How Often Have You Heard Yourself Saying: “My Sales Team Has Talent, So Why Aren’t They Hitting Their Numbers???”
This is a problem that sales managers have been trying to solve since the dawn of business. You can almost imagine a merchant circa 1300 lamenting to a friend, “What stops my traders from calling on the bigger kingdoms and getting higher prices is beyond me!” This exact conversation is going on right now in the offices of sales managers and company presidents all around the globe. The commodity may have changed but the essence of the conversation is the same. What stops my salespeople from attaining the results I know they are capable of?
According to David Stein, the CEO of ES research group, an analyst firm focused on the sales training industry, “American businesses spend over $7B a year in sales training and yet the failure rate is over 80%.” ES Research’s data shows that sales training has a motivational effect that fades with time. Stein explains, “Most salespeople revert back to their original production level within 80 days unless there is some sort of intervention that reinforces the training.”
There are many approaches to solving this problem, most of which don’t work:
- Reward success: Vacations, money, and public recognition work for some. For others there is little or no motivational value. Beyond that, there is ample research that says rewards start losing their effectiveness the more you use them.
- Punish failure: This can be a great motivator for certain people, but overall it has a detrimental effect on the morale of the sales organization. And once again its effectiveness tapers off with repeated use.
- Upgrade selling skills: The sales manager or a hired gun comes in and teaches the sales team sales skills that they usually already know. On occasion something new is delivered that makes a difference. Sales Training does deliver a boost in sales. Unfortunately, sales usually slide back to the normal level all too quickly.
- Motivation: An impassioned speech from the CEO or a flavor of the month speaker can get the entire sales team fired up and ready to take on the world. Salespeople can usually maintain the fervor for days, sometimes for weeks, but eventually their fantasy collides with the reality. And the motivation fizzles out.
External Motivation is Short-lived – Internal Motivation is Permanent
One of the key elements of sales training is its motivational effect. There are two types of motivation; external motivation, which is transitory, and internal motivation, which stays with you no matter what. Unfortunately, sales training delivers external motivation.
It’s no wonder that the “high” from a great sales trainer often fizzles out quickly. Furthermore, relying on external motivation means businesses constantly have to invest in ongoing sales training just to keep pace.
The Key Driver That Determines Sales Success
Most sales professionals intrinsically know there has to be something more than traditional sales training. If we knew what the missing element was, we could transform training from just a motivational experience with short-term gains into one that provides a permanent change that delivers improved results.
Salespeople as a group are notoriously difficult to study because there is such a wide array of sales methodologies. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. Even if a company standardizes on a particular sales methodology, an objective study is still challenging because the individual salespeople feel more comfortable reverting back to their native sales techniques. This creates a mishmash of techniques within a company.
Sandler Sales is a great sales training company that has hundreds of franchisees worldwide. These franchisees use the Sandler Sales system to sign-up new students. They also teach the system everyday as part of their job. They literally live and breathe this sales ideology. In fact, their commitment to the Sandler Sales System was so high they purchased a franchise ($60,000+). All of these franchisees are highly driven individuals who selling the same commodity, using the same methodology.
A number of highly successful franchisees are very comfortable charging twice as much for the same service. While other franchisees feel uncomfortable asking for a higher price. Keep in mind all of these franchisees would coach their students to sell on value and get the highest price possible while being fair to the customer.
This means that the “weaker” franchisees know what to do but fail to take action when it comes to price. This highlights that what’s going on inside the salesperson’s head (the human element) is more powerful that their sales skill-set level.
With an empowering human element, a salesperson can attain results far in excess of what common wisdom would predict given their current skill level and drive. And conversely you can get a highly skilled and driven salesperson that gets less than stellar results because of a dis-empowering human element.
Sales training teaches new selling skills and provides much needed motivation to get out there and make things happen. Motivation can also temporarily overcome fear or inertia that hinders a salesperson’s success. The area where sales training misses the mark is in addressing the human element.
This is a clear case of 2 out of 3 is bad. As long as the human element goes unaddressed, the only way to get a lasting performance boost is to engage in a never-ending cycle of sales training.
Understanding The Human Element
Salespeople are driven: they want to get better results, but sometimes it seems no matter how hard they try, they can’t break the bonds of their human element. The human element trumps skill and drive every time. For lasting sales success, it’s critical that we understand the human element.
The first thing you need to know is that humans have several neurological levels. At the deepest level is where we hold our beliefs. We have beliefs about being a man, the government, about selling, money, and self-worth; there is a belief about everything in our awareness. Researchers have discovered we have anywhere from 50,000 to a 100,000 beliefs.
Our beliefs shape our values, which sit on the next level. Values give us the rules of engagement that allow us to quickly navigate through our complex lives. These are the invisible lines that we will not easily cross.
On the next level we have our capabilities, where we define what is possible for us to do or not do. A good example of this is where others can clearly see person X has the capability to do something (ask for higher price) but they can’t even imagine it being possible for them (still cave-in on price). Paradoxically we call this prison the comfort-zone.
The final level is what we are most aware of our behaviors and actions. We can see the results our behaviors deliver. If one of the higher neurological levels like beliefs is out of sync with what our sales training dictates we will not do that behavior. If we do attempt it we will quickly revert back to the old comfortable behavior.
“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein
If you want to get better results, you have to change your behaviors. Changing behaviors is one of the hardest things on the planet to do, even if you really, really want to change. This is why sales training fails to deliver long-lasting results.
In order to effectively change behaviors you have to go to a deeper level. The deeper you go, the faster the change, and the longer it lasts. In order to facilitate permanent change, you have to embrace neuroscience techniques to transform limitations in our higher neurological levels.
Change happens in an instant!
Change happens in an instant. People live under this illusion that change is hard to do or that change takes a long time. Another popular belief is that change is a painful experience. At one level, all of those statements are true because we try and facilitate change at the behavioral level.
“I wouldn’t give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity; I would give my right arm for the simplicity on the far side of complexity”-Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. (1841 -1935)
Simplicity on the far side of complexity is where elegance resides. And elegant solutions are simple to execute and deliver extraordinary results. I know this sounds cryptic, so let me give you an example of what is possible when change takes place.
I met Kim at a party where she told me that she was hitting a glass ceiling. No matter how hard she tried, no matter how much more training she received, she seemed unable to earn more than $150K/yr. All of her efforts were focused on changing her behaviors without changing her beliefs. She felt frustrated and stupid because nothing she did worked.
It turned out that when she was five years old her father came home one Friday afternoon and discovered he lost his paycheck. That was the only time she saw her father cry. That experience created a belief about having to respect her father around money issues. Her father never made more than $80K/yr and here she was earning $150K/yr “disrespecting” her father. The old belief sabotaged her efforts to succeed.
Using neuroscience she was able to transform the old belief to an empowering one: “The more I earn, the more I honor my dad.” This new belief shattered her self-imposed glass ceiling that her sales career once again took-off.
With the right neuroscience tools, sales training becomes highly effective because the human element is addressed head-on. The bottom-line is this. With the right tools, change happens quickly and permanently.