Seller Types, Implementation & Accountability: Why Sales Training Doesn’t Work, Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed how the willingness and ability of individual sellers have a direct impact on your company’s growth. And, that once you evaluate team members, you’ll know if sales training is needed and how to customize it.

Now it’s time for specifics. How can you determine, more precisely, where individual sellers fall on the willingness and ability spectrum? How can you leverage and nurture their abilities? And, how can you fully implement sales training and hold sellers accountable for their progress?

Let’s start by identifying the four types of sellers:

  • Stagnant
  • Sloth
  • High Potential
  • Champions

Use the diagnostic tool below to divide your sales team into these different categories.

Willingness and Ability Diagnostic Tool

Notice that ability is on the vertical line with high ability at top and low ability at bottom. On the horizontal line is willingness, with low willingness at left and high willingness at right.

If we work through this chart, here’s what we’ll find for each type of seller:

These are individuals with low willingness and high ability. Therefore, training them with new ideas to make them change and achieve growth won’t work. They’re content with the strong skill set they have  ̶  hence, stagnant. They’re not willing to learn new methods to achieve better results. Often, Stagnants are veteran sellers who are happy with where they’re at: managing current accounts, not having to make new calls, and satisfied with their current salaries.

Instead of trying to make them grow your company or adopt new ideas, Stagnant sellers could do much better with maintaining your business and account management. Consider reallocating them to new roles that play into their talents, such as account managers, or providing training that leverages what they’re already great at and are willing to do more of.

For example, a client in the paper products field needed to grow the business by 10 percent. However, the seller that covered the industrial sector ‒ and the company’s biggest client  ̶  flat out refused to participate and was visibly hostile during a training session. He was unwilling to accept new ideas, yet was very skilled and successful at what he was doing.

Evaluating the situation, we determined his expertise was this major industrial customer. We changed his pay and made his sole objective to manage the one client. The result? He’s pulling in even higher numbers on the account and the company is happier.

These are sellers with both low willingness and low ability. Sloths won’t grow your company. They also won’t expand current accounts because they lack skills and don’t want to learn. Essentially, there’s no use for Sloths on the sales team, so let them go.

High Potential
This covers team members with high willingness and low ability. They want to grow and try new things ‒ but they lack the know-how.

These are individuals you need to train, coach and mentor because they’re your future superstars! Stay on top of them and make sure they’re implementing new sales skills on a regular basis to grow your business. Recognize and celebrate their wins with them. Add bonuses to keep them motivated.

These sellers are the cream of the crop with both high willingness and high ability. They’re the top one or two individuals on your sales team. They’re always over target and they’re growing the business like crazy.

With Champions, the key is leveraging them to encourage growth among your other sellers. For example, you can:

  • Make them subject matter experts within the company
  • Give them new projects
  • Allow them to expand their territories or have better ones
  • Let them run monthly training sessions to give them a leadership role
  • Join them out on sales calls to document how they’re achieving success

A client of mine in the healthcare field followed this last step with great results. The sales team was struggling with a new launch, so the VP shadowed a Champion seller. He recorded his language and style to share with the team. Turns out, the other sellers were particularly receptive to the information because it came from a top performer versus an outside consultant.

Implement and hold accountable

Once you’ve classified your sellers and the initial sales training is complete, it’s time for your company leaders to buckle down. That means using two powerful drivers of growth: implementation and accountability.

To avoid sales training falling to the wayside, the leadership team must install the framework for implementation and accountability before the first training session. This means:

  • Schedule coaching sessions
  • Set targets
  • Plan to measure progress
  • Tell sellers they’re responsible for what they learn  

Then, after training, the leaders need to closely coach and monitor activity. Have sellers document the top three ideas they’re committed to implementing. Compile a list and share with the sales team so everyone remembers what they thought was best practice. Use this list in your one-on-one coaching sessions.

“Hey John, you wanted to do A & B. How’s it going? How can I support you? Do you need more information?”

Once those first three items are in effect, return to the list to determine what’s next.

Set individual targets

It also works to establish growth targets for individuals rather than a broad one for everyone. A high-tech client had a positive outcome with this. He tracked seller progress through activity-based key performance indicators (KPIs), which both provided an early warning if something needed correcting and gave ongoing feedback about which activities were best for achieving particular kinds of sales.

This client also held the sellers accountable through one-on-one coaching, regular sales meetings, and executive gatherings to go over KPIs and prospects. Within a year of sales training, the team achieved their growth targets each month and, for the past two years, has broken new sales records each successive quarter.

Every company can achieve this type of growth. The first step is to always understand where your team members fit within the Ability and Willingness matrix, followed by appropriate training. After that, all it takes is a deep focus on implementation and accountability. With these drivers of growth, you’ll be surprised how quickly your sales take off!