Companies around the world are constantly looking for ways to improve their sales performance. Sales leadership faced with high growth targets are required to lead their sales team to success and may lack the time and knowledge to get the best out of their teams.
To solve this issue, companies will often turn to sales training companies to improve the knowledge, skills and behaviours that are required for new sales starters, existing sales teams, or even senior sales leaders themselves.
On average, this will usually involve a 2-day or week-long intensive course, designed to equip salespeople with sales methodologies that they need to succeed in achieving their goals and targets.
But how much of what is taught within sales training sticks with the individual? It’s an interesting question; one that will resonate with most sales professionals who have embarked on some form of sales training at some point in their careers.
A shockingly low percentage
From the research conducted by our CEO, Dr Philip Squire, we have found that customer perceptions of salespeople are generally quite low. According to the research, less than 10% of salespeople sell to customers in a way that they want.
Why could this be?
According to a 2017 article in Harvard Business Review, companies typically spend $1,475 annually per salesperson on sales training – more than any other function in the business. When we also consider the combined sales training market of the US and UK alone is approximately $25 billion, one would assume that the above percentage should be much higher than it currently is.
As ripples of a stone that is dropped in the ocean quickly loses its impact, so too, from the research conducted, do current approaches to sales training.
If we begin to look at most sales training models, we can start to see a commonality amongst what is actually taught in these courses. Most sales training only focuses on the behavioural aspects of an individual, especially on the process, technique or learned behaviours, to which, they are well documented, researched, and compelling.
Whilst this may seem enough to some sales professionals, the desire for sustainable change in the individual cannot be achieved simply through sales training. Here is why.
The layers of importance
To illustrate this point, we have adapted a version of Professor Fred Kothargen’s ‘onion’ model which provides a link between behaviours, competence, and values/mindsets in the context of transformation. In this model, he argues that only a total alignment of our core, our identity, our mission, our beliefs, our competencies, and our behaviours with the environment will result in transformational change.
Here is a brief description of each of Kothargen’s layers:
- The core relates to a person’s essence – some may refer to this as one’s soul. This remains unchanged over time.
- Purpose relates to one’s reason for existence and can be applied at a personal and organisational level.
- Values and beliefs are influenced by what we are taught when we are young and through the results of our own experiences. These are acquired through life and can change. They will influence how we think, act, and react to the world around us. We can feel deeply distressed when our values are compromised. Alternatively, where values are aligned, deep trust is created. Values are a predictor of behaviour – understanding our values helps make sense of how we can behave in certain situations. Beliefs are similar to values, and they do not necessarily need to be supported by facts. For example, religious beliefs are not based on scientific fact, yet they can be a particularly important determinant of how we choose to behave.
- Competencies describe what you can do in the world. This is the area most addressed by organisations’ development strategies – wanting to ensure the workforce has the right competence to conduct their task. Having the right competence to conduct tasks is key, but it is not a predictor of behaviour. Someone may be highly competent but not able to carry out their job well.
- Behaviour relates to the verbal and non-verbal communication that takes place. Many sales training methodologies approach sales development at this level.
- Systems and processes related to an organisation’s CRM processes and setting KPIs (key performance indicators). Targeting also plays a key role in influencing the behaviours of salespeople.
As we have just mentioned, sales training only focuses on the what and the how of change i.e., at a process, method, or competence level. They fail to demonstrate the purpose of the change and align an individuals’ values and beliefs around this purpose.
It may then be logical to adopt certain selling methodologies to help a sales team succeed; however, the implementation of these methodologies will be down to the values and belief systems of the salespeople to enact it.
An example of this would be the summarising of a sales call. A common activity known to all salespeople, yet according to Schell’s research, 46% of buyers say that salespeople neglect to write a summary of a sales call. Whilst the writing of a summary requires skill, the reason it is done or not done reflects their belief in the value of this type of activity.
If all we focus on is behaviour, we will ultimately miss values.
And if so, many buyers have a low opinion of salespeople, we could only surmise that the underpinning competencies or values are misaligned between the customer and the salesperson or sales leadership team.
The difference between Sales Training and Sales Education –
On the very first episode of The Sales Transformation podcast, it was only right that Dr Philip Squire’s first guest was Louise Sutton, Academy Director at The Consalia Sales Business School. The two discussed the historical background to the Sales Business School, in particular, the work behind the scenes of the Academy itself.
Here are the three main differences between Sales Training and Sales Education:
#1 – Standard procedure
The Consalia Sales Business School was an original member of the Trailblazer group that led the way in developing the UK apprenticeship standard for sales, as well as the list of knowledge, skills, and behaviours (KSBs) that are required of a B2B sales professional. Working together with a range of companies from large enterprise corporations, to SMEs and even Middlesex University themselves, the list of KSBs is at the core of all the sales education programmes at Consalia.
Whilst Sales Training adopts best practices to selling methodologies, the knowledge, skills, and behaviours that are required to be successful in the sales have been agreed on by sales professionals themselves.
These standards are also reviewed every 3 years to ensure that the list is still relevant in the current world.
#2 – It is a different type of learning
Through sales education programmes, the biggest difference is the multi-dimensional learning that you experience throughout the course. The learning does not just come from the provider, or the University. It also comes in different forms: from the students’ workplace, the reading material, collaboration with their peers, the attendance of events but most importantly, the reflective practice, which is fundamental to all the programmes at The Consalia Sales Business School, whether that be the Level 6 Sales Apprenticeship or our Executive Masters programmes.
Reflective practice is what provides the context behind how the learnings they take onboard from the programme are applied to their own workplaces. This is what the final work-based project is designed to do – to apply everything they have learned to their own world, within their own organisations.
#3 – A different lens of sales improvement
“It’s challenging the thinking, behind my thinking.”
The above quote was taken from a conversation with a current master's student, which we see as the perfect sentence to sum up the difference between Sales Training and Sales Education.
This is what Sales Education does. The biggest difference between the two is that students who embark on this special type of journey are asked to go and reflect on what they have learned from the course content and to talk to their peers in their networks, as well as their organisations. As part of the reflective practice, students are asked to start to look for different viewpoints on common issues to see what the right approach is for them in their own companies.
Through the education lens, sales education gives students the ability to critically think through reflective practice; a notion that is relatively new to sales. However, it’s the biggest contributor to being able to transform the salesperson as an individual to exhibit the sales values and mindsets that customers have said they want to see in salespeople.
A sales professional who often goes on a sales training course will be given different methodologies to try out in their workplace, which are best practice at the time – however, if there is anything the past year and a half has taught us from a global pandemic, it is that the world is always changing. What is right today may not be right tomorrow.
#4 – It is the achievement
There is also a degree of personal currency that can be achieved for the student. The idea of graduating in the profession of Sales has only been made a reality in recent years. Sales is often taught as a module, normally as part of a Marketing degree. However, this is the first time, especially in the UK, that there has been an Undergraduate and Master's degree created solely on the topic of Sales.
Where some sales training courses award a certificate of completion when the course is over, a student on a sales education programme will attain an Undergraduate or Master's degree in Sales. Many of those in the profession today have fallen into sales with no formal education behind the role. Other professions such as Marketing, Finance, Human Resources, and others have accredited university courses for their verticals, so it is about time Sales got theirs.
Being able to celebrate this achievement with loved ones is one of the biggest highlights we hear from our students about their journey. The sense of achievement and pride, through all the hard-work and effort that has been put into the programme, is one that remains with the student for a lifetime.
Master the sales profession
Sales Education is a relatively new idea to most sales professionals. As mentioned above, the sales role is one of the latest business functions to attain a higher education course at UK universities.
Through the notion of reflective practice from Sales Education, students can address the core values and beliefs that are required to sustain the desired sales effectiveness over a long-term period. These are the mindsets that customers have said they want to see in salespeople. Through sales education, an individual truly achieve sales transformation.
Learn more about the Sales Education courses that are available at The Consalia Sales Business School and download our course overview brochure.
To listen to the full podcast episode (#1 – What’s the difference between Sales Training and Sales Education?), click here.