Why Workshops are Bad for Salespeople

Workshops and learning events can be the least effective—and for some, even the worst—places for your salespeople to get the training they need.

You heard that right. Now, let me explain.

I’ve worked directly with sales pros for a long time, helping them become top-ranked in their field. And one of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that most of them struggle to apply new concepts and practices if there’s a lack of context. Scenarios that get presented at workshops are too abstract or too distant for them.

If they’re not currently in the trouble zone that you’re trying to teach them how to get out of, they tune out. On the other hand, they sit up and pay attention in a hurry when that problem you’re talking about is at their door and they need solutions fast. Suddenly, those abstract scenarios become very tangible!

When it comes to learning, the faster you can apply something, the faster it becomes part of you and your work. And that’s why you must create a dynamic learning environment for your sellers.

Here are eight ways to make that happen…

Make training content show up when and where it makes sense.
Giving sellers training content without context is a waste of everyone’s time. Instead, align training content with your company’s CRM or your learning management system. Serve it up to sellers only where the content matches the stage they are at in their sales process. The timelier it is, the more effective it will be. A client of mine does this with their sales team. For example, when an opportunity hits and it’s defined as in the “qualification stage,” specific content gets sent to the seller based on that specific opportunities scenario. For example, the training content is specific to the industry type, competitive situation and size of opportunity.

Video teaches more in less time.
That same client also does something interesting with video. They found that sellers learn more in less time when they don’t have to read through long how-to articles. Their videos are shot by other sellers on the same team, for example, those who’ve had success closing a deal against that competitor. They outline the steps they took, the messages they used, and the approach that made them successful. It teaches a lot in just a few minutes plus has the added credibility of being delivered by a peer. After all, sellers believe other sellers first.

Learning from wins and loses only happens if you share.
Win/loss analysis pieces are among the most valuable conversations a manager can have with their seller. But it’s incredibly frustrating when that insight never makes it to the rest of the team! Change that. Have your sellers record a quick video or interview them on audio after a win or a loss. Get them to talk frankly about what happened and how to leverage it in win cases, or what they would have done differently in loss cases.

If your weekly sales meeting is boring, you’re doing it wrong.
Assign a seller to give a presentation on a recent opportunity. Have them show the challenge that was at hand, and then the solution. At the end of their presentation, ask the team pointedly: “Now which opportunities will you be able to apply this information to?” In answering the question, sellers are forced to immediately apply the new information to an active scenario—dramatically increasing the likelihood they will implement it. These exercises only take 20 minutes to do and your staff will profit: making this the most engaging part of the meeting.

Know the difference between presentations and conversations.
Presentations are meant for groups. Conversations are meant for one-on-one meetings. So save that pipeline conversation for your 1:1 talks with sellers. They are the only ones who have a stake in that conversation: there’re no value in raising it with the rest of a group. Learning doesn’t happen when people are bored.

Use your best to mentor the rest.
I’ve recommended this before and the advice still applies. Be sure to send out your number-two ranked seller on calls with your number-one ranked sales pro. It won’t slow down the latter, but it will provide invaluable insights to the former to boost their overall performance.

Profit doubly.
When you create a dynamic learning environment, you benefit twice. Not only does this avoid the costly decision of pulling your sellers from the field for days on end to attend workshops. It also makes money for your business right away. By asking those sellers to instead spend just a few minutes reviewing and applying key concepts that are contextual to today’s work, they can apply that knowledge now.

Front load the purpose of ride-along coaching.
Most managers conduct sales call ride-alongs with their reps and then provide coaching later on—sometimes days or even weeks later. That’s too late. Instead, show up to the call a few minutes early and prepare a game plan with your seller. Help them in real time to improve their call by providing coaching on what to do now, not later. As a manager you can then assess the seller’s willingness to learn (i.e., did they implement as planned) and their ability (i.e., are they capable of changing their methods and habits).

Get acquainted with this dynamic learning environment for sellers. It’s the must-do way to turn eager sellers into top performers while ensuring 100% buy-in on their part.