“There’s a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path”
The Matrix
Morpheus to Neo, after the helicopter crash

Sales management executives frequently tell me that they need to increase sales in their organizations. In my experience they usually look for a single solution to the problem, like hiring better salespeople or a better sales manager, or changing the compensation program or some other singular change that they think will make all the difference.

The most typical and wasted single thing that sales managers will chose to do is to organize a sales training.

Now I have nothing against sales training. In fact, I do a lot of it for a living. So how can I make this heretical statement? Well, let’s flesh it out so that you can see what I mean.
A well-meaning sales manager might simply say:

I need to improve the effectiveness of my sales force, so I am going to organize a sales training.

Sounds good ─ or at least typical ─ but in exploring this idea a bit more deeply it becomes apparent that what the sales manager is really saying is:

I have no idea why my salespeople are under-performing, so I am going to take this group of under-performers, sit them in a room, let them listen to a lecture or participate in some kind of training-related activities. Afterward, I will send them back to their desks, in the same environment that now exists for them, and hope that their collective sales results will have improved from the experience.

There are several problems with this statement ─ bad assumptions baked into this thinking. In this book, all of these fallacious assumptions will be addressed. To illustrate the point that this idea is misguided, here is a simple list of some of the often overlooked assumptions that cause this strategy to fail:

- Who exactly is it that is in the training room?
- Which particular skills do the attendees need to improve, and are those the skills being taught?
- Will the people in the room be inclined to take what they have learned and actually change what they are doing according to this new learning?
- Is there some kind of a defined selling structure that they will follow as they work to execute these new learnings?
- Is there someone holding them accountable to these changes, and to the execution of the elements in the selling structure in which they fit?
- What happens if they are being held accountable but fail to do the things they are supposed to be doing?
- What happens if a better sales candidate comes along and the number of chairs in the office designated for salespeople are already full.

Until you address these questions, it simply is not reasonable to assume that a sales training will have any kind of significant impact on the collective results of your sales organization. A sales organization is a complex, dynamic entity. It takes more than a single sales training to produce real changes.

Remember also that an organization with a greater number of top sales producers will achieve better results, more consistently, than those with just a few stars. That goes hand- in-hand with rejecting the 80/20 Rule, a commonly accepted axiom that really only serves to limit organization-level sales effectiveness. Read on for more on this subject.

So what does it take to effect real, positive, significant changes in a sales organization? I get that question a lot. Prospective clients ask me quite often if my sales consulting and trainings will help their sales people actually sell better. It is impossible to answer until the questions identified above have been addressed.

This is an excerpt from my second book, Managing the Sales Process, available on Amazon.com. You can find a series of these excerpts in a dedicated blog category to get a broad overview, post-by-post, of the book (they are listed in reverse order in the category, so start with the oldest).