Measurement is a powerful activity, because it benefits the individual and the organization. At the individual level, sales professionals gain an objective view of their abilities and where they need additional focus to build skills. At the organizational level, leaders benefit from a holistic view that indicates where they need broad measures to shape a team. This combination of a broad and focused view of effectiveness is necessary to sustain selling skills.
However, many selling organizations struggle to measure training effectiveness and outcomes. Why? It is unclear which metrics are meaningful, data resides across many disparate systems, some metrics are unavailable and competing priorities disrupt consistency. Here’s how to bring structure to the measurement problem with a three-part approach.
Before embarking on a measurement plan, leaders must communicate their intentions and make clear that they are committed to an ongoing measurement strategy. This first step is important, because effective measurement requires an agreement between the members of the sales team and the executive team.
During this early dialogue, it is crucial that leaders select metrics that both sides accept, making measurement a shared endeavor rather than a one-sided directive. Agreeing on measurements also drives consistency. Measurement initiatives fail when the goal post changes. If the selected metrics change, then the sales team will not respect the initiative, and leaders will never develop a long-term data set that reveals trends. Without consistency, organizations risk falling into a pattern in which they select only the measurements that they know will reflect a favorable trend.
Communication lets everyone in the organization know that measurement matters and that leaders will use the data from those measurements to drive strategic decisions.
Next, leaders must segment measurements into three key categories. Doing so organizes the measurement plan and simplifies the management process. The three categories are:
Engagement seeks to answer how learners are progressing through training. To answer this question, leaders must know what portion of the team is enrolled in training. Leaders need to understand learner progress, because impactful learning is sustained learning. Engagement is an ever-present characteristic of effective training.
However, enrollment alone does not signify engagement. Leaders must go further to capture the engagement picture by drilling down to other factors. For example, progression tracks participants’ progress toward a key learning milestone, and frequency measures learners’ rate of engagement by revealing how many days have elapsed between learning sessions. Finally, channel metrics indicate the ways learners have opted to engage with the learning material — for example, some choose to access digital content on their desktop, while others prefer mobile access. The optimal channel depends on the state of the sales force. Inside sales teams are likely better suited to desktop engagement, while field sales teams can benefit more from the flexibility afforded by mobile learning.
Experience asks how memorable training is and how excited learners are to participate. The experience of learning matters, because it drives adoption. Metrics in this category can include net promoter score, course rating, confidence, qualitative sentiment and commitment to change. If the learning experience is inconsistent or onerous, then there is little likelihood that participants will stick with it.
Measuring experience gives leaders the information they need to make adjustments that ensure skills will translate from learning to real selling situations. Improving the learning experience often means introducing more variety into training, and variety increases the effectiveness of a training program. Consider research suggesting that “interleaving” is a more effective way to learn in comparison to the traditional approach of “blocked” learning. Interleaving deepens the learning experience by alternating between topics rather than progressing through them in a linear mode.
Effect asks if training has improved business outcomes and skill adoption. Participants will be more committed to the process if they can see a clear line connecting the material in training to skills they believe will create success in their careers. Many organizations use the Kilpatrick Model to measure effect. This approach gauges training effectiveness across four key areas: engagement, behavior change, knowledge retention and business results.
Effect is often the first measurement organizations think about when they begin to consider a formalized training program, because it includes business outcomes. Organizations want to know that the financial and opportunity costs of training have a direct, measurable return. Additionally, effect encompasses metrics like knowledge retention and how far learners have advanced beyond their initial baseline assessment.
Once a formalized plan is in place, leaders must commit to an evaluation cadence by determining a schedule for reviewing the metrics. This review should become part of everyone’s calendar. Visualizing the data is a great way to make it more actionable. This approach simplifies the job of finding and aggregating the information into a single, meaningful picture.
It is also important to remember that the measurement plan that works is one that can is easily implemented. Therefore, rather than seeking complicated ways to unearth missing data, companies should think about how they can use the information that is available to them. Most organizations will discover that they have at least a small collection of meaningful metrics that they can pull from their systems with ease.