The entire sales industry is too proud to admit it, but there’s a bit big problem: Salespeople are not trained to do their job.
According to data from Task Drive, nearly 70% of all salespeople say they have not received any formal training in sales. Instead, they describe themselves as “self-taught social sellers.”
Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the number is even higher.
When I travel the world and talk to sales teams from all kinds of businesses, I hear pretty much the same thing: salespeople are undertrained. What this tells me is this: We aren’t taking sales as seriously as we should be, and our success rates are proof.
A 2023 report from Salesforce showed that only 28% of sales professionals expected to hit their quota last year.
When you put it together, it makes sense. Untrained salespeople and disappointing sales success rates. So, why aren’t more businesses trying to solve this?
Let’s dive into the why behind these numbers.
Unhealthy sales culture: ‘This is the way we’ve always done things’
The sad thing about sales is that almost everyone has accepted the way it is. Let’s consider some common sales problems:
Low close rates
Long sales cycles
What’s so funny to me is that these problems are all solvable as soon as we stop saying “that’s the way we’ve always done things.”
In other words, each of these problems is fixable. And if we keep accepting them as a matter of fact, the failure will be on us, as business leaders.
We just have to decide to solve them.
Let’s get serious about the very problems I named above. I believe we can solve them if we actually try. In fact, I’ve seen hundreds of businesses do just that when they stop accepting the way things have always been.
Problem: Low close rates
Solution: Let me take you into the mindset of buyers. They get into a sales meeting and think, “Okay, here we go, here’s the well-rehearsed sales pitch.” From the get-go, they’re on the defensive, wary of being upsold or talked into buying something they don’t want.
The solution to low close rates is not to sell harder and pitch more — it’s to pitch less. Data shows that salespeople who are good listeners, are trustworthy, and are focused on relationships are the ones who close more deals.
So slow down, ask good questions, and really understand your buyers. The less you pitch, the more you sell.
When you build relationships, you build trust. And customers are way more likely to buy from someone they trust. That’s been true forever.
Problem: Long sales cycles
Solution: When buyers are approaching a big purchase, they want information. They have questions, fears, worries, and concerns, and the better you address them, the better the chance the deal will move forward.
Years ago, I discovered that the more content a prospect had consumed, the more likely they were to buy.
So, if I could hand them content that answered their most pressing questions, they’d move forward.
This was the birth of what I called “assignment selling.” Ahead of a sales meeting, the rep “assigns” certain pieces of content that address those common concerns. That way, when the meeting takes place, the salesperson doesn’t need to spend time answering surface-level concerns. The conversation can focus on that buyer’s specific needs.
Assignment selling can cut a sales cycle in half — and result in happier buyers and more productive salespeople.
Problem: High turnover on your sales team
Solution: A lot of the businesses I talk to are tired of a revolving door of salespeople who don’t stick around. They bring someone in, train them, and then see them leave a few months later.
The solution is reimagining sales as a team sport. Now, I know this gets into some deep-seated beliefs about sales culture, but bear with me.
The reason so many salespeople leave is that they’re not set up for success. They’re isolated, running high-stakes meetings, and they’re undertrained and unsupported.
Think about it: In every other part of our business, from leadership to design, to customer service, to marketing — we ask teams of people to work together.
We’ve come to understand that collaboration fuels creativity and provides support. We know that discussions produce better outcomes than isolated decisions. We know that teams do better work than individuals do.
Yet we’re still selling like every salesperson is a one-man band. And we know it’s not working.
When we bring a team focus to sales, our reps support each other and improve their performance together. That’s a win for all involved.
Problem: Burnout on your sales team
Solution: For a long time, I’ve heard the mantra that we just need to get our salespeople more at-bats. While I think there’s some truth to that, at-bats aren’t the only thing salespeople need. They need training. They need real feedback. They need practice.
The “more at-bats” approach suggests that salespeople just need to get up there are keep swinging.
But I think baseball is the wrong sports analogy here. Instead, think of (American) football.
Our salespeople need to:
Watch game film (more on that later)
Walk through their plays
Work with coaches to improve their technique — even down to nuances
That’s how you get better. And that’s how you avoid burnout.
There you go. Four big problems, four plausible solutions. But they all stem from the same idea: Our salespeople need more training to be at their best. If we don’t give it to them, we’re accepting the same outcomes to continue.
The small step you can take today: Recording your sales calls
Poor sales performance is a big problem, I know. There’s a good chance that it’s entrenched in your organization, which makes it hard to start to solve.
But there’s a small step you can take that will start you moving in the right direction: Start recording your sales calls.
There’s a good chance your sales calls already take place over Zoom or Google Meet. So, tell your team to press record.
The quicker you normalize call recordings, the quicker you normalize feedback.
Here’s why call recordings matter:
At the very least, they create a record of a conversation. This means a salesperson has something to refer back to ahead of a second call with the same customer
They prompt self-study. When they look again at a former call, they naturally critique their performance and notice things they could have done better.
They enable meaningful feedback from managers. If a sales manager has access to recordings from every rep, he can watch on his own time and provide actually, pointed observations and critiques
They make role-plays feel natural. All of a sudden, you have the recipe for a role-play, which is where the real magic happens. A sales manager sees a call recording and offers some advice: Try not to fill the silence so quickly. Let your questions linger and let your prospect think about them. What’s the natural next step? Practice the skill.
But you can’t do any of this if you don’t have the recordings.
Train your sales team, change your outcomes
Don’t accept low close rates. Don’t accept long sales cycles. Do something about high turnover. Do something about burnout.
When we commit to training and supporting our salespeople, better outcomes are possible. When we don’t, we keep getting the same results.
If you want to learn more about sales training for your team, reach out to us at IMPACT. We provide customized training that can change the lives of your salespeople — and the future of your company.