainer to make the change happen.

The problem with that is: in the training room you have a mix of people. You have high-performers, who are already hitting the target. If the training is good, they will listen, quickly absorb the key learnings, go out there and perform even better.

You are lucky if you have 20% of these people in your team.

In reality, somewhere between 10 and 20% of you team is made up of self-starters and high-performers. They don’t need that much coaching or management on daily basis, they just rock.

The other 80-90% of people is made up of 2 camps of people:

  1. The 1st camp is people who blame other factors for their sales performance. They blame the market, the customers, the product, internal problems in the company. They simply deflect responsibility: they would be on target if it wasn’t for X, Y and Z. The challenge here is, that any sales training will be just another factor to blame.
  2. The 2nd camp of people is made up of team members who want up their game, do better, catch up with the high-performers. However, they will need support, coaching and mentoring to get there. The caveat here is you can’t coach lasting change with just one or two days in a training room. You can educate, inform and can get people to practise new skills and behaviours in the training room. The real change however, happens in the field, on day-to-day basis, where your people refine what they have learned until they become new habits. Few businesses will pay a sales trainer to coach their sales team on day-to-day basis.

Consequently, if the sales manager isn’t plugged into the idea that he and his coaching skills might just be the most VITAL part of any sales training, the whole exercise and investment is going to bring little to no results.

To sum up: it might very well be, that your sales team needs a comprehensive sales skills training. Many do.

The real question you have to ask yourself however is:

Do you also need to consider investing in sales leadership training and their coaching skills to see a serious return on your training investment?



* as of Jan 2018