Why Most Sales Training Programs Fail

Companies invest a significant amount of revenue into the development of their salespeople each year.

Corporations in the US alone spend over $70 Billion on training, and still, there is a mass of sales reps that underperform.

In fact, according to, The Science of Selling; by David Hoffeld, 38-49% of ALL salespeople fail to make quota each year.


Many companies are incorrectly addressing the training needs of their sales force. Fortunately, many of the mistakes organizations make when creating and delivering training programs can be fixed.

Let’s take a look at the most common reasons sales training programs fail, and how to avoid these pitfalls to produce lasting results.

Failure to Customize the Training to the Needs of Your Team

It’s important to take inventory on how your sales team is performing, and determine what areas you would like to improve to ensure your sales training program has the most impact.

Take the time BEFORE you develop your curriculum to conduct an evaluation. Gather key insights on the strengths and weakness of your team and use the information to customize the training to address those areas. This approach will enable you to focus your time on the tactics and strategies that will have the most impact on your performance.

Unfortunately, many companies overlook the importance of an evaluation and rely too heavily on making assumptions about their training needs. Assuming incorrectly increases the risk of implementing a program that is not relevant, thus reducing its impact.

Not Aligning Your Sales Process with the Training Methodology

Many companies approach sales training as a one-off event. Once the training is over, sales reps are left on their own to figure out how to implement what they learned. It’s no surprise that nearly 50% of the training is forgotten within five weeks.

Planning in advance for how you intend to align the training content with your day-to-day sales process will go a long way to reinforcing lessons learned. It allows your salespeople to apply strategies and tactics regularly through repetition resulting in true behavioral change.

Not Establishing An Accountability Plan To Reinforce, Monitor, and Measure Results.

Having a plan for holding your reps accountable is essential to measuring results from for your training program. It’s like Peter Drucker, the management guru, would say, “You can only improve what you can measure.”

To make the best use of the time and resources invested in your sales training program, you should define what you would like to get out of it BEFORE you start. Begin by asking the following questions:  

  • How will we measure success?   
  • What metrics will be used to track performance?
  • What areas would we like to see improved the most?
  • What are the expected results?
  • How often will we meet with the team to review progress?

Having a sales training program that increases revenue and performance is what every company wants. The way to get the most value out of your training is to ensure your curriculum is tailored to the needs of your team, it integrates well with your daily sales process, and you have a well throughout plan to reinforce and measure your results.

4 Signs Your Sales Culture Is Stuck in Mediocrity

CEOs frequently tell us that they want to shake things up within their sales force — “Business is good, but things could be better.” They recognize growth means change and this realization sparks a genuine desire to act.

And when the executive team meets to develop their action plan for change, they often conclude that an outside firm may offer a fresh perspective. But, when confronted with what it takes to transform to produce the desired results, they get cold feet. They decide against upsetting the current culture and choose to maintain the status quo.

Having experienced a few of these “false start” engagements over the past 10 years, my position has moved from one of frustration to intrigue…

  • Why do these organizations desire change but lack the motivation and commitment to see it through?
  • What is the pattern or consistent cause that produces this outcome?
  • What are the signs a sales culture may be stuck in mediocrity?

And this is what I found…

Change doesn’t come easy

You recognize your organization needs to implement changes to get sales to the next level. However, getting buy-in and motivating others to act seems virtually impossible.

Typically, this is an issue with the culture of the organization. The belief is things have been done a certain way for so long and everyone is comfortable with the process, so why change? And even though it’s no longer effective and not producing the desired results, the feeling is — “If it worked at some point, it will continue to work.”

Transforming the culture of an organization to become one that values innovation is not easy; it requires understanding, commitment, and tools. But if change is necessary to attain your goals, it’s worth the investment of time and resources.

Sign up for your free ask a Chief Sales Officer (CSO) session today

Frequent false starts

Worse than not trying at all is the “false start”. Even before you start getting a new initiative off the ground, you quit.

You had great intentions, but once again, the fear of change turned into doubt. That uncertainty caused you to abandon what could have been a great program and instead, you diverted back to what’s comfortable.

Desire, commitment and motivation must be at the heart of the intent to change or true improvements to your sales operations will never come to fruition. If you are feeling overwhelmed or hesitant, consider the following:

  • What is the potential loss associated with keeping things the way they are?
  • Can you reach your sales goals if you stay the course?
  • Will you remain competitive?

Start small, build a plan, set realistic goals — and most importantly — see them through. A few small wins in the beginning will provide motivation and create a ‘can do’ attitude to help change minds of non-believers.

Leadership is comfortable

To drive growth and implement changes, leadership must be the catalyst. To identify weaknesses that are impacting the bottom line, it’s important to begin with an honest assessment of the effectiveness of your current capabilities. This can be extremely difficult if this assessment has the potential to expose limitations in your sales leadership; specifically, tenured executives who may not see the benefits of a shakeup.

Take inventory to determine who’s working to help achieve the organization’s goals and who’s there to simply serve their own needs. Put measures in place that promote healthy competition and a culture that is continuously looking to improve. There is no room for complacency in sales.

Growth is stagnant

A tell-tale sign that mediocrity has crept into your sales culture is a lack of growth. As if that’s not bad enough, it’s typically followed by a lack of urgency. Stagnant growth is generally the result of underlying issues related to outdated compensation plans, unclear sales goals, a lead generation system that has begun to dry up, and/or an inability to evolve to meet the needs of today’s buyer. Identify potential problems before they impact your bottom line, keep a finger on the pulse of your sales force, and be proactive when it comes to implementing changes.

Wondering how to pull your sales team out of mediocrity? Or looking to take proactive measures to avoid a future slump? Begin with a complete analysis of your sales capabilities, systems, processes and overall effectiveness. Pinpoint what actions you can take now to improve sales performance and accelerate your path to success.