Why Most Sales Training Doesn’t Work

North American Companies spend about two billion dollars each year on sales training hoping for an improvement in their bottom line. Most of the time they don’t get it.

In 1998, according to the American Society for Training and Development, only nineteen (19%) of people who took a training course received any kind of sustained performance improvement. There have been numerous articles in many publications, which confirm that premise.


Because they try to put “new wine in an old wineskin” thinking that it will work. What they get is the same old results. Hang with me and let me explain what I mean. When I was in graduate school I was taught that the purpose of education was to produce behavioral change in the learner. Sadly, most of the sales training being conducted today does not produce any permanent skill enhancement or behavioral change in the participants.

Why is this?

Most training being taught today is information based. That is it is presented from an intellectual or factual point of view. The shortcoming of this type of learning methodology is that the human brain forgets most new information that it is exposed to rather quickly. In fact, psychologists tell us that we consciously forget 95% of what we hear at a seminar within twenty-one days of hearing it. Yes, we heard it and we intellectually understood it but we didn’t retain it and we certainly can’t execute or implement it a month later. The flaw is in the learning model not in the content.

But we are an instant gratification society. We want to hear it once or twice and then expect to be an expert at it. That is not the way the brain works.

Think about how you learned the multiplication tables. You practiced it over and over and over again. You did drills and flash cards for weeks and weeks until new neuropathways were created chemically and electrically in your brain. The same thing with learning to ride a bike. You did not one day take a lesson and then hop on a bike and take off. Like most of us you had to practice and fall down and repeat the process over and over until one day your neurological system “got it” and then you owned the skill for life.

Selling is the same way except it is more difficult than learning to ride a bike or memorizing the multiplication tables. Companies, managers and sales people all want to short cut the process. They want an easy, fast, painless method that does not exist and they continue to be seduced by the promise of the one-day miracle seminar or the magic book or tape. The result is that the sales profession has become inundated with hacks, incompetents, product peddlers and pitchmen who aren’t much better than the elixir con men who once operated out of the back of a covered wagon.