Why Your Sales Training Didn’t Work (and how to fix it)

sales training didn't work

Your sales training didn’t work the way you hoped it would. Why? The good news is, it’s not your fault. Mostly.

You brought in a well-reviewed, high-priced training company, and they delivered a beautiful, motivating seminar to the entire sales team. Everyone loved it. And nothing changed. Sound familiar?

Think of sales training as a chain. How useful is a chain with a single link? Not very. But that wonderful seminar is just that – a single link in a chain. As a result, without all the links for that chain, it wasn’t useful. If you had all the links, things would likely have worked out better. So what are the links you need?


Understand that there needs to be a change to the status quo. Doing things the same way will not yield new results. Prepare upper management that they may need to let go of some processes, traditions, and ideas to make the team more effective. Many times that sales training didn’t work it’s because the management team wasn’t ready to evolve. Change is never easy to accept, and commitment from upper management is key to success.

Survey your sales team

Why do they think the sales training didn’t work? What are the most difficult objections they face? What internal, company-based obstacles do they believe they face? Which skills do they want to learn? What support do they want from management? (This assessment will only be effective if it’s anonymous, and there is NO fear of retaliation.) Take all of this information and use it to do an honest assessment of what the team is working with, and against.

Survey your sales managers

Why do they think the sales training didn’t work? What do they see as the most entrenched bad habits? What have they done to improve the situation? Do they work from a positive coaching mentality? Or a negative scolding mentality? Do they want training? What skills would they the team to learn? How do they plan to support implementation of those skills? Add this information to the assessment above, and you’ll have a pretty clear picture of what Sales thinks their problems are. Does this coincide with the results you want from training?

Gap analysis

What result are you looking for? How far from that goal are you currently? Which skills need to be developed to achieve those results? Does your team want those skills? What support materials will they need to reinforce those skills? What will it take to get the sales team to want to change? How will they know when they have the skills to make the change?

Curriculum plan

Before the training is delivered, get a detailed curriculum plan, and make sure it covers all of the points you’re looking to improve. Discuss the curriculum plan with managers and the trainer to make sure management will support the training. Develop a plan that reinforces training in daily work going forward.

After training

Enforce new policies and skills gently but firmly. Supply your team with resources (worksheets, gamification, webinars) to reinforce their new skills. Have each team member send their manager an email daily discussing what new skills were used, and what the outcome was. Have the managers compile this information, and coach the team for better outcomes.

Check the numbers

Which manager’s team is having the most success? The most trouble? Which sales pros are the most compliant with the changes? The least? Are the most successful teams and pros the ones who are using the new skills? Reinforcement of the new skills and policies should increase over a span of several months, not decrease. You’ll never know if the training worked if the skills aren’t implemented.

You can implement the “after training” links in the chain now, and it will help your team build new skills. That is, if they remember the training. If they don’t, request supporting materials from your trainer, and build your after training plan on those handouts and materials. The refresher may be all they need to get on track.

If the training is too far gone, accept it. It might be too late to make that last training effective, but now you’re ready to make the next one fantastic. Learn more on our “Why It Works” page.