The Training Didn’t Work

September 8, 2007 at 5:44 pm | Posted in Sales Training | 4 Comments

I was referred to a new prospect the other day and was told that the firm’s sales were “flat” …maybe I could “do something.” I followed up (of course) and had a conversation with the owner of the firm. Seems they tried training in the past and it “just didn’t work.” No ROI he told me. The sales revenues did not improve. And because of his bad experience he wasn’t going to try it again. Nope. Training doesn’t work…at least in his firm. And you know what, training doesn’t work UNLESS you put a couple of things in place, specifically:

–Follow-up reinforcement training that is conducted on an ongoing basis
–Recognition and rewards to motivate and incent sales reps
–Results measurement (how do you know that it isn’t working)
–Realistic time line (be patient, application of new skills and techniques takes time)

Make certain to attend to these necessary follow-up steps lest you be forced to say “the training didn’t work.”



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  1. Hi Adrian — great points. I don’t think many/enough/some (strike one) companies spend enough time ‘locating’ training within their overall plan. As you know — and probably find a bit frustrating at times — if training is seen only as a single, standalone ‘event’ and not as a key element within a larger system, it isn’t given a real chance to succeed; and so often judged to have been unsuccessful or encourage comments like the one you heard: training doesn’t work.

    I’d also suggest consideration for another factor on your sacred bullet list: the idea that the training has to be about solving the actual problem.

    This sounds absurd — “obviously” the training is about solving a problem, right? Yeah, but is it about solving the ACTUAL problem or some other problem?

    For example, let’s say a company has a product that is widely understood to be Total Crap (TC). Sadly for many, this TC has a warranty and a customer base who expects NOT TC. Based on this, it’s easy to assume that CSRs will be flooded with complaints — most of them from irate (or soon-to-be-irate, soon-to-be-ex) customers aren’t having the problem solved. TC is TC, right? Executives viewing this from up high may note the number of “escalated customer service issues and stressed-out CSRs”, and declare that what’s needed is CSR training — something to help CSRs “better manage customer problems and resolve them at level one.” So they bring in training to deal with this problem — to help CSRs deal more effectively with irate customers. Yet nothing “improves” — in fact, things probably get WORSE, because CSRs now feel more hopeless than ever: before training things sucked, after training things still suck.
    The problem here wasn’t the training in and of itself — the training did what it was designed to do (or at least tried to). But it wasn’t intended to solve the actual root problems, of which there are (at least) two: the product is TC and CSRs are being trained to solve political problems with customer service techniques.
    Soo… if you want to go even FURTHER (and why stop now?), the training has actually created a brand new problem: a ‘cognitive dissonance’ among CSRs who cannot align what they’re trained to do (make customers happy by providing service) to what they’re actually DOING (damage control, public relations, and general-all-around-weaseling). So you can expect higher CSR turnover, worsening morale…and, ultimately, the “training” can be viewed, incorrectly, as either a waste of time or a factor that made things suck even more. Yet, in fact, the training was the only intelligent thing happening — yet it was not aimed at the problem.
    (blogs are fun.)

  2. Hi Adrian,

    In addition to your excellent suggestions, I also find that sometimes a training consultant is so eager for the work, they conduct training when training isn’t the best (or even a) solution to the situation.

    Before introducing training as a solution, I like to get answers to three questions:
    1. Are there environmental factors prohibiting the desired behaviors?
    2. Are the prospective participants UNWILLING to perform the desired behaviors?
    3. Are the prospective participants UNABLE to perform the desired behaviors.

    If the answer to any of these three questions is “Yes,” training will most likely fail. If the answer to all of these questions is “No” AND clear measurable objectives can be identified, training might be a viable solution.

  3. very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

  4. I would like to see a continuation of the topic

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