What We Mean When We Say 'Sales Training'

When Shakespeare famously penned, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” it’s clear that he didn’t live in the age of Google searches and brand positioning. Today, he might still have found success as a writer, but his florist business would probably go nowhere.

What We Mean When We Say 'Sales Training'I’ve been fielding a lot of calls lately from sales training company executives and individual sales trainers who tell me everything from “sales training is dead” to “I don’t consider myself a ‘sales trainer.’” I see where they’re coming from, but I assure them that sales training isn’t dead. Yes, it’s facing some unprecedented challenges, but that’s another issue. Sales training is alive, thriving, and in the throes of what you might consider growing pains.

What’s on the table is more than simply nomenclature. In today’s market, the term “sales training” no longer captures the depth and breadth of what sales training providers can do for their clients.

Sales Training vs. Sales-Performance Improvement

It’s been proven time and again that traditional, standalone, event-based, tactical sales training alone doesn’t deliver much sustained value. We in the business know that “sales training” should be considered as one component of a strategic approach to “sales performance improvement.” (I’ve written about it in my eBook: The 7 Pitfalls of Sales Training & 7 Solutions for Sustained Success, available via a free download, with your name and email address.) Improvement in sales performance is the goal; sales training is just one of a variety of means to get there. Yet, “sales training” is the term that most potential buyers understand and use, even when they are really considering something more comprehensive.

Potential sales training buyers just don’t conduct Google searches for “sales performance improvement;” they search for one variation or another of “sales training.” In fact, during a recent discussion with Jim Brodo, SVP of Marketing at Richardson, I learned that even searches for the term “sales training” have been declining. In response, Richardson, among the leaders in the marketing of sales training (I should say sales performance improvement), has adopted new approaches for creating demand.

Paul Dilger, product marketer for The TAS Group, has been trying to get me to stop using the term “sales training” altogether. I can’t. If I do, potential training buyers would have trouble finding ESR. But we are doing our part to reinforce that training is just one piece of the puzzle.

For example, ESR stopped referring to sales training firms as “vendors” over a year ago. In this blog, ESR/Reports, and during ESR Thought-Leader Panel discussions, I refer to these firms as “sales performance improvement providers.” And why not? That’s what most of them really are.

A Holistic Approach to Improving Sales

We also remind buyers, whenever we can, that they have an opportunity to do more than plan and host an event, that the choices they make can have a very real and sustained impact on their company’s success.

In 2012, ESR will include a broader field of sales performance improvement providers in our coverage: consultants, assessment firms, and some technology providers. We will continue to drive home the point that any sales performance improvement initiative must be strategic to provide long-term value.

And, as time goes on, maybe the decline in searches for “sales training” will be mirrored by a steady increase in searches for “sales performance improvement”as the buying public begins to understand what they are truly seeking.

Sales training expert Dave Stein is CEO of the ES Research Group. This post originally appeared on Mr. Stein's Commentary on Sales Effectiveness blog. Article republished with permission.]

[For more articles on sales training, click here.]

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