people in a small circle meeting

Why are some salespeople uniquely successful? Do they have some special sales skills that others don’t? If your sales force is somewhat normal, just 20% are high performers. Imagine what a difference it would make if your sales training could truly motivate sales teams and increase their ability to sell more and develop stronger customer relationships.

As companies stare down some nerve-wracking business trends — widening revenue gaps, economic uncertainty, supply chain challenges and inflation, heightened competition for talent, changes in buying patterns combined with the dynamics of remote work — the sales organizations are feeling the pressure. Is your sales training taking your salespeople, with their current level of performance and skills, adequately preparing your sales teams for this increasingly challenging marketplace?

If you’re like most, you’re not just feeling anxiety about it. You’re also feeling frustration. After all, you have all these loyal, honest, conscientious, good people on your sales team. They’ve got the product specs and details down pat. They know your CRM processes cold. They watch all the videos on the latest sales techniques. They participate in the sales process training and seemingly listen diligently in weekly sales meetings. There’s just one nagging problem:

They’re not selling much!

If only they’d do what you teach them to do, they’d be successful. But they don’t do it. Right? And continuing to take the same approach with them isn’t going to change things. To help all of your salespeople sell more, especially when the environment is looking like it’s stacked against them, you have to understand what actually causes their success.

Why Sales Skills Aren’t the Whole Story

Just teaching sales skills, product information and sales processes won’t cause someone to be successful. Reading books, attending workshops and listening to experts who share their selling secrets also isn’t going to make them successful. Simply knowing how to sell, even though it’s important, isn’t enough, and here’s why:

People don’t always do what they know to do!

They usually do what they feel like doing and what they think is possible for them to do. Salespeople are largely driven by emotion — on average 85% feelings, attitudes and emotions and 15% logic, knowledge and discipline. Even if most of them know how to gain knowledge, they struggle with identifying and handling their emotions. That’s why their ability to sell isn’t just about picking up new sales skills.

To create more high performers and motivate sales teams, you have to drill deeper, to those emotional factors that control around 85% of a salesperson’s ability to sell. For the ‘how’ of selling to take hold, the ‘why’ has to be readily apparent. But most sales training stays at the surface, focusing on things like closing skills, probing techniques, negotiation strategies, challenge phrases, closing techniques and manipulative devices. In other words, it teaches them how to get people to say “yes.” It teaches them to sell and have a sales mindset. Sure, that sounds like it makes a lot of sense, but let’s go back to what’s really driving a salesperson’s behavior: their feelings, attitudes and emotions. If salespeople don’t feel positive about what they’re doing — and manipulating someone into buying something, whether they need it or not, doesn’t tend to feel good — they’re going to shut down. When salespeople are asked to do selling activities that conflict with their values, perceived skills or their sense of right and wrong, it triggers an internal conflict and can actually decrease their ability to sell.

How Inner Values Affect And Motivate Sales Teams

Our inner values define who we really are. And any time anyone tries to sell something without any concern about whether it’s right for the customer or not will experience an inner conflict — because this very act conflicts with healthy values. Likewise, sales training that teaches techniques and strategies that are designed to pit the salesperson against the customer in a battle to see who can win will also conflict with most people’s inner values. But these are still common ways that many people are taught to sell, and this explains a lot of their sales performance failures or low sales. In fact, we can clearly see 4 reasons why most sales training fails.

OK, so what does work then? Here’s what we’ve found, and it’s something that has been confirmed time and again, through good economic times and bad, regardless of industry, market or business model: When salespeople focus on identifying and filling needs customers have and creating the most value for them, they earn their customers’ respect, and their own self-respect is enhanced in the process. As a result, they have strong, positive values about selling, and their drive to achieve goes up. They’re fueled an internal passion to do right by their customers and create more value for them.

To be most successful, your salespeople must answer this question: “Is the way I sell consistent with my inner values?” Regardless of how sharp their sales skills are or how well they understand your sales process and product features, if their conscious or unconscious answer is “no,” they’ll either perform on a low level or quit and do something else.

But, if their answer is “Yes, the way I’m asked to sell is consistent with my inner values,” they’ll be free to perform on higher levels. They’ll be happier, more fulfilled and will serve you and your customers better.

Sales Training That Removes the Barriers to Sales Success

Values are just one of the pivotal internal factors that affect your salespeople’s ability to sell and will ultimately have much more influence on their performance than just the sales skills taught in a typical training program. Their sales success will be largely due to an alignment of the following key dimensions:

  1. View of Selling
  2. View of Abilities
  3. Values
  4. Commitment to Activities
  5. Belief in Product
Selling Congruence Graphic

As these dimensions come into congruence, salespeople want to do result-producing activities. They develop an internal zest, confidence and a deep feeling that what they’re doing is right and good. That means that even when the business environment is rocky and they’re under pressure to close the revenue gap, they’ll have the energy and internal motivation to sell on higher levels.

Rather than teaching people to sell, this is an approach that removes the fear of rejection, call reluctance and many of the common emotional barriers that prevent salespeople from selling up to their real capabilities.

To learn more about the myths of why salespeople succeed or fail and how to motivate sales teams by bringing each of these five dimensions into congruence, download our ebook: You Can’t Teach People to Sell by Teaching People to Sell.

About the Author
Donna Horrigan
Donna Horrigan

Vice President of Client Development

For the past five years Donna Horrigan has been partnering with our clients to drive business outcomes through performance improvement...
upward point of view on skyscrapers

Insightful Perspectives and Tips to Help You

Serve Your Customers Better
Don't Miss Out