Key Challenges for Sales Team Training in 2017

Key Challenges for Sales Team Training in 2017

Continued sales training and learning often gets pushed down the totem pole in a growing sales organization. Aggressive sales goals and growing teams require a lot from their sales leadership, but, with resources and technology available in the market today, why do teams continue to struggle to make learning a priority?

We reached out to some of the top sales trainers and thought leaders for answers. What are the people who get brought in to fix these issues seeing sales teams struggle with, and what do they think modern sales teams should focus on in the world of training?

These are their thoughts.

The biggest issues in sales training in 2017

Andy Paul, author and sales thought leader, says a major shift in how leaders perceive sales training is needed:

Sales leaders regard training as an obligation instead of as an opportunity. As a result, it occurs too infrequently, is too often focused on teaching generic sales skills, and the lessons taught are rarely reinforced in the context of the seller’s day-to-day sales activities. – Andy Paul

The negative stigma surrounding training has been around a long time and still persists today. Reps aren’t engaging with training materials even when they’re made available because they aren’t helpful or relevant for the job at hand. If a rep doesn’t understand why the information is useful, or doesn’t believe it is, then they simply won’t make use of it. This missing priority is something that author and sales leader Lee Bartlett believes that sales leadership needs to tackle:

The biggest problem with sales training is typically a lack of ongoing reinforcement by management, however, in 2017, sales training must include modules on the “new rules of selling”, such as building a personal brand, content creation, utilising technology to support a deeper understanding of your customer, and social selling methodologies. – Lee Bartlett

Sales is constantly changing, and if your training doesn’t keep up, you’ll fall behind. Ongoing training allows teams to both stay on the cutting edge and informed on internal practices. Lori Richardson, CEO of, takes a root cause approach to the problem:

Sales leaders need to have the right people in sales roles who are not just able to sell, but willing to sell …and who are coachable and trainable with a high level of “Sales DNA.” We can teach a room (or a virtual room) full of reps with some greatly crafted content but there is no certainty that it will be heard, absorbed or tried out.

It makes a lot of sense, the best training in the world won’t help someone that isn’t right for that position. However, that doesn’t mean nothing can be done to help the situation.

What can sales teams do about it

Either make a plan with the trainer to periodically visit and reinforce the message, or do so in-house. Also, find an up-to-date sales trainer with knowledge of the relevant Social Selling modules, and one who understands that sales training in 2017 should be based on the customer-journey and changes in their buying habits, rather than the traditional “features and benefits” style training that focuses solely on the sales process. – Lee Bartlett

According to a famous knowledge retention study by Hermann Ebbinghaus, “Within an hour, we lose more than half of the information, and within 24 hours we don’t remember two-thirds of the same information.” Reinforcing training through different avenues is the most direct way to keep your reps informed. This can happen a lot of different ways whether it be dripping out Lessons on a set cadence, 1-on-1 coaching, expert training sessions, or role playing concepts as you learn them. All of these are tangible ways to improve retention, but that doesn’t make them easy to follow through on.

Sales leaders should be thinking about how to engage their sellers in a process of continuous learning and education. For example, I provide my clients with the tools and curriculum to create an in-house book club in which the entire sales team reads 10 great books relating to sales, influence, marketing, decision making, relationship building and trust over a 12 month period. The only stipulation to participate in this program is that the sales leaders must commit to setting aside 20 minutes per day, during the work day, for the team to read. The level of engagement in the educational process goes up substantially when it is supported this way – Andy Paul

A sales leader’s job isn’t done after creating a book club or assigning a Lesson. Leaders must show it matters by making time and prioritizing it. The return on investment of time and resources in training pays off as soon as reps put their learning into action.
Alen Mayer, CEO of North American Sales Training Corp., believes reps need to truly understand themselves and their motivations to improve the outcomes of their day-to-day selling activities:

Imagine an iceberg. Above the water line you can see all the behaviors that lead to a sale; prospecting, cold calling, follow through, and documenting. In fact, all of the activities that make up the sales reps process toward quota attainment are above the water line. But you need to go below the surface of your activities to evaluate and hone the internal motivations that drive behavior. Everything that is not visible makes all the difference in selling. Dive underneath the surface to understand your values and beliefs and then make small incremental changes that will have big, positive outcomes above the water line.

By understanding why they sell and who they are, reps can apply their unique viewpoint toward accomplishing sales goals. Reps can, and should, do this for themselves, but it’s in a sales leader’s best interest to facilitate this type of thinking throughout their team. No matter the method, finding and activating each reps individual motivations will increase their drive and performance.

Commit to your team in 2017

Sales leaders who commit to the constant improvement of their team are the beacon for a culture of constant learning. Whether it’s ongoing training, bringing in sales experts, or hiring the right people, sales leaders have an opportunity to make sales training challenges into opportunities in 2017.

Driven companies use Lessonly to tackle these challenges by building Lessons that accelerate their sales team’s productivity. Take the next step with a self-guided tour of Lessonly’s team learning software.

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