The Training Didn’t Work (Revisited)

December 20, 2007 at 7:41 am | Posted in Sales Training | 3 Comments

Back in Sept. I wrote a post about my experience with the prospects that say “the training didn’t work”. I’ve received several comments on that post and even more phonecalls and direct emails from business colleagues that have read the post. Seems that everyone seems to have an opinion and these opinions fall into 2 major camps.

Some folks are in total agreement with me on what steps need to be put in place to make certain that training is sticky and reaps results. Other folks place the “blame” squarely on the shoulders of the trainer and say that if there is no appreciable improvement in sales then…well….the training didn’t work.

As a trainer I’m willing to be introspective and take my share of the blame if sales stats don’t improve. But often it isn’t the training that didn’t work and if I am to be blamed for anything then I should be blamed for not making 100% certain that there is follow-up, follow-through, attention, monitoring and focus paid AFTER the training is done.

Training is not a one-time event. Just because the contract with the trainer has been satisfied it does not mean that training is done. The ball needs to be picked up internally and much like athletes train and practice every day, as do world-class musicians, dancers and so on, so should sales reps train, practice and be coached throughout their tenure in the position.

What if we train them and they leave? What if we don’t train them and they stay?



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  1. There is also the possibility that management is not doing a good job of measuring the right indicators or is not giving the training enough time to take hold. Perhaps there are even deeper more systemic problems that could not be addressed with training like a negative work environment, a poor compensation system , a bad brand image or ineffective marketing collateral. Yes there are poor trainers out there but I feel like it is more often that there are additional outside factors that are influencing the morale and performance of the sales force.

  2. And speaking as trainer here’s a resounding “oh yes” to your comment. Trainers are often blamed for poor ROI when there are truly a plethora of negatives at work. I’ve taken to detailing these observations (negatives:) ) in my Needs Assessment so that when and if the training isn’t “sticky” enough, the client will be able to (perhaps) address the other issues at play.

  3. In my experience, the root problem is habitual; I used to think it was “cultural” but that’s too glorious of a word, and it gives too much credit to behavioral habits that are only as cultural as, say, the stuff that grows on the bottom of your garbage can is “life.”

    By habitual, I mean that in many organizations — even and sometimes especially small ones, where the line between personal identity and work identity can be very blurry — there is a “habit” of doing things a certain (dysfunctional way). Occsaionally, someone at a decision-making level escapes this bubble of mediocrity, and calls in a trainer to transform the workplace or, at least, to make it competent enough to do what it’s supposed to do (so in this sense, it’s not about making things better, it’s just about getting things to the basic standard of where they should have been years ago). So the trainer comes in, does his/her thing — and does it successfully in and of itself — but then after a very short while, the old habits return. It’s kind of like how some people are with dieting. If your habit is to eat 2 Big Macs during that meal you created between lunch and dinner, what can even the world’s best personal trainer do for you? The big problem, though — and this is the root as I see it — is organizations don’t like looking in the mirror (just like people…organizations are just people, right?). And they don’t want to see that they have baaaaaaaaaaaaaad habits. It’s much simpler to just blame the training — why not? That denial is one of the habits. Training is a partnership, just like any other consulting service. It’s not an event.

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