Sales Coaching Is Broken - Here's Why

Posted by James Pember on 1/26/16 8:49 AM

Today I'm going to look at sales training, why it often fails to impact results and the 4 things you can do to improve your sales training, today.

Sales Training is something that we as sales leaders focus on almost every day. Training new reps, re-training struggling reps and coaching our current team are all part of the day-to-day for a sales leader.

However, for most companies, sales training is fundamentally broken and ineffective.


It’s simple. Training doesn’t stick. The numbers don't lie.  

One of the most comprehensive studies conducted on the efficacy of sales training (by the Rain Group) estimate that between 85% and 90% of sales training has no lasting impact after 120 days.

If that won’t keep you up at night, I don’t know what will.

The worst part? As an industry, we’re literally throwing money away on training. Rain estimates that spend on sales training annually tops $5 billion. With a failure rate of above 85% - that is literally billions of dollars down the drain.

So why is sales training so ineffective?

Interestingly, the problems with sales training have nothing to do with sales training itself. In fact, studies show that sales training is actually quite effective, the problem lies with retention and what sales experts are calling “training fluency”.

During training, most reps are able to reflect on what’s being taught and they are able to repeat what they have learned. For a short amount of time following the training, these new perspective stick with them. That is called “training accuracy”, i.e. they can accurately repeat what they have been taught.  

However, the “drop off” is sharp and steep and rarely do sales reps make it to fluency, where the training becomes a solid part of their routines.

After just a few months, barely none of the training or learnings are visible in the sales reps routines or day-to-day work.

Everyone who has been in charge of salespeople will recognise the below graph (courtesy of the Rain Group), tracking the effectiveness of sales training.


Most companies think that training ends when the workshop or course ends. However, it’s mostly obvious that a clear plan to reinforce, re-engage and follow up on training is necessary to ensure sales reps build new learnings into their routines.

What causes the drop off is a complete lack of what I like to call “follow-through”.

“Follow-through” is making sure that what’s taught in training is measured, reinforced and reported on continuously in the months following the trainings end.

4 ways you can improve your sales training retention:

  1. Complementary learning in the months following training to re-engage reps and reinforce knowledge
  2. Clear review loop (30 days later, 60 days later, 90 days later)
  3. Technology integration (training integrated with results via the CRM or a performance management system)
  4. Expectations and Goals reinforcement - i.e. “this training should increase your hit rate with 10% after 120 days


Sales training is useless if you aren’t ruthless with your follow-through. Drive “fluency, not accuracy” with your training by using complementary learning, reviewing progress periodically, integrating the training into your technology (via the CRM) and of course as always - using goals and expectations to drive accountability and transparency. 

Topics: sales productivity, sales management, motivating sales people, how to motivate sales team, sales motivation, motivating salespeople, sales coaching, sales training

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