Insider Intelligence: To Train or Not to Train?

If you are a manager in your organization you may have heard your sales reps — particularly the more successful or tenured ones — tell you “I don’t need training” after you put forth a suggestion or mandate for some kind of sales training.

If you are a sales professional, you may be thinking, “Yes that’s right! I’m paid to sell; and any time away from my customers and prospects is costing me and my company time and money.” This statement is true for the most part and may be hard to argue with. For sales professionals, it’s not just their job — it’s their reputation and livelihood on the line.

While it is generally accepted that we can all benefit from taking every opportunity to continue our professional development, some learning experiences are just more fruitful than others. If you don’t see a real return for time and money invested, then you are left with a deficit; so, before you throw training dollars at a performance problem, make sure you do a front-end analysis to determine how, when and why to apply training. You can perform a simple needs assessment by asking these questions:

  • What business, sales and operational results are you trying to achieve?
  • What should your employees be doing to achieve expected results?
  • What does that performance look like (e.g. how do top performers achieve success)?
  • What are employees doing or not doing that is hindering achievement of the desired performance and results?
  • Do they possess the essential knowledge and skills to produce the desired performance?

If people have the skills, but exhibit poor performance anyway, it could be due to many causes, such as disconnect on expectations and accountability, a motivation issue, time management problem, lack of tools, work process or coaching. Your solution might be to simply provide the missing resources and coach to expectations.

If employees, on the other hand, do have skills or knowledge gaps, determining what learning opportunities will increase knowledge, skills and abilities can be assessed by examining the performance objectives of the training. These objectives should answer the question, “As a result of this training you should be able to…” You must be certain that they meet your desired performance outcomes and behaviors you expect as an end-result.

No matter if you have new performers, under-performers or top performers, your training activities should always involve a live opportunity to apply new knowledge and skills immediately to galvanize what was learned. Use it or lose it is a real and costly phenomenon. If your recent trainee lacks a current opportunity, then coach and practice the new skills via role playing, job shadowing and ride alongs.

Even the best of the best sometimes struggle with what’s been termed “unconscious competence” — that these top performers have been doing so well for so long, they have lost track of what those right actions would look like to a new performer. What exactly do they do that works? Ask them that question and you might get a blank stare and a response along the lines of “You know what I do, I win.”

Keep in mind that many times it is helpful for stars to periodically go through a brief training refresh to be reminded of what they do well, and how to build on those competencies. In order for this to work, confirm up front with the training provider that the content is a quick and stimulating refresh for an advanced performer as a gateway to the next step in development vs. a remedial deep dive that demotivates them from participating.

Offer your prime players plenty of opportunities to learn about risk and solution sets, emerging technology, non-traditional solutions and services that position them as a thought leader and consultative resource in front of their clients and watch them shine.


Barbara Shaw, CPLP, is Director of Education for PSA Security Network. To request more info about PSA, please visit