Sales training: Too many salespeople are thrown in the deep end

Sales training: Too many salespeople are thrown in the deep end

Last week I received a call from a woman (let’s call her Tracy for the purpose of this article) desperately seeking help on how to sell. Tracy had been in her role for five months and all that time had not received any guidance, advice, coaching or support from her managers on how to sell her products or who to sell them to.

She had never been in a sales role before and did not work in the vicinity of the head office. She was out there on her own with some product samples, a standardised introductory letter and her wits. All Tracy was told to do when she started the job was ‘go out and sell’. That was it. Nothing else. Not even a field visit by management. Zip.

To her credit, Tracy tried all sorts of things to generate sales – whilst many of her actions did not yield any sales results, she kept trying to no avail. In desperation, Tracy called the recruitment agency that placed her in the role to find out how she could get more training on how to sell. She was referred to us.

Despite the situation she wanted to succeed. She wanted to make a go of it, to become a successful salesperson. And to me Tracy is worth helping – she showed a number of qualities that if properly guided, trained and coached would make her into a decent salesperson. But under the current circumstances she is fighting a tough battle.

I won’t go into specifics about her situation; however, I want to highlight that Tracy is not alone. Too many people who enter sales or start new sales roles with different companies have similar tales to tell. Many are thrown in the deep and set adrift. Why does this happen? The main reason is that people do not understand selling. They do not know what is required to sell well. In their ignorance they look for people with bright personalities who are ‘good people-people’. Or they look for people with experience in their industry. And they think that is all that is required. 

Either way, their sales efforts will flounder if not fail outright.

Selling is a very complex role and to do it well you need a number of components working in concert.  If we are to get our salespeople off to a good start, we need to give them the following at the very least:

Sales planning

  • Our company story
  • The business of our business (what we do for people)
  • Our value proposition (how people benefit from what we do for them)
  • Our target markets and types of clients we sell to
  • Our competitors and our competitive advantage (why us?)
  • Our sales strategy (goals, objectives, nationally, regionally and by salesperson)

Go-to-market action plan

  • Prospecting: How we go to market to connect with prospective and existing clients to position ourselves to win business
  • How we generate leads (prospecting calls, social media, advertising, events, etc)

How we sell

  • Our sales approach (solutions selling, consultative selling, etc)
  • How we position and price our products and services
  • How we present proposals/quotes
  • Product knowledge

Company policies & procedures

  • Procedures, policies, etc
  • Warranties, guarantees, etc
  • Customer service, ordering and distribution
  • Safety and complaints handling procedures

Even if this information is in a manual format, it would be a damn side better than what Tracy has received to date. Shame on this business for not setting her up for success in the first place.  Instead, Tracy has been set up to fail from day one.

We are better than that. We don’t throw people into technical roles and expect them to be master craftsmen, tradespeople, engineers, accountants or doctors, so why do we persist in treating one of the most valuable roles in our business with such disdain?

Selling is everybody’s business and it makes sense to give salespeople a decent start. Without good salespeople, we do not have successful businesses. Let’s get our collective acts together and make sure that anyone who is undertaking a sales role can get the best start possible. It will pay handsomely to those who get it right and your salespeople will thank you for that.

Remember, everybody lives by selling something.

Sue Barrett is a sales expert, business speaker, adviser, sales facilitator and entrepreneur and founded Barrett Consulting to provide expert  sales consulting, sales training, sales coaching and assessments. Her business Barrett P/L partners with its clients to improve their sales operations.  Visit


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