Sales training and learning styles – another popular myth

Sales training

Sales training

Each year lots of companies spend lots of money on sales training.  Given that developing and sustaining a superior sales team is more important than ever, this commitment appears warranted.  Due to the transformational changes occurring in the market place, sustaining a superior sales team requires companies to adopt a culture where professional development is an ongoing effort.

However, a reasonable question is – how are we doing?  Is sales training as effective as it needs to be?  Here, there is some good news and some bad news.

If you ask that question in regards to times past, then the answer is a positive one.  Today, sales training is significantly better than it was ten years ago.

The bad news is we still have a long way to go.  Recently Brainshark conducted an interesting survey with 162 B2B sales training professionals as to the state of sales training.  Only 32% described their own organization’s training as effective.  Given that the respondents were rating their own sales training, that is a relatively telling percentage.  We wondered what the number might have been if the survey had asked salespeople the same question.  We suspect worse news.

Now, some of the reasons for the ineffectiveness are unique to a particular company – some are relatively common across companies.  For example, the Brainshark study reported that 48% of the training professionals felt the content of the training was not engaging enough.  Our own experience suggests another common reason is too little effort is given to what happens before and after the training – for example, sales coaching is not what it should be in most cases.

To the focus of this article, let’s talk about myths as another reason why sales training is not as effective as it needs to be.  Unfortunately sales and sales training have over the years been plagued with stories about myths and magic that keep being reinvented.  For example, regarding sales – no, you should not “always be closing” and “objections are not great buying signals”.

But, what about sales training?  Let’s tee up one myth the truth of which has been classified as “just common sense.”  A recent article by the British Psychological Society reported on the ten most common counter-intuitive findings in the psychological literature.  All were interesting but the one that caught our attention was – people do not learn better when taught via their preferred “Learning Style.”

The importance of focusing on learning styles is an incredibly popular idea – the concept being learners learn better when taught information via their preferred modality such as: auditory, visual or by doing.  In fact, the authors noted “people do not perform better when they are taught information via the modality that they say they prefer – and there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning-styles assessments into general educational practice.”

Making sales training better is a big deal; it’s important to work at it all the time.  Some of the problems are tough – like getting sales coaching right.  On the other hand the dispelling of myths, which do nothing and sometimes cost a lot, are low hanging fruit for increasing effectiveness.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum®







About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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