vacuum-cleaner-657719_640This is a true story…sort of. Some elements of the story have been changed to protect the guilty and to make a point.

Once upon a time, there was a VP of Sales that was unhappy with his team’s results. Truth be told, it was the CEO who caused the VP to be unhappy. And, it was investors who made the CEO squirm.

The company manufactured industrial sweepers and floor coatings. Warehouses, manufacturing plants, and parking structures were among their typical customers.

The whole situation evolved because the company had a better margin on their floor coatings than on their sweepers. In other words, the company made more money when the sales team sold floor coatings than when they sold sweepers. Alas, the sales team was trouncing their sweeper quota, but woefully behind on their coating quota.

The VP suspected the cause of this problem was the more conceptual nature of the floor-coating sale. The Sales team could demonstrate the effectiveness of a sweeper. Heck, customers could even borrow a sweeper overnight to see how well it cleaned their floors. But, no such dog and pony show existed for coatings.

With the national sales meeting just 8 weeks away, the VP of Sales requested that the Talent Development department pull together a half day workshop on how to sell floor coatings. The workshop would focus on building the team’s conceptual selling muscle and include role-plays specific to selling floor coatings.

Sounds good, right?

It’s certainly possible that the Sales team had not yet mastered conceptual selling. And, that the training, in this respect, would be useful. But, would it really take care of the quota problem?

The plot thickens because in this particular case other factors were at play.

  1. Selling floor coatings took more time than selling sweepers. So, a Sales Rep couldn’t see as many clients in a day if his or her focus was on making the coating sale.
  2. Sales Reps had to deal with more customer complaints when they sold floor coatings. In especially wet areas, like Seattle, the coatings sometimes cracked and peeled when they dried.
  3. The Sales Reps earned a higher commission when they sold sweepers.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather work less, have fewer headaches, and make more money. Selling sweepers was clearly the way to go from the Sales Reps’ perspective.

Given these factors, it’s highly unlikely that the training would have resulted in the behavior change the VP of Sales was hoping for. And, there is a good chance that the Talent Development department would be blamed for these disappointing results.

In fact, this situation is not unusual. Often when business partners request training as a solution to a performance problem some other issue is lurking in the background.

So, if you want to design and develop training that gets results, you need to ask the tough questions to see if other changes need to be made in addition to offering training.