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“Without coaching or reinforcement, 87% of training is lost within 90 days.” –Neil Rackham

After 20 years attending many varieties of sales kickoff, I’ve found there are typically two goals driving the seminars, icebreakers, guest speakers, and open bars:

  • Get your sales team jacked up and excited to work hard for your company in the new year
  • Increase revenue

Getting your sales team excited for the new year shouldn’t be too hard. Sellers are generally an excitable bunch.

How about increasing that revenue, though?

Every blog I could find about sales kickoff focused on what to include in the event. Not a single one mentioned sales coaching. Or any suggestion for how to make sure the event had a lasting impact throughout the rest of the year. Isn’t that the point, though?

You just spent, or are planning to spend, between $500k and $1m (if not more) taking your reps out of the field for a week.

Now you have 51 weeks to justify that spend and meet your revenue goals.

Is your investment in sales training going to help you achieve the lasting impact you need?

In with the new (initiatives), stuck with the old (training)

If you haven’t already, I’m sure you plan to roll out at least one of the following this year:

  • New products
  • New comp plans
  • New sales methodology
  • New messaging
  • New markets

A lot of “New” is thrown at sales reps during sales kickoff season. But when it comes time to execute, companies tend to undercut any momentum by falling back on outdated training methods.

The status quo doesn’t cut it when you’re trying to drive adoption of these new products, methodologies, etc. According to Achieve Global, 25% companies who report low coaching or training support see up to a 20% decline in revenue.

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly expecting a different result…then we’re all insane.

Over the past 25 years, sales has changed dramatically. We know this. Yet we still insist on training our sales teams like they’re going door-to-door selling vacuum cleaners.

Sales Training is Good, Sales Coaching is Better

“90% of all sales training yields a 3-4 month bump before returning to pre-training levels”  – Selling Power

But there’s a problem with how companies are doing it. Despite the many advances in technology and shifts in the buyer’s journey, sales training isn’t being done any differently.

If you went to an office building in Boston and polled 25 companies on how they train their sales teams outside of sales kickoff, you’d see the following:

  • Instructor-led course
  • WebEx (or a similar tool)
  • Traditional learning management system (LMS)

While all of these deliver information in slightly different ways, they all rely on a very static form of information.

And each relies on the same incorrect line of thinking: If we give you information, you consume information and you will act on that information. But in reality, our long-term memory – what we’ve actually learned – is 80% the result of doing. If we just hear something or see something, it’s in one ear and out the other. To actually inspire change in your sales team, you need to have them do something.

Even though companies have evolved to meet some of a modern sales team’s needs (e.g., home offices and compensation), they aren’t up to speed when it comes to developing reps for long term success.

What we need is to adopt a culture of sales coaching. You might think your frontline sales managers are enabled because they have a checklist in some cloud drive, but research says otherwise:

According to CSO Insights, Sales Managers only spend 20% of their time coaching. Additionally, 70% of reps reported they don’t have the knowledge or tools necessary to add value to a sales conversation.

You and your company might be the exception to this data, but you most likely are not. Your sales teams are struggling for purchase out there.

Frontline Sales Managers: “Where the rubber meets the road”

In a recent post on CSO Insights, Tamara Schenk said, “The [Frontline Sales Manager]’s role is where the rubber meets the road if we look at successful sales execution.” I agree with her. I think as an industry, we don’t do enough to support the development of frontline sales manager.

When sales kickoff ends, they are the ones responsible for ensuring all those initiatives become a regular part of your sales team’s day.

If you’re satisfied with hosting one more company spirit week without having any insight into whether or not the team spirit translates into new business, then you’ll never be able to realize the ROI possible in the new age of selling.

If every strategy and tool worked as promised – from the Challenger Sale to CRM – we’d all be millionaires right now. So there’s a breakdown somewhere in the system.

We can’t keep point the finger outwards. What are we doing internally to support the adoption of change in our sales organizations?

It isn’t enough to provide, as Dave Kellogg put it in, “How to Run a Sales Kickoff,” the basic EMDI – Educate, Motivate, Decorate, Inebriate.

We have to start thinking about the other 51 weeks in the year, and how to empower those individuals managing the ongoing education of our sales teams. Sales kickoff will prime your teams get back into the field, but it wont increase revenue.

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