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Can you imagine Peyton Manning saying to his coach “Why do we have to practice anymore? We’ve all been playing football for years!” Obviously he would never say that because it’s absurd! Any professional athlete constantly trains and prepares for his/her next competition. Doctors, lawyers, accountants or any other professional service provider invests time in continuing education and training. These professions demand excellence and as a result they are compensated well for it. But when it comes to sales, one of the highest paying profession in the world, do we demand the same excellence?

As part of my role as a Sales Force Development Specialist, I often assist clients by interviewing candidates who make it to the end of the hiring process. I’m naturally curious to know if they have ever had sales training. The typical response is “Yes, I went through two weeks of XYZ training at my last company” or “We did a one day seminar last year at our national sales meeting”. My follow up question is “What are you applying today as a result of that experience?” More often than not the response is just a blank stare.

I’ve been in sales for over twenty one years. I think back on all of the companies for which I have worked and none of them provided ongoing, long term reinforcement of any type on sales processes or methodology. It’s amazing to me considering that the sales force is the engine for revenue and growth!

A study done by the Aberdeen Group found that the top sales organizations in the world spend on average 4.33 hours a month training their sales people on sales process and tactics (which is not the same as product training). The study also found that these same companies provided training for their sales managers on an average of 3.54 hours a month. The data is there. The best train on a continuous basis. Their managers are strong at reinforcing the training.

So why don’t more companies train on a continuous basis in order to attain sales excellence? We can all speculate. In the book “Good To Great” author Jim Collins concluded that… GOOD IS THE ENEMY OF GREAT. I find that many sales organizations are good. Many of these good sales forces are the leaders in their respective space. However, the great ones don’t compare themselves relative to their industry but rather to the best in the world. They’re not satisfied being king of the hill. They set their goals for the top of the mountain.

Unfortunately, most sales forces do settle for good. It’s their comfort zone. Ironically, settling for good also means tolerating inaccurate pipelines, long selling cycles, eroding margins, hanging on to people who don’t produce and never will, a culture of excuse making, managers who can’t grow their people and a feeling like they’re on a roller coaster ride with sales every month. That’s comfortable?

Jim Collins’ book also concluded that…. IT’S EASIER TO BE GREAT THAN GOOD. In the end it’s actually the companies who do invest their time, money and resources into continuous training on sales process who ultimately experience the highest levels of excellence, comfort and satisfaction. It’s perception vs. reality. So ask yourself, in which of these 2 camps does your company fall, Good or Great?

- Jim Mattei


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