Too often I’ve witnessed sales teams flown in to exotic locations only to be crammed into a 50 degree room for several very long days of PowerPoint, role plays and flip charts ad nauseam. Salespeople listen to copious tips, scribble notes on technique, discover account strategies and learn other exciting selling methods.  Everyone is then literally stuffed into a van and shuttled back to airports with extremely overflowing binders in tow. No sooner does the team get back to the office and all that learning quickly begins to disappear. Maybe a couple of lessons stuck, but for the most part it’s slowly back to business as usual – the manuals, books and templates stuffed into a cabinet only to see daylight during a cubical move.

According to training experts, total corporate expenditure on sales training and performance improvement exceeds 2 billion with some sources quoting as high as 5 billion annually. This substantial outlay begs the question, “How can companies maximize return on their sales training investment (ROI)?”  Don’t waste your precious training resources on lackluster results. Ongoing training is key in cultivating skill and best practices for both new and seasoned sales professionals.  Whether online or in person, classes and seminars are the “seeing” and “hearing” components of learning. Management can’t expect the information to have long-term impact without considering the following crucial elements.

Assess your salespeople to identify their skill gaps and learning styles.  Training can then be structured to develop the right competencies and in a delivery method that will produce the greatest results.  The best means for assessing needs is through:

  • Management observation
  • Self-evaluation
  • Basic sales skill evaluation (do they know the process?)
  • Competency evaluation (how well do they execute the process or use emotional intelligence?)

DISC profiles are especially helpful for identifying learning and communication styles. The resulting self-knowledge also helps sales respondents in their ongoing development post-training, as well as with their ability to adapt to different customer styles and facilitate better teamwork.

Set smart training goals based on the assessment results. Training objectives need to be very specific, measured in quality or quantity, achieveable, timely and relevant for the participant.  This allows you to have a yardstick for evaluating results and calculating actual ROI post-training.

Customize the content to address your company’s unique sales process, corporate culture and customer value proposition(s). Out-of-the box sales training packages are simply too vanilla to be effective. Training tailored to your organization’s specific business goals makes it relatable and ensures that your sales team walks away with best practices and real world strategies to address their particular customer base and sales cycle.

Reinforce the learning through coaching. This is the “doing” part of training and it’s often the Achilles heel of ROI.  Follow up is often one of the most neglected sales training aspects due to managers’ lack of time, skill in coaching or the absence of a coaching culture coming from the top.  One-on-one  and team coaching set up at regular intervals strengthens how a participant learns. Making sure salespeople consistently implement what’s been taught by checking against actual outcomes is an ongoing process guaranteeing that the training outcomes have not been lost amid a sea of good intentions and dollars spent. Coaching keeps your sales team accountable for their training goals and achievement by helping reps overcome internal and external obstacles to implementation.  “Doing” is the link that will certify success, lead to an increase in sales and revenue, and lastly, prove that those training dollars have been wisely invested!