Why It’s Time to Rethink the ROI of Your Sales Training

Author: 
David M. Williams

Time, Money and Effort

Today’s sales leaders agree on today’s top sales training challenges: it’s too expensive, there’s not enough time, and there’s a lack of engagement. Add to this the fact that when surveyed, the majority of sales leaders question the effectiveness of their current sales training programs. Yet, organizations continue to invest considerable amounts of time, money, and effort toward training their sales teams.
 
One reason for this is that more than 50% of college grads in the U.S. are likely to work in sales at some point, yet less than 100 of the 4,000 colleges have sales programs or courses. Also, the current complexity of today’s business landscape demands that sales teams are continuously honing and developing higher-level sales skills. And, ultimately the most important and logical reason organizations continue to invest in sales training is that well-trained sales professionals are the critical engine that drives the business forward.
 
Practice-Driven Sales Development

Research from the Aberdeen Group found that best-in-class sales teams received 17% more formal training per month compared to underperformers. The same research also found that modern sales professionals are most effectively developed by “empowering them to do their job regardless of time of day, physical location, or computing device.” Thus, for sales training to have measurable, positive impact, it must not only be delivered frequently, but it must also be delivered seamlessly so it will not impede the modern sales professional's daily demands.
 
So how do sales leaders address their training challenges in order to achieve best-in-class results?
 
It starts with a shift in mindset from going beyond delivering traditional sales training events, that are episodic and interrupt daily workflow, and instead creating a practice-driven selling culture where learning and practice are seamless and continuous. This shift helps sales leaders empower their sellers to reach their full potential while sharpening their sales skills for the future, and at the same time creating a selling environment where personal and business growth align so the organization can thrive.

Return on Reinforcement

Unfortunately, the days of bi-annual sales training sessions, where the entire sales team converges at a centralized hotel conference center, for two to three days to listen to PowerPoint presentations on closing tactics, and/or engage in a few team building exercises, is still all too common.
 
The issue is that these sessions are expensive, time-consuming (to plan and to attend), and worst of all, the material is rarely absorbed past a few days. For example, research on the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve (see image below) indicates that for classroom like training sessions sales reps forget around 42% of what they have learned within 20 minutes. And after 30 days (the typical onboarding time for a new sales rep), they lose over 80% of what they learned.

Sales leaders who are still investing in scheduled, classroom-style training sessions, with no reinforcement, need to closely consider the return on investment of which almost two-thirds of the training material may be forgotten by the end of the day.
 
From Knowledge Transfer to Learning Flow

In addition to investing in classroom-style sessions, sales leaders have long attempted to add value by delivering knowledge management solutions like sales playbooks, content management tools, and customer reference material. Yet, according to the Aberdeen Group’s research, best-in-class sales leaders are now proving that even greater value comes when they can:

  • Speed up onboarding of new reps
  • Capture the best ideas from all team members
  • Drive adoption of the most effective messaging
  • Rapidly disseminate new content, pricing, products and tactics

 The current sales training model with expensive in-person sessions — that result in a lack of retention and connection to building skills for the future — lies in direct contrast to the efforts of best-in-class sales development. The future of sales training lies at the heart of this shift from only delivering knowledge to creating an environment that organically supports ongoing skill development and drives business results.

The Modern Sales Training Model

The future of sales training is a model that connects with a majority millennial workforce, promotes continuous learning, and fosters engagement. It is a model where sales training events have been replaced with a skill-building environment where sales professionals can:
continuously learn and improve

  • Engage in their own growth and empower others to grow
  • Easily attain and share their expertise or best practices

Instead of asking how to increase sales professionals’ engagement with training, forward-thinking sales leaders are focused on designing a training environment that empowers their teams through a seamless connection between their work and learning. This starts with shifting from following a traditional sales training framework to embedding a practice-driven selling culture: where sellers are not waiting on training events, but instead empowered to reach their full potential and foster a selling environment where personal and business growth align so the organization can thrive.

David M. Williams is a former sales team leader who is currently the director of marketing at Practice, an applied video learning solution used to foster continuous learning cultures that increase employee competence and confidence. This article is excerpted from “The Sales Leader’s Handbook for Building a Practice-Driven Sales Team.” Used by permission of Practice. Download the full handbook here.