How would you feel if I told you that for every dollar you spend on sales training, you may as well be throwing 80 cents of it into a bottomless pit?
That’s the implication of research cited in the Harvard Business Review. It shows that with traditional curriculum-based training, participants typically forget more than 80 percent of their training within about 90 days.
Using data from the same HBR article, this means that the average United States sales organization throws away $1,167 annually per salesperson on wasted training.
It is my firm belief that this untenable situation is largely responsible for the fact that, industry-wide, sales effectiveness fails to keep pace with sales expenditure.
However, that doesn’t mean I think you should stop spending so much on sales training. In fact, I recently explained why I think you should spend less on technology and more on training.
But spending more is only useful if you’re spending it effectively. Here are 6 ways to decrease training waste, and increase training ROI.
The traditional model of sales training is a one- or two-day onboarding session that consists of an information dump and possibly a shadowing session or two with seasoned salespeople.
This is generally supplemented with annual classroom training and a motivational speaker or two at a big sales event.
If salespeople are lucky, in the traditional approach, they may receive periodic training sessions and maybe some coaching, which may be more or less effective.
In the old days, there may not have been a lot of options for making sales training more effective. It was hard, in a paper-based world, to make training actionable and integral to a salesperson’s daily life, and nearly impossible to scale personalized reinforcement and coaching across an entire organization.
But times have changed, and there is no longer any reason to keep beating the proverbial head against the proverbial wall of this ineffective attitude. Right now, vow to stop thinking of training as a one-off event, and start thinking in terms of how training can be made actionable, personal, and reinforceable, even at a global scale.
In order to be effective, training has to be more than a set of precepts and coaching in conversational styles or methodology. It has to start at the top, with a sales strategy that makes sense for your customers and your organization.
You need to be clear about your messaging, strategy, and sales process and communicate that clarity to your team. Then you need to identify the skills necessary to execute on your sales process, and the gaps in those skills on your team. Training can then be tailored to be relevant to the salesperson’s needs, and dynamic to assist them in continuous growth.
“To increase retention and effectiveness, companies should offer reps additional training at times of need, provide them with access to supplemental material that reinforces what they’ve already been taught, and allow them opportunities to practice their skills in time frames connected to actual buying processes.”
That’s Frank Cespedes and Yuchun Lee in the Harvard Business Review, talking about how to improve sales training ROI. I am going to go a step further and say that everything they recommend should be happening directly inside the salesperson’s daily workflow.
Salespeople should have the sales process reinforced within their CRM platform with checklists and criteria for moving from step to step, milestone to milestone, and stage to stage. They should have training videos and other content available at their fingertips within the same platform and within the context of the activities for which they need it.
Sales managers and coaches are your frontline assets for reinforcing and customizing sales training. They should be included not only in the training itself but also in additional training to improve their coaching skills. They should be enabled with analytics tools that help them understand exactly where each salesperson needs support. And they should be held accountable for reinforcing the proven sales process and associated skill sets.
As I wrote recently, you should be reducing your technology spend so that you can increase your training spend. That means you need to choose sales technology that does exactly what you need it to do, without expensive upgrades and plugins and customizations. It should also a clear and consistent pricing model that allows you to control that spend, so that you can confidently reallocate budget to training.
But reducing technology spend is not enough. Your technology should be supporting and reinforcing your training and making it easier for your salespeople to continually improve their skills and therefore their performance. It should allow you to embed sales training resources directly into the salesperson’s workflow, and provide coaches with the information they need to effectively coach each salesperson in a personalized manner.
Choose sales trainers and consultants who understand the principles outlined in this article, and are committed to helping you make training and strategies relevant, lasting, and effective. They should help you integrate your training into your organization in a way that makes the training stick.
We believe the best trainers and consultants in the world are our partners. We’ve carefully selected those who meet our standards and provide exceptional value. By partnering with us, they’re able to provide access to the best technology to enable your team to use their training in the most effective manner, while reducing your technology spend.
George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills and processes.