Why Sales Training Programs Fail – Part 12: Not Following Best Practices

This is the final installment of XINNIX President Michael “Go-To” Norton’s special 12-part blog series – “Why Sales Training Programs Fail.” Thanks for joining us for this special series and for following along with us over the last several weeks. For those of you who are just joining us, you can catch up on the entire series here.

To maximize the impact of sales training we know that we must be aware of the importance of the following: 

  1. Leadership and management buy-in
  2. Think powerful and robust, but keeping it simple enough that it is applied in the field 
  3. Content must be proven, relevant, customized and personalized where appropriate 
  4. The program must be sustainable through reinforcement modalities that will work within your team and current workflow 
  5. Consistency in delivery, making sure each facilitator delivers the key concepts that connects with the participants 

To capture and retain the attention of sales management and salespeople when implementing a sales training methodology, for greater success keep these five ideas top of mind as you get ready to purchase, deliver, and reinforce your sales training program to help drive and maximize success.  

Best Practice #1: Leadership and management buy-in. This is number one for a reason. When leadership demonstrates that they are willing to also learn the program, participates in the classroom, and begin to reinforce the concepts just by using some of the words and talk tracks learned in the classroom, the salespeople will know that they are expected to do the same. As management consistently focuses on pre-brief and debrief strategies, the sales team will come to expect the questions that their leadership wants answers to, and that will create the habit of using the selling system or methodology that has been selected. Pre-briefing creates the learning, debriefing helps create good sales habits, and good sales habits lead to better sales results. When leadership and management show commitment and hold themselves and their teams accountable for adopting and practicing the selling methodology, this has been demonstrated to deliver far greater results. The mistake to avoid is trying to train the sales team first and have management and leadership opt out of the training or make excuses for not participating, or worse they are never included in the training.   

Best Practice #2: Keep it simple. One of the biggest mistakes an organization can make is trying to over-architect or over-engineer a sales training program. A less is more approach is highly recommended. The content still needs to be dynamic, robust, and powerful enough to drive better sales results, but when it becomes over-complicated and just too difficult, the sales teams will revert to their old way of selling. A well-balanced program that is built modularly and includes a blended learning approach will allow the team to layer in additional advanced concepts over time, while practicing the simple yet powerful key concepts that were initially introduced. Identifying where the skills gap is across the organization and focusing on those areas first will also resonate with the sales team as these will be areas where they know they need the most help. 

Best Practice #3: Content relevancy. We live in a world of personalization and relevancy. Any program that is selected should have the ability to be customized or personalized for the company based on the characteristics that define their real-world selling environment. There has been so much content created already and many of the training partners have probably already done a considerable amount of customized training in your industry. They have learned a lot from the front of the classroom, and they can help in customizing or personalizing the content so that it fits the nuances of your company and the culture of your sales team.  

Best Practice #4: Reinforceable and Sustainable. Reinforcement gets a lot of attention when we are designing sales training roadmaps. The intention is that we increase the stickiness of the program through a sustainable program. But something happens after the initial training, sometimes organizations fall into the trap of not holding themselves or their teams accountable to participate in the reinforcement programs. When looking for a successful program, look for one that has a proven track of success in defining which reinforcement options work best and have the greatest likelihood of adoption amongst your sales team. Most of the best-in-class training partners have an awesome learning journey or sustainable program available. And although the training companies make the reinforcement easy and available, too many organizations accept non-compliance. Having someone assigned to making sure the reinforcement happens and the program is becoming part of the DNA of the company will have a positive impact on ROI and the overall sales success of the company.  

Best Practice #5: Consistency in training and trainers. When selecting a training partner or building an internal program, the quality and consistency of the training should be a top priority. Wherever the program is being delivered, the concepts, messaging, exercises, role plays, and flow of the program need to be consistent. Cultural nuances should be taken into consideration for the differences in specific cities, regions, or countries to be aligned with the expectations of the prospects and customers in those areas and how they communicate, engage, and sell. With that said, a good training partner will have a bench or trainers who should know how to navigate those nuances based on previous experiences and having conducted a thorough discovery process to understand the landscape. Top training organizations will make sure that the team of trainers assigned to your program go through the rigor of preparation and quality control to ensure a consistent delivery wherever the program is being implemented.  

Remember, Leadership buy-in is most important. The content must be something that can be learned and applied in the field, with advanced content being layered in over time. The content must be relevant to the seller’s world, some level of customization and personalization will go a long way toward driving a successful program. Reinforcement and the management of reinforcement is another key to ensuring ROI and driving sales success. And lastly, consistency in the quality of trainers who will be working with your team should be carefully selected. Even with the greatest content and programs that are available, if the trainer’s facilitation is not good, the program will not be good. Not all trainers are created equally so make sure that you understand the quality of the trainers assigned to your delivery team.   


Written by Michael “Go-To” Norton, XINNIX President, former CEO and Founder of Tramazing, former President of the Zig Ziglar Corporation, and former Executive Vice President of Sandler Corporate Training, Michael Norton has helped companies accelerate their growth by elevating their talent through learning and development programs.

Michael has had the pleasure of working with world-class companies such as Siemens Healthcare, WebMD, 7-Up, Cardinal Health, Cemex, Boral, HPE, Indeed, Lonza, KONE, Evonik, Quest Software, Dell, Anixter, and many more. for 30+ years he has developed, written, delivered, reinforced, and sold sales and sales management training programs that deliver real ROI while fitting into a company’s culture, processes, daily sales workflow, and budget.

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