logo image

ATD Blog

Is Your Sales Training a Waste of Time and Money?


Wed Sep 09 2015

Is Your Sales Training a Waste of Time and Money?-bf73daf2f9127cc7b7202302a346919d072a2cd3aafe3273b84f185be3ca5621

You’ve doubled down on a highly acclaimed sales training program. Every time you offer the course, the room is on fire with enthusiasm, and sales reps that attend can’t stop gushing about the amazing learning experience. 

Yet, you can’t help being a tad disappointed with the lack of traction you are getting from such a powerful and popular program. To be sure, some reps apply a few of the tools and techniques they learned, but for the most part, it’s pretty much business as usual. What is going wrong?


I’ll share a secret with you: Most people can’t connect the dots. They don’t know how. This is true for even very smart people.

Few people know that I started my career in sales. I was a sales rep for an agency that sold temporary and recruiting services. I was not good at selling, and this was a problem. The job was mostly commission-based, and I was relying on that commission check to pay my rent.

The “mother” agency in New York finally sent a senior sales manager, Gloria, to work with me. Her feedback was devastatingly eye opening and ego crushing. However, it also was incredibly helpful. You see, Gloria told me exactly what to do and what to say, down to which words to use, as well as the exact systems and routines to set up. She honed in explicitly on what I had to say and do to make the sale for our company. Her training was composed of “in-the-trenches” best practices that she KNEW reliably and consistently worked for other sales reps.

My sales performance shot up. In just a few months, I was neck-and-neck with another rep for the highest earnings in the company. The sole reason for this meteoric rise in results was that Gloria had connected the dots for me. 

Contrast Gloria’s approach with a networking class I recently took in my ongoing quest for professional development. The course had some excellent tips on how to connect with thought leaders in your field, as well as some great practical exercises to complete. But I was left wracking my brain trying to figure out how to apply what I’d learned to my specific situation.


Could your sales people be in the same predicament when they leave a highly acclaimed sales training program you invested in? What can you do to help them apply what they learned back on the job?

Try applying Gloria’s highly successful approach to crafting a course that is specific to your company. Here’s how. 

  1. Identify the top and bottom three to five reps.  This can be trickier than it seems. Watch out for pockets of reps that are doing really well or really poorly. The reason for their results may have more to do with their situation (a market with lots of low hanging fruit or a terrible manager) than it does with their skill. You also want to make sure that you select top sales reps who won’t be threatened by sharing their best practices.

  2. Interview these reps to find out what specifically they do and say to achieve sales goals. Ask about questions, stories, rebuttals, routines, systems, and metrics they use to stay on track.

  3. Ask for work samples, whenever possible. This could be emails, connection requests on LinkedIn, post-sales call notes, sales planning notes, scripts, and so forth.

  4. Shadow both groups to see if you can pick up anything that they didn’t mention during the interviews.

  5. Look for critical differences. This is what you want to especially focus on during the training. You can think of a critical difference as being the 20 percent of the things that they are doing that get them 80 percent of their results.

  6. Build the training around the best practices of these top sales reps, with an emphasis on the critical differences. Include as many as possible of the explicit in-the-trenches best practices that you collected. Provide tools and templates for use after the training.

  7. Follow up the training with on-the-job coaching so that learners can get direct, relevant feedback on how well they are applying what they learned in training.

  8. Co-opt these same learners to peer mentor the next batch of trainees. In this way, you bake the best practices into your culture so that they become “the way we do it here.” Plus, you deepen the learning for these newly minted peer trainers.

  9. Develop a system to capture new sales best practices as they emerge. Update the training and share the new best practices with the sales team on an ongoing basis.

Is this a lot more work than plunking down a bunch of money for a canned sales training course? Of course it is. But it will also garner you 10 times the results.

You've Reached ATD Member-only Content

Become an ATD member to continue

Already a member?Sign In


Copyright © 2024 ATD

ASTD changed its name to ATD to meet the growing needs of a dynamic, global profession.

Terms of UsePrivacy NoticeCookie Policy