Weight training and Sales training, how doing them wrong adds no value and may even hurt you!

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Each morning I start my day with a workout at the gym. I like to start each workout with the elliptical machine. I listen to music and watch others training on the various machines to make my 30 minutes go by quickly. One machine almost everyone does wrong is the lower back machine.

Each morning I watch people plop themselves down on the machine without making adjustments based on their body. Some sit too high in the seat and some are seated too low. Some move the weights very quickly and some let the plates slam in-between repetitions. Not executing the exercise correctly not only fails to isolate the area you are trying to develop, but may also cause injury to the individual and the machine. There are two older gentlemen who train together each morning and not only do they fail to adjust the machine settings for their body size, but they do the exercise, (the training) completely wrong. They select the maximum weight and they begin.( double the weight I use) The weight is so heavy they are no longer sitting on the seat midway through the movement, and they are pressing the weight with their legs as they aggressively pull the weight back with their arms. Once one gentleman finishes I see his training partner execute the training in the same way. My guess is they have used this machine in this way for years and each assuming they are doing it correctly. They are so focused on looking impressive with the amount of weight they are lifting they lost the original objective of using this machine.

This machine was designed to provide training for an isolated area of your body, the lower back. To use this machine correctly and realize the maximum benefit the first thing you should do sit and adjust the machine settings so you are exercising in the proper range of motion. You are supposed to slowly push the resistance back, hold, then slowly return to the starting position while not allow the weight being lifted to rest. If done correctly, and balanced with lower abdomen exercises, you will develop a strong lower back and core. family pics 053

As I watch these two older training partners each morning, I am reminded how most companies execute sales training wrong. I can speak from experience as I have done it wrong myself. A new product is about to launch so we bring in all the sales troupes to corporate for training. Marketing presents PowerPoint slides covering the market size, and they share the creative support materials, the sales tools they developed to help my team hit their goals. Then the product manager presents the product and reviews each feature and sometimes shares the benefits of the particular features. Far too much time is spent discussing why our product is better than our competitors and not enough time is spent helping my team understand the problems this new widget solves. We may visit the manufacturing facility and see the product being assembled.

At some point I would present our team goals, and each region’s individual goals. Over the years I would develop specific regional play book drafts with objectives by market by account. These play books would illustrate the opportunity in their market my current and targeted new accounts and if every tactic was completed would result in the salesperson achieving 150% of their goal. I would ask each salesperson to review the plan for then report back on how they plan to achieve their revenue targets. We would have specific discussions that resulted in adjustments to the play book. I would often present some competitive information, and share how to overcome objections we may face when trying to displace our competitors, and or gain placement for this innovative new widget. We would establish key indicators the team would be tracking that we believed would drive our desired revenue targets.

About 15 minutes into the training you can see salespeople checking their emails and excusing themselves for incoming calls from “one of their key clients”.


How do market leaders conduct sales training to produce the maximum revenue in the shortest amount of time?


· Share what market problem the new product solves

· Explain how big is this problem

· Share market data

· Explain what buying criteria buyers use when making buying decisions

· Share the process buyers go through when purchasing

· Position the sales tools developed for the specific steps of the known buying process

· Provide the sales team the buyer persona(s)

· identify the key influencers to the buyer personas, and who also may be involved in the buying process, and provide guides on how to start discussions with them


What I am describing is not “Sales Training” (like I did in the 1990’s) but “sales enablement”. Sales enablement is defined as:

Sales enablement is the process of arming an organization’s sales force with access to the insight, experts, and information that will ultimately increase revenue. It is a term that has gained momentum in the last decade. It is often used to describe a variety of tools, processes and methodologies that are applied to enable a sales force, both direct and indirect. The terms “sales effectiveness” and “sales readiness” are sometime used interchangeably to denote Sales Enablement as well.

In David Daniels’ recent blog he states:” According to the “Business-to-Business Launch Survey Executive Summary” conducted by the Center for Business Innovation at Babson College and Schneider Associates, 55% of companies rank sales enablement as critical to product launch success.”

When salespeople were the “keepers of the keys” for product information one could argue how the way most companies conducted sales training was OK. However the internet and the instant accessibility to information have changed sales forever.

Salespeople must become experts at starting and keeping conversations going with buyers. Today salespeople must be experts at understanding the buyer’s process, and what sales tool to use when.

Market leading sales organizations teach their salespeople how their product or service solves market problems.

Market losing organizations continue to spend more time convincing their sales teams how easy their goals are …”even a monkey could do it.” Market losing teams practice “marketing roulette”. They create a ton of sales tools and sales is supposed to use them ALL until they figure out which one works. If none of the tools work, sales will create their own. (A REALITY, BUT VERY DANGEROUS) Market losers are still teaching their teams how to overcome objections.

Market leaders understand the importance of listening to objections.

Stop sales training and start sales enablement today.

Remember people like to buy, but do not like to be sold.

Tell me about your organization.

How does your organization conduct sales training?

When salespeople leave your training do they understand when and where to use the sales tools in the buying process?

Is teaching salespeople how to overcome objectives smart?

How many minutes into your last training were salespeople checking their Blackberries and excusing themselves for an “important call?

This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. Great post Mark —
    I agree with almost everything you said. Here’s the one refinement I’d suggest. It’s a nit, but important because sales people are not generally receptive to the concept of buyer personas, which are by definition an example of the target buyer for the product. Because no example will ever be a perfect match with a real customer, sales people will mentally compare my description of the buyer persona to their own experience, find any inconsistency, and determine that everything else I’m presenting is completely flawed.

    I highly recommend that marketing departments build buyer personas as the single most important tool for understanding which types of buyers will be most receptive to the product and what needs to be done to win that buyer’s business. But when it comes time for the sales launch, I never talk about buyer personas per se. We instead describe the “target buyers” and talk about the work we did to understand those buyers. Sales people are not usually accustomed to marketing people doing this type of work, so I tell then how many interviews we did and name the people we spoke to, including direct quotes that support my points.

    For marketing, sales people are an audience or even a “persona” that we also need to understand. All of your recommendations are great, Mark, but my experience with influencing the sales persona suggests that they don’t respond favorably to a direct discussion about buyer personas.

  2. Mark, I agree with Adelle. Buyer persona profiles are not a tool you give to your salespeople. As marketers we deal with groups of buyers. Salespeople get the luxury of dealing with one buyer at a time and can craft a message that is unique to them. Marketers don’t have that luxury but need a way to build materials, sales tools and programs that resonate with a market of buyers. The buyer persona profile is and ideal best tool in that it allows us to create a proxy for the “typical” buyer in a given market segment.

  3. Thanks Adele and Dave,

    I have to admit I was wrong about giving salespeople buyer personas, and you both are right.

    When I wrote this post I was thinking in the role I often held: VP of Sales and Marketing, and I thought how valuable a buyer persona would be for me when I developed the sales playbooks by territory. However, what I would not want is my sales team to stop listening to the unresolved unique needs of each client and start talking as if to a group verse individuals.

    In addition there is already often too far a chasm between most sales and marketing teams and I would not want to have my team see personas as one more “Marketing Fo Fo fluffy thing”, tool, that shows they do not understand what we go through in the market. Buyer personas are a valuable tool when coupled with an understanding of how and why buyers buy.

    One of the reasons I often requested both sales and marketing report to me was to insure the tools marketing created were of value to keep buyers moving through the buying process.

    Thank you both for your thought leadership

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