Can Sales Training Fix a Poor Sales Person?

Monday, February 18, 2019

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Peter Drucker, the legendary management thinker, is reported to have said: “Most sales training is a complete waste of time and money because, at times, the best you can hope for is to turn a moron into an idiot.”
Drucker obviously was not a fan of sellers.
While his general assessment of salespeople may have been a little harsh, the fact is sales training is not the best tool to use for a sales reclamation project.
My experience is that the universe of salespeople comprises 4 quadrants:
As a sales leader, I’ve never had much success at helping a salesperson in Quadrant 4 (low motivation, lo-potential) become a productive seller.
I’ve been in many situations where I inherited Quadrant 4 sellers. I’ve taken it on as a personal challenge to help these people consistently achieve at even a modest level. And failed.
However, I’ve had more success motivating and mentoring Quadrant 3 sellers (low motivation, hi-potential) into a productive salespeople.
However, given the low probability of a sustained positive outcome, it’s not typically worth the investment of time
The problem is that this is the group that most often suffers from the Dunning-Kruger effect. They’re smart but they overestimate their capabilities. And they lack the self-awareness to acknowledge their shortcomings.
Thus, learning and growing does not motivate them.
Quadrant 2 sellers are my favorite.
I’ve had a lot success in teaching, coaching and mentoring motivated individuals in Quadrant 2 (high motivation, lo-potential) to become consistently productive salespeople.
My first boss convinced himself I was in Quadrant 2. In his entire career I was the first history major he’d ever hired. He’d only hired business majors into entry-level sales roles.
After that, as a sales leader, I made a career out of turning hardware engineers, software designers, marketers, network technicians, and other “lo-potential” people (like liberal arts majors) into top flight sellers.
I believe the key was that not once did I ever send one of those people to formal sales training.
Instead of training, I developed a tailored curriculum of sales learning content for each one using the 5 learning motions: Watch, Read, Listen, Interact and Experience (WRLIE).
It is the willingness of sellers in Quadrant 2 to invest their time, and sometimes money, to continuously educate themselves and fill in the gaps in their knowledge that propelled them to the top. And keeps them there.
Interestingly, the toughest group to help are the kings and queens of Quadrant 1 (Hi-potential, high motivation).
They want more from you and your company than you are prepared to give them.
What they want to know is: how are you going to help them get from where they are today to where they want to be?
In other words, they want to be challenged to improve; not just challenged to sell more.
They don’t want rote training. They want to be educated with new perspectives and insights on selling that they can test and integrate into their own unique style.
And, they don’t want to wait. They want to learn now.
What are they learning from you? If you’re not adding value to their career, they’ll be gone in a heartbeat.
– Andy Paul