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The Last Mile: Why Bad Training Can Break a Good Organization

Posted by Paul Ironside on 10/10/14 10:33 AM

Centuries of sales training and billions of dollars of research have failed to answer one crucial question in sales: why do our attempts at getting our team to consistently engage prospects and customers with a great message ultimately fail? Marketing creates a great message and shares it with sales, yet, in the field, change is hard to come by. In reality, there is a fundamental missing link: the last mile - sales training.

When shifting from old copper wiring to fiber optics, the telecommunications industry ran into a massive problem. They built out these brand new fiber optic networks, spending billions on the powerful and effective update, but found that standard copper wire and dial-up modems connected houses to the network - the last mile. As a result, even with the most up-to-date technology, the last stretch of centuries-old wiring all but eliminated the advancements of the rest of the system. The concept has surfaced elsewhere, in highways and power lines, and yes, in how we approach training.

 

the last mile of telecommunications
Many parts build a chain than ends at the last mile (via Blown Fibre Optic)

In an ideal world, your business is a well-oiled machine, built on strong methodologies that maximize productivity and drive sales and growth. The various teams that ultimately influence a sale, for example, are part of the same network: marketing drives leads into the funnel and influences prospects along the path, while sales converts qualified leads into delighted customers. This focus pairs with modern messaging that delivers insights to your prospects, forcing them to engage with new ideas and change their way of thinking. These links make up one part of a large network that connects every element of your business, and if any links are missing or broken - the last mile - the system fails.

Our current training and learning structure is the last mile. You can build new go-to-market strategies, but their success is directly dependent on our reps and their learning. The way we train and teach our reps is that broken last mile. We will continue to fail without a different approach to training.

Rather than engaging with our reps how they learn - through observation, imitation, recognition, and repetition - we still use the same old "sales kickoff" model. Half-focused reps, deservedly enjoying a well-earned break in this year's tropical hotspot, are lectured at for three days and are expected to fly back home and hit the number. It doesn’t work, because the entire methodology relies on a corporate teaching methodology built centuries ago - sound familiar? Sales teams, according to the Sales Leadership Council, still spend billions on training on average each year, yet reps forget 70% of all lessons within one week. The reality is that most of what we teach is trapped in the bottleneck and forgotten before reps can absorb it, and nothing we change before this bottleneck will fix the issue.

 

sales kickoff 
How much are we really learning (via Decker)

CommercialTribe solves this problem by repairing and rethinking the last mile where it matters: how we train and learn. Our video-based social sales learning solution gives reps the chance to teach and learn in a way that actually reinforces knowledge retention: through practice and refinement, and with critical feedback. Reps practice and receive feedback asynchronously, using video in a safe, confident environment. And they take ownership of their own learning destiny because it happens on their terms. The results are encouraging for any sales organization: reps practice on average 6.5 times with the CommercialTribe solution, critically absorbing and refining the content until they get it right. When is the last time your reps did anything 6.5 times?

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About the Author

Paul Ironside

Paul Ironside is the Chief Executive Officer and a board member of CommercialTribe. Paul has more than 20 years of experience in sales, sales management, marketing, operations, and executive management at leading companies such as Gartner, Parature, and Corporate Executive Board (CEB). Most notably, Paul served as EVP Sales and Service and as a member of CEB's Executive Committee during the firm's $100M to $500M growth trajectory.

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Topics: Sales Leadership, Upskilling


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