Sluggish Results? You Don’t Have a Training Issue. You Have a Culture Issue.

In conversations with three different clients this week about sales training programs, it became clear that a lack of training was not the issue holding these teams back. While principles need to be reinforced, fundamentals need to be honed, and new skills need to be taught, none of those isthecommon denominator that holds these organizations back.

Many sales teams (and sales trainers) justify the cost of training services and programs by comparing that cost to how much additional revenue could be won as a result. It's often difficult to measure how much impact the program could have. With an "anything's possible" attitude, the sky is the limit and rosy pictures are easily painted. It's also difficult to predict how much growth would occur by doing nothing at all. Regardless, a good sales training program should show a tremendous, if not immediately specific, ROI, so long as the lessons and concepts are adopted.

Therein lies the rub.

The disease afflicting most sales organizations is not a lack of skills, desire, or even commitment. What these teams have not created is a culture or environment where continuous improvement is the norm.

The folly of a commission-only compensation plan is the expectation that a sole focus on results will drive the activities and processes necessary to achieve them. Thus, the onus is on the salesperson, not the organization. This is particularly evident with outside sales teams who work remotely. It's expensive to bring everyone together. It's expensive to bring in a trainer. Don't even get me started on the concept of "time out of the territory."

Aren't you always connected? Aren't most salespeople even working on their vacations too? Can you really not spare a day and a half away from the home office? Does management think you're making calls all day long every day, or that you should be? I digress...

The concept is ridiculous, but that doesn't make it any less prevalent. It's too easy of a scapegoat and a lack of taking ownership by an organization to demand better salesmanship, not just bigger numbers.

What if the company held the idea that off-site meetings were so important, that they're worth pulling the reps out for a day every quarter? That would make a statement.

Before you get carried away thinking this is a piece where I rail against sales managers and executives, let's not forget the personal responsibility the reps themselves should be taking. Because most aren't taking it.

The amount of valuable data and opinions that are available in our pockets and at our fingertips is staggering… And growing.

For literally zero dollars beyond your monthly phone and Internet bill, you can acquire a world-class education. Five minutes a day, approached with an open mind in a little bit of curiosity, can transform your career in less than a year.

It's not as much fun as complaining about your quota though, and it also requires a level of commitment that most people prefer not to possess. It requires doing more than the bare minimum, and often without an immediate reward. "Think differently? Why think at all?"

No. Salespeople don't need training. Most salespeople already know everything they need to know, at least at the fundamental level. What salespeople need is a better culture.

They need a culture that dissents against stereotypes and business as usual. An organization that refuses to tolerate the status quo inside its own house is uniquely equipped to help its customers overcome that inertia in theirs.

Salespeople need a culture where great questions are asked, creativity is encouraged, and new approaches are developed. Priorities are clearly understood instead of busyness being disguised as productivity. Thediscipline to get the most important work done should be valued over the plausible deniability that comes with "first in and last to leave."

Great salespeople thrive in an environment where they are not just told to improve and then left to their own devices, but where everyone is a student oftheir craft because everyone is better off for it.

Create that kind of environment, and the training takes care of itself. You can spend a fortune bringing in a speaker for a day, and 70% of that investment goes in one ear and out the other. Alternatively, you can spend less money more regularly on creating a culture of self-improvement, and watch the dividends (and commission checks) compound over time.