Why sales trainings don’t always work – 2

Let me tell you a story. I had a client, a pharmaceutical company, and they asked me design and conduct a sales training for one of their medical representatives’ teams. They asked for “Advanced skills training”. I was familiar with the client and their business. We had history with previous training and coaching. Yet, I had to ask: How advanced? What do you expect to happen after the training?

The answer was:“We want our medical representatives to be more confident, more proactive, more persuasive and increase their sales result in the end of the Cycle (year quarter)”.

How could I do that in 2 days? Their parents and their managers have been trying too do that for years and if they haven’t been successful, how could I possibly change that?

So, I asked the team manager to let me join three representatives and spend 1 working day with each of them. I asked for 1 top performer, 1 under-performer and 1 average-performer. Spending time with these people in the marketplace, sharing their worries, victories and doubts, helped me realise one very important thing: each of them had his own way of doing things and only the top performer was really closing!

The top performer was doing everything exactly as recommended in all sales training availabale. And in the end of the day, that person’s comment was: “Now you know that our job is so special and specific that your sales training, as good as it is, doesn’t apply to it.

What? I couldn’t beleieve it! This representative was doing everything BY THE BOOK!

My conclusion was that if the top performer doesn’t realise that he is practically implementing all the provisions of the training programme, there’s little chance that the rest of the team realises that as well. So, I went back to the team’s manager and we teamed up to devise a series of real-case scenarios of conversations between doctors and medical representatives.

  • The first task during the training was to show the scheme of the consultative selling process and ask the participants to read the first conversation and find the process stages in it. It was a real break-though.
  • The second task was to read another conversation and evaluate it – what has gone wrong.
  • The third was to work in groups and finish an already started conversation, so that all the stages of the process get applied. And then they got role-plays and were recorder with a camera and commented on each other’s reaction and performance.

Did we still hear “It was a great experience but in real-life things happen differently”? Of course. But after they have enjoyed and commented how real those situations were, and I had been in the market with them, there was little room for that excuse to work. They just resisted to that change.

Why? Because they were afraid. Afraid they might loose control. Afraid the clients may be disappointed with the changed approach. Afraid that, just like before, they might fail. Or that they may feel foolish and stupid? Or maybe, just maybe, if all turns out well, all those excuses will go out the window?

My question is: what about you?

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