The Secret to Successful Sales Training

To select a sales training program that works every time, regardless of the topic, audience or delivery platform, start at the results you want to attain.

A Google search on the phrase sales training yields 2.5 billion results. Which program should you choose? How do you know if it will deliver results? The secret to selecting a sales training program that works every time, regardless of the topic, audience or delivery platform is deceptively simple. Start with the Kirkpatrick Model, or the four levels, as your guide.

The Kirkpatrick Model

Level 4: Results – The degree to which targeted outcomes occur as a result of the training and support and accountability package.

Level 3: Behavior – The degree to which participants apply what they learned during training when they are back on the job.

Level 2: Learning – The degree to which participants acquire the intended knowledge, skills, attitude, confidence and commitment based on their participation in the training.

Level 1: Reaction – The degree to which the participants find the training favorable, engaging and relevant to their jobs.

The End Is the Beginning

The first step in successfully purchasing or designing a sales training program is easy because the desired outcome or Level 4 Result of sales training is universal: to increase sales and profitability.

Add more detail by defining exactly which high-level organizational outcomes the training should influence. For example, are you looking for a general increase in sales, a successful launch of a new product or program, or increased profitability?

Value Must be Created Before It Can be Demonstrated

This may sound obvious, but you need to clearly define exactly what people should do after training to successfully deliver the desired results. You might be surprised how many training programs fail to include this key, necessary ingredient. In observable and measurable terms, what should salespeople do on the job to create the level of sales and profitably required for success?

Performance expectations should be discussed with supervisors, sales managers and team leads before training to make sure there is alignment. During training, make sure participants are clear on what they need to do after training to be successful.

Training alone is not going to magically deliver the level of sales your organization requires to be successful. Broaden your definition of training to include preparation, training, and a support and accountability package after training. Design a training evaluation plan as you design the program materials.

Target 50% of your resources for supporting and measuring what happens after formal training is complete. If you are hiring a vendor or consultant to design your sales training program, ask them what happens before and after training to ensure program success.

Implement a Robust Support Package

Most of your training resources should be focused on the time just after training when salespeople return to the job. This critical period is when they will be trying and practicing new skills and if things go well, forming positive habits.

For major initiatives, include items in these categories: reinforcing, encouraging, and rewarding.

Methods of reinforcement include job aids, checklists, reminders, and refreshers. Build these items as you build your training content or ask your training vendor to design them.

Encouragement systems are often left out of program plans because people think they are difficult to implement or expensive. If you have a culture where coaching and mentoring are standard practice, engage that system. If you do not have that luxury, have training participants create their own support groups or peer mentoring buddies.

Make sure your program is in line with the formal reward systems. If not, see if you can discuss the disconnect with managers or Human Resources. From there, have some fun! Design a system of less formal rewards that you, managers, supervisors, and training graduates can use to recognize people doing the right thing on the job.

Focus rewards on what people are doing, not just the outcomes. For example, if a salesperson creates and follows their call schedule weekly, this should be noted in their performance appraisal and positively reinforced, as well as their sales outcomes.

Hold People Accountable to Performance

What gets measured, gets done, as the old saying goes. What you choose to measure is also important to get program results. Resist the urge to only measure outcomes. You also want to measure the degree to which people are doing what you taught them in training. Since you have clearly defined what people should do, you know what to look for.

For major initiatives, you typically want to have more than one measurement method in place. For example, you can have salespeople submit call reports at the end of each week and compare it with GPS records and phone records to validate the sales calls occurred.

Using this system will make your sales training program, or any program, for that matter, as successful as possible.

Free Webinar On Successful Sales Training

SMMConnect, Sales & Marketing Management’s webinar division, is hosting a free webinar presentation by Jim and Wendy Kirkpatrick entitled “The Secrets to Successful Sales Training.” They will share more insights on the four levels of training evaluation and how to apply them to your training vendor selection process or within your internal training programs. The webinar is scheduled for Wednesday, June 23, at 2 p.m. Eastern. Registrants will have access to the recorded session if they are unable to attend the live event. Learn more and register to attend here.


  • Jim and Wendy Kirkpatrick

    Jim and Wendy Kirkpatrick are co-authors of “Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Training Evaluation.” Email them at Learn more at

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