Sales Performance Improvement Is More Than Just 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.

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.

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” all together.  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.

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.

Photo source: © Elenathewise –


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  1. says

    I agree completely, Dave. Thoughtful and Insightful post worthy of a once every four years date!

    Sales Performance Improvement is where its at for Individuals, Sales Communities and Corporations

  2. says

    Wikipedia says:

    “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is meant to say that the names of things do not matter, only what things are.

    And what “things are” is if companies are not willing to change their behavior, methodologies, language (and most aren’t) to integrate the training then you can call it whatever you like, throw as much technology at it as possible and they still won’t fulfill the potential of the training.

    • Dave Stein says

      Thanks for the comment, Jonathan.

      I agree with your third sentence. My point in the post is that “Sales Performance Improvement” includes the critical component of “Change Management,” among others. Sales training typically doesn’t. That’s one of the reasons why sustainable improvement is so elusive in tactical, event-based sales training.

      If the purpose of training is to impart knowledge (learning) and to change behavior, the learning and behavioral change won’t be sustained without ongoing reinforcement (technology-driven or otherwise), coaching, measurement, and all that is required to support behavioral and organizational change.

  3. says

    P.S. At 5:02 AM in Ottowa Canada, Google Search for:

    “Sales Training” – “About 14,300,000 results (0.51 seconds)”

    “Sales Performance Improvement” About 151,000 results (0.56 seconds)

    I’m staying with sales training

  4. Mark Gardner says

    Good posting Dave! I’d go one step further. Companies should start with the question – how do I sell more of my stuff (or more rightly how do I get more people to buy more of my stuff)? Which then leads to what needs improving. Which then leads to training. I wonder what a search for “How do I sell more of my stuff” turns up?

    • Dave Stein says

      Thanks, Mark.

      “How do I sell more of my stuff” gets only three hits on Google. Wrong number of hits, clearly, but your point is well taken. Very well taken.

  5. says

    Dave, Nice work, again. The curriculum that we teach has certainly gone beyond what we all knew as ‘sales training.’ Social media, being more productive, personal lead gen campaigns, messaging, diagnostics…I don’t recall any of those being discussed 5 years ago.

    I hope you are successful at helping to turn us all into sales improvement specialists.

    And by the way, who really cares about Google search terms? Is that how you prospect? Come on now…we can do better than that.

    • Dave Stein says

      Thanks for your comment, Bill.

      There are some successful sales training providers that have effective broad spectrum demand generation campaigns that include, yes, Google SEO and PPC advertising. Employing Google alone is a mistake. Leaving it out of a mix of other channels and sources is a mistake as well.

  6. Mark Gardner says

    Another challenge in this arena – most companies have a line-item in their budget for “sales training”. How many have a line-item for “sales performance improvement” or “figure how to sell more stuff”? So they buy sales training but often don’t know how or have a mechanism to buy the other services needed in a performance improvement project such as assessments, process design, consulting, etc. Or worse they don’t see the need and think that “training de jour” will somehow magically increase sales. LOL!

    • Dave Stein says

      You’re right about the budget line-item, Mark.

      Shouldn’t “devising and executing a strategy for sales performance improvement” be a basic competency for a sales executive?