Sales Training or Learning Sales?

Time to Stop Sales Training and Learn SalesThere’s an ongoing debate in the education-HR world between training and learning. The difference is training is done to you, and learning is something you do. It’s about ownership.

In the sales world, there are two kinds of sales training ; fire-walking and the 137-steps kind. Both ask participants to suspend their belief in their own experiences (life and sales) and fully adopt the new dogma. Here’s a look at both types of training.

Sales Training by Fire-walking

This is the pump yourself up type of training. It says if you want success badly enough you just have to:

  • Work harder than your competition
  • Work early, work late, never sleep
  • Walk on fire because you want it more than anything

This training promises you’ll succeed if you sacrifice everything to their religion.

Reality Check from Hot Feet

The sales world is complex with many parts working behind the scenes. As individuals we can’t control it all. Therefore we can’t make it go our way because we work harder than anyone else.

The reality is “work smarter, not harder”.

That said, selling is work, it needs to be done. But not at the expense of losing one’s:

  • Confidence
  • Sense of humor
  • Health

Smarter is better.

Sales Training in the 137-Steps

This is Swiss watch sales training, it’s:

  • Micro-fine sales steps in a flowchart
  • Follow these exact steps in this order
  • Guaranteed success only if the blue sheet is completed for whales, the green for maybes & the red for losers

Reality Check from Lost in the Weeds

The sales world is fluid with infinite selling variations occurring daily. Strapping down every action to a pre-defined script kills reps ability to respond to what’s in front of them. It kills flexibility, improvisation and creativity.

It would be wonderful if selling were this prescribed, that reality were this rigid, but it ain’t.

That said, having a general process to follow is essential. It’s exhausting to create the world from scratch every morning.

Flexible is better.

The Time for Learning Sales

The time for learning how to sell occurs after completing the first 15 minutes of sales training. It’s then you recognize that, as an adult with real world experience, you’ll:

  • Retain new knowledge,
  • Use it more often and
  • Benefit from it more…

…when you learn it for yourself – rather than have it force fed down your throat. Not that all sales training is for Strasbourg geese. It’s that learning is more important when you’re no longer a beginner.

If You’re No Longer a Child…

Andragogy is facilitating learning in the way adults best learn. In the U.S., Malcolm Knowles developed the concepts around andragogy and defined six assumptions related to the motivation of adult learning.

These assumptions provide clues to what we should look for in learning to sell. Knowles’ assumptions are:

Need to Know – Adults need to know the reason for learning something.

Foundation – Experience (including error) provides the basis for learning activities.

Self-concept – Adults need to be responsible for their decisions on education; involvement in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.

Readiness – Adults are most interested in learning subjects having immediate relevance to their work and/or personal lives.

Orientation – Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented.

Motivation – Adults respond better to internal versus external motivators.

The Learning Takeaway

Sales training has its brief place in a sales rep’s development, right at the beginning.

But very quickly in a reps development learning must be substituted for training. And learning in adults best occurs when Knowles six assumptions are part of the learning opportunity.

Consider seeking sales learning opportunities that include Knowles’ assumptions – opportunities where life and sales’ experiences are included.

Learning to sell is more important than blindly receiving sales training by rote.

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