The sales performance improvement industry has undergone a metamorphosis. It was once a system led by gurus, including Huthwaite’s own Neil Rackham, a behavioral psychologist studying success factors in human relations. Rackham undertook the largest and most comprehensive research study to isolate and identify the distinct behavior traits of successful salespeople. The study involved the meticulous observation of more than 35,000 actual sales calls, and behavioral analysis of more than 10,000 salespeople and 1,000 sales managers from some of the world’s leading organizations in 27 countries.
While that research has transformed sales training, today we’re less driven by gurus and more driven by metrics. So the question remains: what can fill the guru vacuum? With the generally mixed results and the high level of cynicism associated with behavior change, the marketplace now demands proof that a sales process, technique or philosophy will work prior to an engagement: the marketplace is no longer buying hope.
Specifically, companies now demand a sales improvement solution that produces positive, demonstrable results that fit within their culture, leadership structure and business metrics. Is it any wonder then that as early as 1995, more than half of sales training executives surveyed identified “determining sales training effectiveness” as an area most needing additional research (Honeycutt, Ford & Rao, “Sales Training: Executives’ Research Needs, 1995)?
If past is prologue to the future, American corporations will spend more than $7 billion on sales training this year. The HR Chally Group estimates that nearly 90 percent of training does not in fact increase sales, as 50 per cent of training is spent on increasing product knowledge, which has no statistical correlation with sales increases. Customers don’t care about a salesperson’s product knowledge.
Customers care about:
- General management skills and ability to understand their business.
- Effectiveness at customer advocacy, to protect their interests within the vendor company.
- Ability to diagnose and design applications.
- Accessibility and responsiveness.
- Problem solving and innovativeness.
Simply stated, sales training needs to be right. It needs to focus on new customer concerns and produce quantifiable and predictable results. The industry needs to think in terms of measurable impact. Assuming that all to be true, the industry remains relevant.
In an environment where product features and brand identity are no longer enough to “close the deal,” sales skills are the primary engine of differentiation, value creation and profit margin growth in the new millennium.
Sales skills and performance may soon be the only discernible distinguishing factor among companies. Therefore, not only does sales training matter – it may matter more now than ever before!
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