By Sue Schnorr, ESR Contributor
We all know there are no silver bullets to sales training. But there is a critical component to designing excellent sales training and it’s one that often gets overlooked. We have made the point again and again: “ESR recommends employing an instructional designer on a contract basis for the development of all sales training materials. Those with the means and need should have an instructional designer on staff.”
Every sales performance improvement provider that ESR evaluates provides us with information about how they design their content. It’s that important to us, and should be for both the sales training buyer and the sales training provider.
Why? Here are three key benefits:
- Reps will take the training more seriously. The instructional designer understands sales reps as an audience and knows that the trainer’s credibility is critical for them. The designer will recommend assigning the right trainer for the program – one who has both sales experience and product knowledge. For example, role-play activities work best for skill development. Yet, some reps dismiss role-play activities without giving them a fair chance. Designers know how to set up the activities properly, with clear instructions and a demonstration that will allow the trainer to show off industry knowledge and skills. This helps to gain the reps’ attention and interest. Reps must believe the practice is worthwhile and relevant; then they will engage and learn.
- Reps will retain knowledge and apply skills after completing the training program. The instructional designer knows that sales reps learn a bit differently than other adults (because they are different), so he will create learning activities that are optimal for your team. He will make sure concepts are taught appropriately so reps learn and retain knowledge. For example, he will design group activities that are fast-paced and engaging. The designer will ensure that the activities produce behavioral changes. He will create an Action Plan for reps to use for planning how they will use skills on the job. When reps attend programs that are designed professionally, they are well-positioned to immediately apply their skills when they return to the field.
- The program will bring results. The program will be designed to fit your specific objectives, so you’ll be more likely to get the results you want. The designer will create an easy-to-use Reinforcement Plan to ensure that learning takes place over time and is extended after the session. These activities may be self-paced and/or coordinated with the sales manager. Reps can do “self-checks” to test their understanding of the concepts after the session. Managers are given an easy-to-use observation checklist to reinforce that skills are being used correctly.
The instructional designer provides a blueprint that serves as the foundation for a successful training program. You wouldn’t build a house without an architect, so why would you design your training program without a designer? Sure, training is sometimes challenging to measure, but when you design an instructionally sound program, you’ll get classroom engagement, behavioral changes and results on the job, and you’ll maximize your investment.
Check the ASTD and ISPI sites for resources on instructional design. These sites also have career centers where you can advertise and find talent when you decide to hire a designer. IBSTPI has a PDF summary of instructional design competencies, available for downloading.
Graphics source: The Performance Difference