“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing.” So said management theorist W. Edwards Deming, the world’s leading expert on quality improvement.

All work involves a process. That includes sales work. Yet most sales training programs—and most sales coaching efforts—proceed as if improving sales results were a project, not a process. When they do this, they are dead wrong.

Leading-edge thinking about quality improvement in any field of work focuses on process improvement.  ISO 9000, Six Sigma and other change-management programs zero in on process improvement in order to achieve lasting advances in quality.

What is the difference between a process and a project?  Process management involves planning, monitoring, and improving permanent repetitive actions. By contrast, project management is a temporary endeavor undertaken to produce a particular result.

Sales training without a process is a problem, not a solution.

Project-based sales training courses can be a shot in the arm for some salespeople, but they can never be anything more than that. Why? Because project-based sales training is designed to deliver a specific solution to a specific issue. It defines the problem as the lack of a particular sales skill. Its answer is to teach that discrete sales skill.

For example, suppose you define the problem like this: Your sales team lacks the ability to negotiate price. This is, indeed, an issue for many sales organizations, and if it’s the only thing your team needs, then a sales training module on price negotiation might be the answer.

But let’s just suppose that price negotiation is a symptom of a larger problem. Actually, I’d say there’s something like a 100-percent chance of that because trouble with price negotiation is always a symptom. Selling your price has to do with how well you, the salesperson, have sold yourself, sold the value your company brings to the table, and positioned your product as a unique solution to the customer’s needs. To do that, you need a sales training program based on a systematic sales process, not a bag full of individual sales skills.

Most sales training companies make the mistake of trying to match individual symptoms to training modules.  That’s the project approach to sales training and sales coaching. It will never give you a long-term, repeatable solution. It will never give you lasting improvements in revenue, margins, market share, or bottom-line results.

For information about how to improve sales skills and make sales training pay huge dividends, contact Action Selling at (800) 232-3485.

Duane Sparks

About Duane Sparks

Duane Sparks is founder and chairman of The Sales Board, the authoritative source of practical and leading-edge information about the art and science of selling. He has created Action Selling sales training products and learning systems that transform sales organizations. Duane is author of these best-selling books: Action Selling, Selling Your Price, Questions (the Answer to Sales), Masters of Loyalty (How to turn your sales force into a loyalty force), and Sales Strategy from the Inside Out (How complex selling really works).

Discover how the best sales training process can make spectacular improvements in sales skills. Action Selling: How to Sell Like a Professional (Even If You Think You are One).