How to Choose the RIGHT Sales Training & Development Program – Part 2
Research cited in a 2018 article by the Association of Talent Development shows that the average participant in a training seminar forgets about half of what he or she has been presented – get this – in just one hour! After one day, seventy percent is lost, and after one week, ninety percent is forgotten. That is appalling in light of the same article reporting that average annual per-employee sales training costs are nearing $1,500.
Clearly, choosing a sales training program is one of the more important decisions you’ll need to get right in 2019. In this final installment of How to Choose the RIGHT Sales Training & Development Program we’ll discuss how to assure you make the best choice in sales training programs by outlining some practical criteria to evaluate the wide variety of programs available today.
To quickly recap what we covered in Part 1 of How to Choose the RIGHT Sales Training & Development Program we presented seven takeaways that set forth the case for why the right sales training program is the best investment your organization can make:
1. Unprecedented change in your markets, customers, solutions, technology and a host of other areas require your sales training and development program to keep pace with change.
2. The right sales training will self-fund in a matter of weeks or months.
3. The right sales training will help you attract and retain sales talent.
4. The right sales training will keep you selling in the new and emerging ways buyers want to buy.
5. The right sales training will unify and align your sales team.
6. The right sales training will foster a culture of continuous improvement.
7. The right sales training will balance individuality with common, consistent methodology.
Please visit Part 1 to review the details.
Practical Criteria for Choosing Your Sales Training Program Wisely
One: Start by considering all of the costs involved in your program, then weigh them against the expected results of the training. On the expense side, there are direct costs associated with the actual training (such as curriculum, facilitator, facilities, materials, and participant travel) as well as the time commitment required by each participant. Add to this the opportunity costs associated with what participants might produce if there were engaged in selling activities during the time they are in training. Remember to factor in the costs of reinforcement training following the initial training events.
On the results side you’ll need to consider both tangible results (as measured by sales increases, profit increases, delivered margin, and other similar metrics) and intangible results (such as improved employee engagement, better teambuilding and alignment, and increased customer satisfaction).
With proper management follow-up, the performance results should improve in the weeks immediately following the training, and continue delivering improved performance beyond the year in which the training occurred.
Suggestion: build a best case, worst case, and expected case model for this.
Two: The right sales training program will address a significant and recognized need. Participants must feel that the training will help them raise their performance in areas which have significant impact on the results they are held accountable to deliver. Participants may need to be sold in advance on the value of participating in the training as well as understanding why the organization deems the training valuable or necessary.
I remember sitting in a training session when one of my peers observed that the training topic was pretty insignificant compared to another high need area which he named. Craig then observed, “Sitting here for the last 90 minutes is like learning how to swat flies during an elephant stampede. We ought to be focusing on how to dodge the elephants instead.”
Suggestion: ask members of the sales team, customer service leaders, and other internal and external customers what they perceive as the right training topics.
Three: When considering potential training topics, determine what the participants do and do not know. Let’s say that you’re thinking of implementing a training program that covers the basics of B2B selling. Unless everyone on your staff is new to sales/B2B sales, it is highly likely that the “basics” course will be right for some and too elementary for others. Or perhaps you think that your sales team might benefit from training on needs assessments or social selling. How do you really know what they need?
A mistake often made is to choose training solely in response to asking people what they need. People don’t know what they don’t know.
The answer is to run an assessment or diagnostic that asks knowledge-based questions (not opinions) and vets what they know against established best practices. This approach will reveal what they do and do not know.
Here are five additional reasons why using an assessment/diagnostic makes sense:
- It will give you a clear and specific sense of team strengths and needs.
- It will reveal exactly where individual focus will produce optimal results.
- It enables you to tailor the right training for your group or individuals.
- It confirms what best practices you are already using.
- If someone knows the right best practices, but is not producing results, more sales training is not the answer. A focus on execution (and what’s preventing it) is.
Suggestion: Google B2B sales competency assessment or similar phrase to identify assessments that can help you. Opt for knowledge-based assessments over opinion-based assessments (like 360-degrees).
Four: Assure management buy-in and participation from the start, during, and following training. Not only does management need to sponsor your sales training program, all the sales management staff need to participate. How can sales staff believe in a sales training program that management feels is not important enough for their own participation?
Management also needs to determine exactly when and how they will observe sales staff implementing and using the training they received. Know this before holding the first session. Because everyone is busy, sales management needs to schedule time in which to observe their team members, providing immediate coaching and feedback to help participants master what was learned. This may well be even more critical than the actual training!
Suggestion: hold a management planning session where each of these aspects will be addressed and agreed to prior to launching the sales training program. Get full commitment.
Five: The right sales training is tailored to your solutions, markets, and customers. While the pricing of off-the-shelf training programs can be enticing, research and experience shows that unless participants see sales training as both applicable and relevant to what they sell and to the markets they sell in, they will disengage from the training. They’ll be there in body only, but not engaged, and their learning retention will be very low.
Suggestion: your training plan should address how the training is tailored for your organization’s needs.
Six: The right sales training is rarely episodic or stand-alone. Internationally-recognized sales trainer Tom Hopkins once taught me that “repetition is the mother of learning and the heart of selling.” There is no such thing as instant training! Experience has shown the best sales training programs are implemented in bite-sized modules over time, to allow what was learned in a module to be practiced and mastered by participants, observed and coached by sales management, before the next module. Your sales training partner or facilitator should provide guidance to sales management how to accomplish this.
Suggestion: seek training partners who excel in a holistic approach to training.
Seven: The right sales training involves high interactivity built in to the curriculum. This includes a curriculum that features scenario resolution, role plays, problem solving, discussion, peer coaching, quizzes, and other methods to assure that participants interact with what is being trained. Recall the earlier research cited that shows that half of what is presented is forgotten in just one hour unless participants actively interact with the content. Many programs claim this, so you’ll want to look at the curriculum to see for yourself. Moreover, when the content is tailored to the learner’s solutions and markets, and sales management regularly observes, coaches, and provides feedback, retention and application soar.
Suggestion: investigate how interactive the training was based on speaking to past clients and people who participated in the training vendor’s programs.
Eight: The right facilitator will make or break the effectiveness, applicability, and motivation to use what is presented. What kind of sales/sales management success track record does the facilitator possess? Across how many industries? For how many years? Selling solutions that are tangible, intangible, or both? Proven ability to teach and facilitate learning? Do their own sales skills reflect aging practices of last year, or are they incorporating both current and emerging best practices? How is the facilitator keeping current? These are all terrific questions to get answered. In addition, check references from participants and companies whom they have trained so that you can understand what results they have produced. Have the behaviors of the participants been changed as a result of training, and do those behaviors produce better outcomes? Finally, how will the training vendor and facilitator support you after the training program has been completed?
Suggestion: thoroughly vet each individual who will be facilitating your actual training.
There is a sizeable investment to be made when it comes to sales training. There is no such thing as instant training or shortcuts to get high ROI results. You are wasting money on sales training unless you take the time to do it correctly. A $10,000 or $20,000 dollar investment in training – if done using the approaches suggested in this series – can produce results exceeding $1M and more.
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- Improving your (or your team’s) management and leadership skills: Leading Through People™
- Raising your (or your team’s) selling effectiveness: B2B Sales Essentials™
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