Sales Seminars; One Day Wonders?

Not long ago I received a call from a company president who had spent thousands of dollars developing a defined sales process for his company. Everyone from senior management to customer support was supposed to be on the same page. That was the good news. Time had passed, however, new hires came into the company and now there was a good deal of inconsistency in delivering the sales message. He was frustrated and concerned it was costing him sales.

After explaining the situation to me he told me he was looking for a sales “guru” to put on a full day “motivational” seminar for the entire sales force. The intent was to get everyone back on track with their process, increase sales and then everyone would be happy. I declined the opportunity.

I was dumbfounded. The idea that you could change salespeople’s habits by having them sit through an eight hour session flies in the face of all learning studies I have ever read. You would think by now everyone knows the best learning comes from small repetitive doses of education. There’s a reason you cannot learn to dance in an hour.

In the spirit of full disclosure: I am not a fan of one day seminars. For that matter; two day seminars are not much better. Participants suffer information overload. Studies have shown over and over that retention rates from these types of seminars drops significantly as time passes. So much so, that after six months participants remember almost nothing they heard at the seminar.

If you truly want to change the habits of your salespeople commit to an ongoing coaching effort. Bring in an outsider or do it yourself, but make it long term. Long term is not six weeks, it is an ongoing education effort over months. That is followed by years of continual coaching and reinforcement. The single most import job of a sales manager is coaching.

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