Sales Training for Improving Sales Performance

improving sales performanceImproving sales performance is an ongoing challenge for sales executives and business owners. One tool available for accomplishing this goal is sales training. Sales training is an option if you need to change salespeople’s behavior or improve their skills. Ultimately, sales training must produce good performance to be worth the time and resources it takes to  accomplish.  Salespeople are successful if they do most of the right things most of the time.  Think of the 50%-70%-90% rule.

  • 50%ers People who perform only 50% of the right things 50% of the time are average to below
    average salespeople.  Their performance suffers because they consistently fail to take many of the steps necessary to be successful.  50%ers are either people who haven’t learned what to do, or experienced people who lack the motivation to do what they know how to do.
  • 70%ers People who perform only 70% of the right things 70% of the time are average to above average salespeople.  These salespeople use most of the skills most of the time, but they periodically skip a step or take short cuts.  During short periods of time, they may perform like top performers. But, in the long run, they skip enough steps to prevent them from rising to the top.
  • 90%ers People who perform 90% of the right things 90% of the time are top performing salespeople.  They attain uniformly high
    performance because they consistently apply the skills without skipping steps.

Your role as trainer/manager, is to identify and then to train and reinforce salespeople to do the right things more frequently.
This will lead them to do the right things more effectively.  Perhaps, improving sales performance in the long-term is the hardest part of the training process.  You must become aware of the importance that recognizing and rewarding good performance plays in building self-confidence and motivating salespeople to reach higher levels of effectiveness.  Practice the following simple guidelines for enhancing post-training performance through positive reinforcement:

  1. Give positive reinforcement in a timely manner, as close to the performance as possible.
  2. Give recognition that is meaningful to the salesperson.  Giving recognition that is not meaningful or that may even be viewed as a punishment by the salesperson will decrease performance.
  3. Be specific by pinpointing the exact behavior that you want to reinforce and explaining how the behavior benefits the salesperson.
  4. Don’t wait for outstanding performance before you recognize a salesperson.  Recognizing even small improvements will
    encourage salespeople to continue their efforts.  This is particularly important with new salespeople and your poor performers.
  5. Be honest and accurate.  Don’t use superlatives all the time or salespeople may view your efforts as insincere.

Training rarely produces long term performance impact unless it leads to changes in the salesperson’s behavior. This requires practice, reinforcement and commitment. If your goal is improving sales performance you must make a commitment to training.


  1. Hi I agree with you completely on Sales Simulations to test’ elsling skills. Asking candidates to sell, what they do not sell, to people they don’t sell to and having a role-play buyer (you) may not be the best way of testing. It has too many variables. They do not understand the market or the product and you may be responding more as an ‘examiner’ rather than a buyer.The change I would suggest you make, should you wish to do so, is that you take 10 minutes to “prepare yourself”. Ask them to talk through a recent win. Why did their customer buy, what needs, wants and hoped for outcomes? Who were their competitors, what did they offer? Who were the decision maker and the principal influencer? Prepare a ‘skinny’ brief for your role-play, and ask them to be themselves, elsling their familiar product, in a familiar market, using their full elsling skills.What happens next is simple ‘impro’ on your part, a visit to a local theatre group will give you all the training you need. Based on their sales behaviour, you will have ample opportunity to APPROPRIATELY ask questions, raise objections, give buying signals, refuse inappropriate ‘closes’ and introduce their competitor’s offer. Formal sessions can last 30 minutes, ‘quickies’ can be done in 15 minutes. The only dependency is how good you are at ‘impro’. If you video a few simulations to begin with, then through reviews and practice your’ impro’ skills improve quickly.

    • Phil Faris says:

      Thanks for your great example. Role playing as you outlined is a terrific approach to improving sales performance. Let me know if you have other tips to share.