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4 Rules for Optimizing the ROI of Sales Training

Wednesday, August 31, 2016
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Millions of dollars are spent each year training sales reps, yet many of those sales reps are not actually meeting quota once the training is complete. Realizing the return on investment (ROI) of sales training is a common challenge among organizations—a fact confirmed in ATD’s 2016 State of Sales Training report.

In fact, 35 percent of respondents to the ATD study said that tying sales training to performance results was the top barrier to effective sales training. Here’s the good news: sales enablement leaders can address this challenge by placing an emphasis on the quality of the training program and following these four rules.  

1. Keep the Training Straightforward 

The science of learning (and basic logic) shows that new information must be thoroughly understood and remembered in order for learners to apply it on the job. Overly complex sales models and processes that are difficult to remember are highly unlikely to transfer to daily work once salespeople finish training.

When the training takes too much effort, a salesperson will end up defaulting back to the process (or lack of process) they used before. To be effectively applied in the field, a sales process should be:

  • customer-focused 
  • easy to remember 
  • flexible enough to adapt to a wide range of situations. 

2. Customize the Content  

Salespeople can be resistant to training because it takes them away from selling activities. To keep salespeople engaged, training should be customized to reflect their everyday selling environments. Using language and scenarios that salespeople encounter on a daily basis will help them see the relevance and immediate benefit of training—and it shows them exactly how to apply their newly learned skills in the real world.

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No doubt, a customized training program also eliminates the need for learners to translate classroom theory into every day application. This means new skills are more likely to be used—resulting in increased performance levels. 

3. Get Executive Buy-In 

In order for a sales training initiative to be effective, there must be a sense of accountability from all levels of the organization—starting at the top. When executive leadership is involved in the training’s creation, it helps communicate their commitment to the project to the rest of the organization. That commitment will then trickle down through the rest of the organization, keeping everyone accountable to the program’s success and the ROI results of the sales training. 

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4. Emphasize Reinforcement  

Classroom training introduces salespeople to new skills, but the real learning must happen in the field. People learn best by doing, and by receiving regular feedback and coaching on their progress. Consequently, effective sales training initiatives should include a strong component of sales management training that is aligned with the learning outcomes of that specific training. It also needs to align with the performance lift that stakeholders want to achieve.

At the very least, managers must learn and be comfortable coaching the same content that their salespeople will see during training. Managers also need to be prepared to turn that learning into new actions that generate results. 

Bottom Line 

With the fast pace of technological change and the rise in customer sophistication, salespeople need training more than ever before. Organizations that want to get the most out of their training investments should incorporate these rules.

Some organizations may find it wise to even partner with a corporate sales training provider that is experienced at fulfilling and optimizing each one. To learn more about customized sales management training and flexible licensing solutions, visit www.TheBrooksGroup.com. And be sure to join Tony Smith for the ATD webcast, 4 Ways Sales Training Participants Are Different From Other Learners.

About the Author

As chief operating officer of The Brooks Group, Will draws on his leadership, marketing, sales, sales management, and operational experience to help develop and execute the company’s overall growth strategy. Drawing from over 15 years of experience in the training and development industry, Will combines his deep institutional knowledge and client experience to optimize operations at The Brooks Group.  Will has co-authored the book, Playing Bigger than You Are, with his late father Bill Brooks, and has been featured in a number of industry publications. He has received awards for service to the HR profession and also is actively involved with ISA, The Association of Learning Providers.

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