While not daily, on a regular basis over the last 12 years I have been called by VP’s of Sales who were extremely disappointed in the training delivered to their team by another provider. (It is entirely possible that some of my former clients have had similar discussions about me; possible, but nah). As you would suspect, there are a range of ways they share their “experiences”. Some politely take it on as their mistake for not having vetted things better; some will show me the material from the previous provider, pointing out what they thought they were going to get, then highlighting where it missed the mark. And then there is the type of people I like to work with, straight to the point no BS, no ambiguity, just the facts as they see them.
So, it was the other day, I was in a boardroom waiting for my appointment to join, before even sitting down, he threw a competitor’s manual on the table and said: “This is a piece of shit, I need you to clean up and save my team.”
After explaining how they went through a selection process landing on a “Big Box” training company; how they agreed on a plan, why the specific training discussed was important. The “Big Box” rep took copious notes, detailing what the client was expecting, why it was important, how it related to challenges and opportunities in their market, and which habits they were looking to influence and change.
Unfortunately, it was not the sales person who showed up to do the training, but a “Big Box certified independent trainer”. Fully literate in the theory, the learning plan, armed with numerous examples of “when they say this, you say that”; or motivational ditties like “You have to look through the rain to see the rainbow.” The only thing they lack is a minute’s worth of real world selling experience, when asked how to apply “the learning” to a specific scenario a rep presents, they either try to retrofit something that sounds similar, or go to their proven life boat: “Tear down your mental silos, you’ll never get out of the box you’re without a paradigm shift in your sales thinking” In other words “I haven’t got a bloody clue, mate, so I’m gonna put this on you”.
Back at my office, I began to thumb through the pages of the manual the VP gave me, it was apparently left behind by one of the reps. You could relive the experience the rep had that day. Early in the day, the first few pages asking them to commit to improvements, the rep’s choices were in full, clearly written letters, reflecting the willingness of the rep to learn something new. A few pages in, where clichés began to dominate, the rep’s writing began to wither and he was made to write things like: “No, is just the prospect’s way of saying ‘Tell me more’”. By page 73, complete surrender, in listless letters that looked like the last words of a man wondering the desert, in the top margin, two words:
Needless to say, the owner of the manual is no longer there. Seems this training was either an exercise in futility or a strange approach to attrition.
Don’t torture your reps, improve them.