5 Whys Applied to Why Companies Don’t Get Results from Sales Training

Last week, on the customer collective website, Dave Brock and Christian Maurer drilled into an interesting issue: Why don’t companies get the results they expect from sales training? (Sales Managers, Use it or Lose It, by Dave Brock)

The 5 Whys Applied to Sales Training

Dave pointed out that when sales managers didn’t coach salespeople in the use of the tools and templates that came with the training, there was no way the training could have an effect. Christian Maurer picked up the trail by starting to ask “The 5 Whys,” a powerful technique developed by Sakichi Toyoda (an inventor, and founder of Toyoda Industries), for uncovering root causes of problems.

I picked up where Christian left off, and I think you’ll enjoy it!

> Why #1: (from Dave Brock)
> When organizations invest millions of dollars/euro/yuan/yen
> in tools and training … why don’t they get the results they expect?

> Answer #1:
> Sales managers don’t use the tools or the training when they manage their salespeople.

> Why #2: (Christian Maurer)
> Why don’t managers and especially executives use
> the templates their people were trained on in their
> daily management practice?

> Answer #2:
> Nobody had told them how to use these templates.

> Why #3:
> Why has nobody told sales managers how to use their templates?

> Answer #3:
> Management decided this could be cut from the budget.

OK, so where can we go from here?

Obviously, good sales managers and trainers like those of you on this forum believe in your gut that getting sales managers to use the tools and templates is critical to the results companies achieve.

So, …

Why #4:
Why would senior managers decide it is OK to cut training that helps sales managers to use tools and templates to manage their people?

Answer #4:
Because they believed this training would not make a difference, and their money would not be returned.

Obviously, someone in management does not agree with the sales trainers. The claims about the effects of this training must not seem credible.

Why #5:
Why would management believe that training sales managers would not generate a return?

Answer #5:
Because you haven’t PROVEN that training the sales managers will create a return.

Can you show skeptical executives HOW and WHY sales management training will make a difference from the short run all the way through to the long run?

Until you prove your case with facts and data (not opinions and anecdotes), everyone will continue to operate on their own assumptions about how selling works (and their assumptions are probably mistaken).

Why #6:
Why isn’t there much proof that training sales managers will create a return?

Now we’re getting to the real meat of the problem. Answer this question, and we’ll be getting somewhere.

Answer #6:
Because they have not broken down the company’s sales process into observable causes and effects so they can be measured and analyzed. The fact is, they can’t measure anything about it!

This might take a little explaining. Here is what I mean:

The CAUSES of the sales process are the work required throughout the cycle (e.g., generating leads, qualifying them, researching the customer’s situation, reaching decision makers, proposing solutions, etc.).

The EFFECTS of the sales process are the concrete, observable attributes and the measurable stages the customer goes through as they try to solve their problems (the customer’s journey or buying process). By these I mean things like

– the conditions that determine whether there actually is a sales opportunity,
– the extent to which the customer has the exact kind of problems we can solve,
– the presence or absence of gatekeepers, or coaches/sponsors, in the right places, etc.

If end results (sales revenue) are the only measures of sales performance, everything that causes those results is nothing but foggy opinion, uncharted territory, and possibly a myth.

In this environment (i.e., the majority of sales organizations), asking people to do things differently, to think harder, is asking them to take a big risk. The more different, the harder the thinking, the bigger the risk.

For example, it can look and feel better when lots of proposals are in the forecast, yet doing things the RIGHT way usually leads to fewer proposals (though they are of higher quality).

Yet, if the sales manager wants to show more deals in the pipeline in order to look good to the Sales VP, how long will a salesperson be able to resist the pressure?

Salespeople, indeed the entire organization, desperately need a way to trace the quality of their deals down to observable, countable, attributes and characteristics. They need to know which of these are in fact associated with higher probabilities of winning deals (statistical studies often show that some of salespeople’s gut feelings are wrong). They need direct, personal experience with it, before they can conclude that the “RIGHT” way (which appears at first to be longer, harder, more time-consuming, and even more risky) is indeed the right way to handle their deals.

It is easy to show the effect of manager training when the quantity and quality of deals can be measured. The salespeople managed by untrained sales managers can’t distinguish between low- and high-quality deals. They fail to take corrective actions. Productivity falls. The dollars and cents produced by the training, and the cost of NOT training, are traceable.

Now for the next step in the “5 Whys” path (I told you there would be more than five steps!):

Why #7:
Why haven’t people broken down their company’s sales process into observable characteristics, causes and effects?

Answer #7:
Simple. Most people have just never done it, so they don’t know how to do it.

For my money, this is the root cause of the problem (it accounts for a bunch of other sales and marketing problems as well).

People assume selling can’t really be measured. They assume that the work of tracing the meanings of their words all the way down to precise, observable evidence is not worth the effort.

They don’t realize the insidious, incredibly damaging effects of this simple error.

And, now, we reach the end of the chain, a question only you can answer:

Why #8:
Why haven’t YOU defined the language of YOUR company’s sales process in terms of observable, countable attributes, of causes and effects?

Michael Webb

Michael Webb founded Sales Performance Consultants to create a data-driven alternative to the slogans and shallow impact offered by typical sales training, sales consulting, and CRM companies. Michael helped organize and delivered the keynote speeches for the first conferences ever held on applying Six Sigma to marketing and sales. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Daniel Zamudio - May 14, 2009 Reply


Here is my perspective – the reason that companies have not done this is because SFA/CRM systems, which should be the primary means of enabling sales management to define, execute and analyze their sales process into observable characteristics, causes and effects are ill-suited to the task. Training managers on how to better define and implement sales process is essential but without the tools to help them do it, even the most expert process-oriented sales leader is hamstrung.


Leave a Comment:

Verified by MonsterInsights