When “Untrainable” is Good: A Skill Every Sales Hunter, Marketer & Manager Should Have

Sales training… are you a believer? What about your company?

On average, firms invest about 3% of their budget in training. But the most successful sales organizations invest closer to 10%.

That difference is part of the reason we list investment in training as one of our 7 Skills of Master Sales Hunters. We’ve found that investment in sales training sets the top performers apart from the pack (and we don’t even sell sales training!).

Great sales reps understand that the difference between winning and losing is often a very slim margin. So they invest heavily in technology, people, and themselves. Check out a few more eye-opening statistics: 

  • The average company spends $10-$15K hiring an individual and only $2K a year in sales training. (SOURCE: The Bridge Group)

  • It takes 10 months or more for a new sales rep to be fully productive. (SOURCE: Brainshark)

  • Continuous training gives 50% higher net sales per employee. (SOURCE: ATD Sales Enablement)

So it’s settled. Always stick to your training, right?

Not so fast. There’s one big catch: there are certain situations in which training can actually limit your success as a sales rep (or a marketer, or a manager, or a customer service guru, or any other job in the world of competitive B2B biz-dev).

In fact, in those scenarios, it can actually pay to be untrainable.

The Extra Mile

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One morning a few months ago, I asked Emily, our VP of Client Services, if she could help print a document for me. I was in the middle of my monthly CEO meeting, and was asked about a voicemail script our sales reps use called that we call the Boomerang Message. (Why the name? Because it’s often the only message that gets returned...)

The problem was, I couldn’t remember off the top of my head where I kept the document on my computer.

I didn’t have time to dig around for it, so I said, “Forget it, Em, I’ll find it after the meeting and email the group, no worries!” Problem solved… or so I thought.

Shortly thereafter, Emily interrupted the meeting and handed me ten copies of the Boomerang Message to hand out to the group.

Later that day, I stopped in her office and told her she was “untrainable.” The color drained from her face and an expression of grave concern appeared.

“What did I do?” she asked.

With a teasing grin, I told her that, even after I told her to forget it, she ignored my instructions. It would have been absolutely fine had she not gone that extra mile. Her value to me and our company would not have diminished one iota. And she did it anyway. The other members of my CEO group benefited from the knowledge Emily helped me share, making both me and the company look better.

Where Training Ends & Judgment Begins

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Is it possible to be trained to go the extra mile? Most training prescribes a path or a method beyond which it neither expects or recommends its trainees to venture.

And in many cases, the best course of action is to strictly adhere to your training. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Still, we all know how valuable it is when someone has the judgment to recognize when it does pay to go above and beyond. And how often do those contributions go unnoticed and unrewarded?

For all of the times I’ve failed to notice, or to take the time to comment, I say this to my staff (past, present, and future): Please forgive me. I am grateful for the privilege to work with people who exhibit that “untrainable quality.”

Invest in Sales “Un”-training

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How can you use the right mix of training and “un”-training to achieve (and exceed) sales success?

Since you can’t be “un”-trained without first being trained, the first step is to have faith in the value of consistent training. The best doctors, performers, and athletes in the world are the ones who train the hardest. It’s no different in sales. Training doesn’t just impart new skills—it translates to consistency, which your prospects and clients will interpret as credibility, longevity, and success.

When you’re comfortable working within the system, you’ll be ready to venture beyond it. Set ambitious goals, then work to exceed them. Identify areas for improvement, then tackle them with abandon.

Here are a few resources you can use to become “untrainable”—and to produce the sales numbers to prove it: