Sales training is not the cure for underperforming sales


If Sales Training werethe cure, we would not have businesses small and large frustrated with Sales & Business Development constantly being the least productive and leastaccountable area of the business. Sales Training addressesthe ‘symptoms’, not the ‘core’ age-old problem.

The persistent-core problem is that Sales & Business Development is an incidental career. Why? There is no tertiarypath. We have no pre-grad or post-grad curriculums provided by any of our Universities. No one is comprehensively educated to be a Sales or Business Development professional, resulting in Sales & Business Development being a ‘role’, not a profession!

Therefore, the people who fall into Sales & Business Development as a vocation learn from people who have done the same and they all practice on their customers and prospects to find their ownway. No other area of business accepts this haphazard approach to the preparation of required performance.

The cycle is predictable; sales performance is down, bring in the Sales Trainer to focus on the people. You get a slight lift in performance and then back to the default performance setting. Money and time wasted with no transformation of capability and performance that is sustainable for the business.

Fixing the core problem and transforming the business’ performance can only be achieved when the organisation itself installs appropriate new systems and protocols that support and demand the required new behaviours. Then the people can be skilled up to leverage those systems.

In my three and a half decades of sales driven B2B experience, just training the people without the business taking responsibility for complete transformation always fails. Poor Sales & Business Development capability and performance is a community-wide issue due to no tertiary education courses. Therefore the vast majority of businesses are in pain in this area.

Here are the symptoms:

  • Majority of sales delivered by the minority of the salespeople
  • Pipeline packed with way too many deals that don’t close
  • Key accounts not growing as much as they could or should
  • New business wins less than required or desired
  • Team comfortable running more and more of their business from their desks
  • Business is setting budgets around the performance capabilities of the Sales & BD team rather than the company’s leadership ambition
  • Sales & BD team believes the clients are their clients more so than the business’ clients
  • Business paying higher retainers and less salary is at risk with performance
  • New Sales and BD people don’t seem to change the outcomes
  • Sales Training has not worked with any lasting effect or meaningful ROI

Stop wasting time and money on trying to address these symptoms with Sales Training. For real transformation, you need to introduce a transformation program and be committed enough as an entire organisation to make it work, because it is going to take some time and persistence. Most importantly the transformation should be owned by the leader of the business first and foremost.

Here is what you need to do:

  1. Fully scope your ambition for the business on a three-year horizon.
  2. Know your addressablemarket and how much of it you want/deserve.
  3. Know the deltas that matter for your Sale & Business Development engine
  4. Step those deltas out over three years – what are they now, year 1, 2 and then 3 (annual, quarterly, monthly and weekly)?
  5. Measure, manage and make it happen. Set up the systems in your business to measure the deltas that matter. Try looking at behaviour metrics that can change outcomes like number of unique conversations each week or number of prospects qualified out.
  6. Introduce an end-to-end Selling System or Protocol to get the entire team working on the same universal ‘hymn sheet’. You may need some research and outside help with this for on-boarding and optimum customisation to your industry/business.
  7. The system needs to teach and support your team to always ‘select rather than sell’ (qualify out rather than in).
  8. Make that Selling System a company doctrine with no wriggle room.
  9. Set up the deltas for the team and ensure they know that there are consequences for not achieving them.
  10. Align team ambition with company ambition (win-win).
  11. Practice the skillsets of your embeddedSales System internallywith each other every week rather than externallywith your prospects and customers. Practice, practice, practice is the only way to transform your team.
  12. Build your Sales & BD Playbook from all your skills practisingand make this the Biblefor your new accountable, productive team capability and performance.

You can’t let the tail wag the dog. You need to support all who genuinelyare trying to learn, develop and work the new way, but you must move on from anyone who does not adapt themselves and adopt the Company’sSelling System, even if they are your ‘gun’ salesperson.

Until our Universities deliverus graduate professionals, the transformational education work must be done in our businesses to develop professional Sales & BD people. You cannot do it without leading from the top, embedding the right proprietary systems and protocols,and committingto grindthe long road to success. If you do this,your company will own a robust sales culture and IPand have a valuable sustainablecompetitive advantage within the most important engine in the business.You will also set your ambition up for success.


About the author

Tony McGinn OAM

Tony McGinn is founder of The McGinn Partnership; afirm focused on fixing the problem of productivity and accountability in Sales & Business Development through its Performance Protocol™ product.