The Disconnect Between Sales Professionals and Training: How This Impacts Businesses
By: Brian Bar, Founder and CEO at Victory Lap
The sales industry has grown and evolved a lot over the last decade. Aided by an increase in venture capital, there’s been an explosive growth of new technology services hitting the market, all of which rely heavily on sales teams to grow and scale. And this demand isn’t going to slow down. Business development and sales professionals rank #4 on LinkedIn’s 2021 Jobs on the Rise Report, and hiring for these roles growing more than 45% between 2020 and 2019.
But despite the increased demand, sales education and training hasn’t kept up.
Highly skilled sales professionals are essential to company success, yet colleges don’t teach these skills, nor do many companies do it or do it well. Today less than 4% of colleges have courses focused on sales, and only 17% of companies report that their sales training is effective. As a result, sales professionals are less prepared than ever, with 57% expected to miss quota. While gaining these skills helps job placement, it’s essential for job success, the impact missed revenue targets have on individual career paths, and company performance cannot be understated.
Training is essential to lay the groundwork for success.
Like most professions, having foundational sales training is essential to creating short-term and long-term career success. In fact, without basic training, sales professionals might not even know what success should look like for them in their role. The good news is that most of the skills needed to excel in sales are highly teachable. For so long, there has been the misconception that if you’re good at communicating with customers, you’ll hit quota and achieve success. But the reality is this is just one piece of the puzzle and this alone won’t suffice. To succeed in sales, you need to learn the right processes, the right organization and discipline techniques, the right activities you should be prioritizing, and the right way to communicate with customers. Getting this right or wrong has a significant influence on both an individual’s job performance and a company’s bottom line.
For organizations, it’s important to lay this groundwork for new employees from day one. Training and staff development needs to be proactive, not reactive. We often see employers waiting until a problem is too large before they put together a training program for their employees to address issues, but it’s too late by this point. From the beginning, linking the foundational sales groundwork and addressing problems via training when they are still small enough to be addressed is key.
While foundational training is key to starting your career off on the right foot, sales is not something you learn once and then you’re done. It’s an evolving industry that requires continuous training throughout your entire career.
Reskilling and upskilling are crucial to keeping up in today’s digital world.
Zoom fatigue may be a real thing for many Americans, but for B2B buyers and sellers, this new digital reality is now preferred over face-to-face interactions. And this isn’t just a trend or sentiment that’s going to end post-pandemic. According to recent McKinsey research, B2B sales leaders have moved from being “forced” to adopt digital in reaction to COVID-19 to a growing conviction that digital is the way to go, with 74% agreeing this new sales model is more effective in reaching and serving customers. Sales professionals who can’t or are unable to embrace this new reality will be left in the dust making continuous training for the digital wave of the future more important than ever before.
This massive shift to digital has also changed the way B2B customers shop for and buy new technology services. The McKinsey research confirms this with 70% of B2B decision-makers saying they are open to making new, fully self-serve or remote purchases in excess of $50,000, and 27% would spend more than $500,000. This means sales professionals now have to step up in a big way. If 80% of the decision making process happens online before a potential customer has even spoken to someone from the company. In that case, the last 20% of the sales cycle where sales representatives are involved becomes a make or break moment. Sales professionals need to learn through reskilling and upskilling how to stay one step ahead of the customer and how to anticipate their needs and address them head on in order to close the deal.
When implementing any new training program, it’s important to remember as well that teaching doesn’t always equate to learning. Everything that is taught must be followed by both application and assessment within a training environment to ensure employees leave with a full understanding on the topic and how they can apply it to their sales role and customer interactions moving forward.