May 17

Sales Training Programs: Discover the Transformative Power of Archetype-Based Sales Training

Imagine if you could unlock the true potential of your salesforce by understanding their unique strengths and weaknesses, then tailoring your sales training program to fit each person perfectly. Any sales director can tell you that all salespeople are not created equal. Every team has high performers, mid-performers, and low performers, driving companies to invest billions annually in sales training. But here’s the catch: despite this massive spending, many organizations still see disappointing returns.

The root issue creating disappointing sales performance often lies not in a salesperson’s skill but instead their attitude and approach. Yet, most companies rely on one-size-fits-all sales training programs, ignoring the diverse needs of their salesforce. 

But what if there was a better way? A one-size-fits-many approach designed to help every member of the organization reach the next level of success. That approach is Sales Archetypes.

Understanding Sales Archetypes

What do I mean by sales archetypes? In my experience, you can categorize any sales force into four distinct archetype groups: Vending Machines, Grocery Stores, Websites, and, at the top of the hierarchy, Florists.

Vending Machines represent the most basic level. These salespeople simply take orders without creating demand or building relationships. They’re effective for well-known, high-demand products but struggle with new or less popular items.

Grocery Stores build and sustain customer relationships. They don’t generate initial purchase intent, but they excel at encouraging repeat business and upselling through price discounting and personal interactions.

Websites are more advanced. They use content and data to prospect, nurture, and close sales. Websites analyze customer behavior to make personalized recommendations and grow cart.

At the pinnacle, Florists blend the strengths of Grocery Stores and Websites. They establish deep trust with customers, often selling products sight unseen. Florists are the trusted advisors who not only maintain but also grow customer relationships, driving both repeat business and new sales.

Ideally, every company wants a sales force full of Florists. However, the reality is that most teams are a mix of these archetypes, with Florists being the smallest group. Most salespeople fall into the Grocery Store or Website categories, and inevitably, some act like Vending Machines.

Instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach to sales training, companies should evaluate their teams and classify each salesperson by archetype. This classification allows for targeted training and development plans tailored to each group’s strengths and needs. By focusing on archetype and coachability, companies can create more effective sales training programs and maximize their return on investment.

If you’re curious about what that would look like, keep reading. We’ll delve into each of the four salesforce archetypes and explore a process for developing tailored sales training programs based on the sales archetype approach to training your sales team.

Vending Machines

sales training programs - sales archetype vending machineAt the bottom of the sales effectiveness hierarchy are Vending Machines. This archetype represents a basic, transactional approach to sales, and it’s problematic for two main reasons.

First, Vending Machines don’t create the desire to buy. Think about it. You don’t walk by a vending machine and suddenly feel compelled to purchase something. Desire comes first, and only then does the vending machine fulfill that need. Placement is crucial for a vending machine’s success because it relies on being in the right place at the right time when the desire already exists.

Second, Vending Machines don’t influence your choice of purchase. They simply offer what’s available, leaving the decision entirely up to the buyer. This works for well-known, high-demand products, but it’s ineffective for new, niche, or lesser-known items. If the vending machine stocks a category leader alongside a startup product, the latter is likely to be overlooked.

Vending Machine salespeople operate the same way. They don’t generate demand or guide the customer’s choice. They’re just there to take the order. We’ve all encountered these salespeople – they’re transactional, impersonal, and instead of Selling Greatly, often leave us feeling like just another number. They don’t engage with the customer beyond the immediate transaction, missing opportunities to build relationships or provide additional value.

Imagine a scenario where a customer has specific needs or uncertainties about a product. A Vending Machine salesperson will not take the time to understand these needs or address concerns. They won’t offer recommendations, suggest complementary products, or provide insights that could enhance the customer’s experience. And given a choice between the easy sale (well known, established product) and a new, challenger brand, they’ll take the easy sale every time. This lack of engagement not only reduces the potential for upselling and cross-selling but also fails to build customer loyalty. Over time, this approach can harm a company’s reputation and lead to missed sales opportunities.

Ultimately, Vending Machine salespeople are order-takers, not relationship-builders. They might suffice for selling straightforward, high-demand items, but they fall short in environments that require a deeper understanding of customer needs and proactive engagement. Transforming these salespeople into more effective archetypes involves training them to create demand, influence purchasing decisions, and build lasting customer relationships.

Grocery Stores

sales training programs - sales archetype grocery storeMoving up the hierarchy from Vending Machines, we find the Grocery Stores. Like Vending Machines, Grocery Stores don’t necessarily create initial purchase intent. You don’t suddenly feel compelled to “make groceries” just because you drive by your local grocery store. For those unfamiliar with New Orleans lingo, locals say “making groceries” when they refer to grocery shopping. Don’t ask me why, I’m a transplant 😊 but I have to admit, it’s a charming phrase.

However, unlike Vending Machines, Grocery Stores do influence what you buy once you’re inside. They strategically feature products on end-caps, use attractive displays, and have employees who might suggest items you hadn’t considered. For example, during Mother’s Day weekend, I was in a grocery store that had as many flower arrangements as food items, prompting folks to pick up a bouquet along with their groceries.

Grocery Stores also excel in building relationships. We often develop a preference for a particular grocery store, and as long as it continues to meet our needs, we remain loyal, even driving past competitors to shop there. This loyalty stems from the familiarity, convenience, and consistent experience the store provides.

This is why Grocery Store archetypes make effective salespeople. They are adept at maintaining and nurturing customer relationships, ensuring that customers keep coming back. They provide a personalized touch that Vending Machines lack. However, this loyalty has its limits. If a Grocery Store stops carrying a customer’s preferred products or if the salesperson leaves for another company, the customer may start looking for a new Grocery Store to patronize. And because they’re relationship sellers, they’re not often as skilled at convincing customers to buy new products, preferring instead to lean on their relationship with the customer to convince them to try something new resulting in fewer repeat purchases of new items. 


sales training programs - website archetypeBuilding on the strengths of Grocery Stores, we arrive at the Websites archetype. I have a particular affinity for Websites because, like me, they leverage content to prospect, nurture, and close sales. However, companies favor Websites because, unlike Vending Machines and Grocery Stores, smart Websites are always striving to grow cart.

Consider your online shopping experiences. Every time you make a purchase, the website suggests additional products that complement your choice or items that others have also bought. The best websites track your search, shopping, and purchase behavior, using this data to create compelling offers or introduce you to products you didn’t even know you needed.

Websites build relationships in a more sophisticated and valuable way compared to Grocery Stores. While Grocery Stores excel at maintaining relationships based on convenience and comfort, Websites foster customer loyalty by providing continuous value beyond the transaction. Whether through personalized recommendations, insightful buying suggestions, or third-party reviews that boost our confidence in our purchase decisions, smart Websites earn our business and loyalty daily by effectively utilizing content and insights.

But as we all know, and AI is shining a glaring light on currently, information may be power, but it’s also relatively easy to replicate. So while I think Websites make incredible salespeople, the key to maximizing their effectiveness is empowering them with worldclass support systems and technology that gives them the edge over competitors. 

Which leads us to the king of the class, Florists. 


sales training programs - sales archetype floristsAt the top of the sales hierarchy are Florists, the perfect blend of Grocery Stores and Websites. Florists excel at building and maintaining relationships with their customers, leveraging purchase history and customer insights to create a trust-based relationship. Imagine this: you can buy a dozen roses from a vending machine, in a grocery store, or via a website. In each of these scenarios, you see the product before you purchase it. Only with a florist do you buy the product sight unseen.

When you call a florist, you simply tell them what you want, when you need it, and where it should be delivered. You trust that the product will reflect well on you. This epitomizes the ultimate seller-buyer relationship, and it’s why companies should aim to cultivate salesforces composed entirely of Florists.

Florists are not just about growing the cart; they grow the company—your company. They keep the repeat orders coming, introduce new products, and, most importantly, they have an acute ability to identify invisible opportunities for your company to create new products and services. This keen sense of opportunity stems from what my pal Chris Brogan calls having “big ears.”

When your company solves problems that customers didn’t even know they had, or perhaps didn’t realize were solvable, customer loyalty naturally follows.

And there’s another compelling reason Florists are the best salespeople. Consider this: if you were buying a dozen roses, which purchase channel—vending machine, grocery store, website, or florist—would be the most expensive?

If Juliet was right, and a rose is just a rose regardless of its name, then why do you pay more to buy that rose from a florist versus a vending machine, grocery store, or website?

The answer is price insensitivity, the Florist’s superpower. This is the primary reason why companies with teams of Florists enjoy price premiums over their competitors, even in commodity product categories.

Structuring Sales Training Programs to Create Florists

Rather than defaulting to a one-size-fits-all sales training solution, follow these five steps to cultivate a sales force of Florists:

Step One: Classify Your Salespeople by Archetype — Begin by categorizing each member of your sales team into one of the four archetypes: Vending Machines, Grocery Stores, Websites, or Florists. This classification helps in understanding the current capabilities and approach of each salesperson. To develop an effective classification system, consider the following:

  • Observation and Feedback: Spend time observing your salespeople in action. Pay attention to how they interact with clients, their approach to prospecting, and their overall sales strategy. Collect feedback from clients and colleagues to get a well-rounded perspective.
  • Sales Performance Metrics: Analyze sales performance data to identify patterns and behaviors that align with each archetype. Look at metrics such as sales volume, customer retention rates, and the ability to upsell or cross-sell.
  • Self-Assessment and Peer Reviews: Encourage salespeople to self-assess their selling style and approach. Peer reviews can also provide valuable insights into how each team member is perceived within the group.
  • Behavioral Assessments: Utilize behavioral assessments and personality tests to gain deeper insights into each salesperson's natural tendencies and strengths. Tools like DISC assessments or Myers-Briggs can be helpful in this process.

Step Two: Evaluate Coachability — Next, assess the coachability of each salesperson. This step gauges their willingness and ability to learn, adapt, and grow. Here’s how I might approach it:

  • Behavioral Interviews: Conduct interviews focusing on past training and development experiences. Ask questions about how they have responded to feedback and adapted to new challenges.
  • Feedback from Managers: Gather insights from sales managers who work closely with the team. They can provide valuable input on each salesperson’s attitude towards learning and improvement.
  • Self-Assessment: Allow salespeople to evaluate their coachability. Their self-perception can be very telling, especially when compared to external feedback. I personally LOVE this approach and find it hugely valuable. 
  • Performance Improvement: Review historical data to determine how well each salesperson has responded to previous training efforts and whether they have consistently improved over time.

Step Three: Determine the Uncoachable Cut-off Point Establish a threshold on your coachability scale to identify which salespeople are worth investing in and which are not. Here’s how to approach this:

  • Set Clear Criteria: Define what constitutes a coachable versus an uncoachable salesperson. This could be based on their coachability score, past performance, or growth potential.
  • Develop a Cut-off Policy: Create a written policy for handling those who fall below the coachability cut-off. For Vending Machines, consider reassigning their accounts or replacing them altogether. Retention might be an option for Grocery Stores, Websites, and Florists, depending on their overall potential. You may just need to strategically support them or build out your sales teams so that the various types can help train each other via osmosis. 
  • Transparent Communication: Ensure your criteria and policies are communicated clearly to the sales team before, during, and after implementation. This transparency helps manage expectations and encourages self-improvement among salespeople.

Step Four: Develop Your Sales Training Programs — Design specific training and coaching programs tailored to each archetype. The goal is to help your coachable Vending Machines evolve into Grocery Stores, Grocery Stores into Websites, and Websites into Florists. Consider these steps:

  • Customized Sales Training Modules: Develop training modules that address each archetype's unique needs and challenges. Focus on skills that will help them transition to the next level.
  • Mentorship Programs: Pair less experienced salespeople with top performers who can provide guidance and share best practices. Consider pairing Vending Machines with Grocery Stores and Grocery Stores with Florists to reinforce key sales training on a day-to-day basis.
  • Interactive Workshops: Conduct workshops encouraging active participation and real-world application of new skills. Role-playing and scenario-based training can be particularly effective.
  • Regular Assessments: Define and calendar regular assessments to track progress and encourage honest feedback to adjust training programs. This ensures that the training remains relevant and effective.

Step Five: Implement and Sustain Your Sales Training Efforts — Launch your archetype-specific sales training programs and commit to sustaining these efforts for at least 12-18 months. Research shows behavioral changes take about 60-75 days to become muscle memory — longer for some behaviors. So make sure you provide enough time for your sales team to evolve in a demonstrative way. Key considerations include:

  • Continuous Monitoring: Assign an outside third party to regularly monitor the progress of your training programs through performance metrics, feedback, and assessments. This will assure focus and impartiality. 
  • Ongoing Support: Provide continuous support through coaching, resources, and access to tools that facilitate learning and development. Again, particularly with coaching, I find a third-party resource is best because salespeople are inherently competitive and dislike showing weakness to bosses and colleagues. 
  • Feedback Loops: Create feedback loops where salespeople can share their experiences and suggestions for improvement. This helps refine the training programs and makes them more effective.
  • Performance Reviews: Conduct periodic performance reviews to measure the impact of the training on sales outcomes. Use these reviews to celebrate successes and identify areas for further improvement. Again, I'm a big believer in having both the boss and the employee conduct a review. Then, look for the areas of difference and engage in honest discussions about those differences of opinion.

By following these structured steps, you can systematically develop a sales force that builds trust, creates value, and drives growth for your company.

Want to Learn More About Archetype-Based Sales Training Programs?

If evolving your sales team from Vending Machines to Florists excites you, let's make it happen. I’d love to speak at your next sales conference or kickoff event, sharing tailored insights for your sales management team or entire salesforce. You can learn more and place a hold on your conference date on my sales keynote page.

Let's chat if you’re eager to dive deeper into creating a team of Florists through better sales training. Schedule a Zoom call with me, and we’ll explore strategies to boost your team’s effectiveness and drive remarkable growth for your organization.

Don’t wait—take the first step today to transform your salesforce into a powerhouse of trust, value, and growth. 

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This post was originally published on Painless Prospecting, the weekly sales and marketing blog created by the fine folks at Converse Digital. If you want to learn how to create, engage in, and convert conversations into new clients and customers, give them a call

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