Why Do Some Sales Methodology Projects Fail?


One of the unfortunate truths about training methodologies is that many of them just don’t stick or they fail to deliver on expected outcomes. Sales Methodologies fail for 4 primary reasons: complexity, lack of reinforcement, lack of measurement, and lack of integration. After a few weeks, behaviors can migrate back to the way they were before as many of us have a tendency to revert back to our comfort zone. It’s human nature. Sales Methodologies are not simply training; these are change management initiatives that require a level of commitment across the organization to realize the maximum impact.

It must be simple

The more complicated a new habit or methodology is to implement (i.e., lots of forms or administration), the more likely it is to fail regardless of how successful it has the potential to make someone.

Simplicity is about ensuring that the actual framework is in fact easy to digest and learn but also is well documented, supported, and enabled. Make it easy for reps to get the tools and resources they need to follow the new sales framework. Set clear expectations. Provide value to them in terms of automation so it’s not just a data capture exercise. Let’s face it…if you ask someone to do something that is non-value add to them, they likely will not do it consistently.

Leadership must coach and reinforce

In order for any change management initiative to succeed, leadership has to inspect what they expect. Few people will follow a process that their boss or bosses’ boss doesn’t seem to believe in themselves. The minute the leader turns away from the change (i.e., “it’s the end of the quarter so don’t worry about it”) it gives permission to the individual to turn away as well. That means using the terminology, completing their own assessments and reviews, and reporting on progress. It isn’t about micromanagement; it’s about reinforcing the behavior change and celebrating success.

Progress must be measured from day one

It often takes 6 to 9 months to see progress to success metrics when implementing new a sales methodology or an entirely new go-to-market sales motion. This reality can affect an organization’s excitement and commitment to the new processes. Therefore, instead of tracking only lagging indicators that require some length of time to see, we can track and measure progress from the start, allowing us to make adjustments as necessary.

One approach is to look at 3 types of success metrics to track effectiveness throughout.

Leading Indicators

Leading indicators are activity based. These allow us to see if folks (including leadership) are applying the new skills. Examples of leading indicators are an increase in the # of executive-level meetings, an increase in the # of SQL’s, an increase in the # of follow-up letters, and an increase in the # discovery calls. These metrics provide a good indication of adoption and the ability to apply new learnings.

Leaning Indicators

Leaning indicators are outcome based, as we start to see if the improved activity is in fact leading to desired outcomes. An example of a leaning indicator would be increase pipeline or pipeline growth, which would indicate that the activities and new skills are producing more opportunities.

Lagging Indicators

Lagging indicators are results based. Typical examples are increased revenue/margin, improved win rates, increased deal velocity (reduced avg. length of sales cycle), and improved forecast accuracy. At the risk of oversimplifying, more and better conversations lead to more and better opportunities/pipeline which leads to more and better closed business.

Measuring the leading and leaning indicators along with lagging indicators helps to energize the sales team and provides early indication of progress to the goals.

Integration into existing processes and systems

Change management initiatives, like a Sales Methodology, must be incorporated into existing systems and processes to be most effective. One critical example of that is the integration into an existing CRM. A disconnect or separate process will require extra work and negatively impact adoption and success. This can also include incorporation into Sales Process Stages, QBR’s, opportunity reviews, and the like.

Wrapping up

A new Sales Methodology or change management initiative is a significant investment by an organization to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the team and drive improved results. Being aware of the common pitfalls to success can help make sure we deliver maximum return on that investment. It’s got to be simple, coached and reinforced, measured, and integrated.


As a Vice President of Visualize, Jason helps organizations improve business metrics by creating a better connection with their customer’s definition of value. Following a successful career in sales and sales leadership, Jason has rejoined Visualize and now focuses on refining his client’s selling approach to differentiate; to drive increased revenues, market share and profitability.