7 Sales Training Mistakes To Avoid

Companies spend billions of dollars on sales training each year, yet most training fails to have long-term impact. It doesn’t drive the behavior change necessary for true sales performance improvement. The result: billions of dollars wasted on short-term boosts in sales at best.

Training can fail right away when it doesn’t go well, or it can fail months later when the results prove underwhelming. Either way, sales training fails often. When it does, it’s usually because of common sales training mistakes.

Companies that avoid these mistakes not only have more successful and effective sales training programs, they achieve increases in overall sale performance and long-term revenue growth. If you want to join their ranks, avoid these 7 mistakes at all costs:

1 – Business and Learning Needs Aren’t Well Defined

If you don’t know where you are headed, any path will get you there. Sales training has little chance of succeeding when:

  • Leaders base their goals and objectives on wishful thinking as opposed to realistic expectations backed by strong analysis. If you don’t have a clear and attainable goal, and you don’t know what it’s going to take to get there, your training initiative is doomed to fail before it even starts.
  • Leaders fail to analyze sales team learning needs and skill gaps. Without knowledge of the skills your team already has and where their weaknesses lie, you can’t build a program that’s relevant to them.

2 – Training Isn’t Reinforced

Seller behaviors won’t change overnight. Simply showing up for a two- or three-day training event and practicing new skills is not enough to make the training stick. While event-only training can produce short-term bumps in sales improvement, afterward sellers forget learned skills and knowledge, lose inspiration, and learning effectiveness decreases.

Adult learning is an ongoing process. Only through repetition and practice will your sales team internalize the sales training and consistently put it to use.

3 – Not Enough Focus on Sales Knowledge

For good reason, most sales training focuses on building sales skills. After all, your sellers need the right skills to succeed. While sales skills are necessary, they are not sufficient to develop top sales performers. Looking only at skills ignores an important and critical piece of the puzzle—sales knowledge.

Not only do sellers need the skills to uncover buyer needs, craft solutions, fill the pipeline, manage sales opportunities, negotiate, and win deals—they need the sales knowledge to speak fluently about your products and services, the customer needs you solve, your value proposition, the marketplace, and more. Most sales training ignores sales knowledge and focuses solely on sales skills.

4 – Failure to Assess Individuals’ Attributes

It’s not enough to give your team the sales skills and knowledge to sell; you have to know if individual sellers have the attributes required for top sales performance. We call these attributes drivers and detractors of sales success. Together these will tell you not only who can sell, but who will sell and at the highest level.

5 – Training Isn’t Engaging

Read the feedback forms of a given sales training program and you’ll see sellers view the training as boring, irrelevant, too basic, too advanced, a waste of time, the instructor talked too much, and the list goes on. There are many ways for a training program itself to fall short of expectations. It’s guaranteed to fail if the training isn’t engaging and delivered in the way that adults learn—through doing.

The training program itself needs to be engaging and emphasize getting sellers to practice new skills so they will put them to use.

6 – No Sales Process or Sales Methodology in Place

Many sales training programs fail to provide a process and methodology sellers can follow to systematically move buyers through the pipeline. Without this support, sellers go back to doing what they’ve always done and they end up recreating the wheel over and over again.

7 – Lack of Measurement

Companies tend to forgo measuring the effectiveness of sales training. The training can fail simply because companies have no idea if it has succeeded. It’s also difficult to hold sellers accountable when there’s little or no measurement. How can you know if sellers are implementing new behaviors, taking action, and achieving results if you don’t track it?

If you want to make your sales training a success, start by avoiding these common mistakes.


To learn more about why many sales training initiatives fail and what you can do to make yours a success, download RAIN Group’s free report, Why Sales Training Fails.

Mike Schultz is President of RAIN Group, a global sales training and consulting company. He helps companies around the world unleash the sales potential of their teams. Mike is bestselling author of Rainmaking Conversations and Insight Selling. He also writes for the RAIN Selling Blog.