Skip to content

Want to Succeed as a Sales Executive? Good Luck.

“Good luck!”

Who doesn’t love to hear those words?

Typically, they are words of encouragement. Joyful, even enthusiastic. Designed to leave someone with pleasant feelings about the future.

They are NOT, however, designed to be the two words that describe the sum total of a company’s training program.


Back when I started as a sales representative for a west coast medical company, I went out to corporate headquarters for a 2-day, new-hire training session. Or so I thought.

My first day on the job, I went on a couple of sales calls with a sales manager. We said hello, picked up a couple of small orders (literally, we picked them up, they were written on a piece of paper and left for us), and headed back to the office. After lunch, someone spent some time showing me some of the company’s products and where to find them in a catalog. They were just showing me the products — not explaining or doing anything, you know, instructional.

Then we had a three-day national sales meeting. And I headed back home. “Good luck,” the boss said.

I’m gonna need it, I thought to myself. Training? You can’t be serious. It wasn’t training, it was a disaster. Disorganized. Disjointed. Dis-aster.

One week in and I’m thinking the decision I made to join the company was exactly that – a disaster.

What Does YOUR Training Look Like?

People often ask about sales leadership roles (National Sales Manager or VP Sales or something similar) and ask what it takes to be successful at that level. While there are a number of critical pieces in that puzzle, few, if any, are as important as a comprehensive training and development plan.

But I never cease to be amazed at companies that provide little or no training (initially or ongoing) for their salespeople or their sales management team — outside of product-related training.

Worse, they can’t understand why employee commitment and performance are lacking.

But when a company fails to provide comprehensive and ongoing training and development a couple of things happen, neither of which is good for the company.

First, employees that aren’t well-trained rarely perform up to their potential.

Why would they? Even elite athletes, singers, and stage performers train and train and train. In fact, research clearly indicates that the very best performers get that way through focused, purposeful, long-term training. They are constantly learning, and consistently honing their skills.

Remember, there is a world of difference between twenty years of experience and one year of experience twenty times.

Second, when a company doesn’t invest in training, it sacrifices employee engagement, which, in turn, translates directly in to increased employee turnover, less productivity, and declining morale.

Employees make the direct connection: you don’t want to invest in my training and development, but you do consistently ask me to improve my performance.

No contradictions there!

Recent research indicates that companies who ignore the development of employees at all levels do so to their own detriment. In Profit at the Bottom of the Ladder: Creating Value by Investing in Your Workforce, researchers found that “offering training and career tracks to line workers led to lower turnover and easier recruitment, and served to make employees more efficient while they were with the company.”

Translation: investing in training saves you lots of money.

But We DO Train Our Salespeople

Many sales leaders get a little testy at this point. “We DO train our salespeople,” they say. Maybe they do; maybe they don’t.

In my experience, most employee on-boarding processes are random, disorganized, or incomplete. How would you answer the following questions for your sales organization?

  • Do you have a script for the first 60 days for new salespeople? Does that script include milestones, minimum expectations, testing, ?
  • Do you require salespeople to test regularly in the first six months for core knowledge acquisition?
  • Do you require salespeople to demonstrate proficiency in specific product or service sets prior to releasing them to make calls?
  • Do you provide selling skills training and test for proficiency?
  • Do you have a process for putting new salespeople in the field with senior salespeople or managers during the on-boarding process? Does the “trainer” have a checklist of specific skills/topics to review/demonstrate during that time?
  • Do you even check to see if salespeople can complete an effective sales presentation?

Yes, most people hate “role play.” Many “experts” argue against doing role play. They say that people don’t like to role play, and the scenarios don’t play out like the real world and on and on.

But they don’t have a leg to stand on. Very few people LOVE to practice. Most would rather avoid the scrutiny of their peers or management staff. But the truth is that you are guilty of sales malpractice if let your salespeople practice on customers. Unless, of course, you are more than willing to lose that opportunity. In that case, knock yourself out. Live role-play is even better!

Here is what I see consistently:

Few companies have an intentional and measurable approach to on-boarding new employees.

Few companies have a set of milestones and minimum standards established for testing during the first 60 days of a new employee.

Few companies provide purposeful career-development programs for their sales teams (managers and salespeople).

Few companies provide training to develop critical selling skills. Their “training” regimen consists primarily of product orientation and sales administration (CRM, placing orders, budgets and reports).

And very few companies train their salespeople to develop a comprehensive sales plan for developing their business. CRM is one thing; a sales plan (a business plan) is quite another. The first is retrospective, the second is prospective. Big difference.

But all of these companies say exactly the same thing: ”We train our people.” Sure they do.

All I have to say is “Good luck!”

Start making your new sales hires achieve optimal output as quickly as possible. Click here and download our eBook – “The First 90 Days – How To Get Your New Sales Hires Producing Fast.”  


Related posts

12 Steps for Building a Top-Performing Sales Team
21 Ways to Make Your Top Sellers Quit
The 25 Sales Books Every New Sales VP Needs to Read

close relpost-thumb-wrapper

Eliot Burdett

CEO at Peak Sales Recruiting

Before Peak, Eliot spent more than 20 years building and leading companies, where he took the lead in recruiting and managing high performance sales teams. He co-founded Ventrada Systems (mobile applications) and GlobalX (e-commerce software). He was also Vice President of Sales for PointShot Wireless. Eliot received his B. Comm. from Carleton University and has been honored as a Top 40 Under 40 Award winner. He co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast and provides regular insights on sales team management and hiring on the Peak Sales Recruiting Blog.