Starting a new training initiative for your sales organization can be daunting. How will you know if it was successful? Should you look at revenue? Team morale? ROI? Something else?
So, how can you measure the success of sales training?
You have to ensure your internal presentation on measuring sales training is successful.
Few things have a more direct impact on the execution and success of your existing sales team than sales training. Despite this, sales training can get a bad rap for many reasons, including beliefs like these:
- It takes reps out of the field.
- It is just a single event, so nothing actually changes/happens.
- The content is not relevant to the role.
- You don’t have a provider or partner that gets you.
- It’s just not effective.
About three months after you’ve implemented a training program, you might be asked to present the business impact or ROI on what was likely a significant investment. You’ve implemented the perfect plan, but other than a few anecdotal successes, you don’t have a good story, or any story at all, to share. That’s bad for everyone.
Without a doubt, the best sales training measurement is revenue: spend time and money and help the team sell more. But several things affect revenue (both good and bad) while sales training is underway.
If sales are down, you will be on the hot seat for sure. But, if that’s related to some other, outside macroeconomic condition, you’ll want to be able to isolate that and show the positive impact of your training initiative.
After a training implementation a few years ago, a client was thrilled that they had negative 5% growth! Why? Because their industry was down 20%, so they were 15% better.
On the other hand, if revenue is up, you also need to demonstrate the impact of training, because there will be plenty of colleagues fighting for the credit: marketing, product management, operations, etc. (even though you should get that credit).
Follow these steps and you can help ensure the resources you invest in sales training have a good impact, and you can clearly show what it is — and take the credit you deserve.
1 – Start with the basics.
Program delivery and comprehension are important starting points.
If you follow Kirkpatrick’s model, these are level 1 and 2. Simple to do, right? Regardless if it’s digital, classroom, or a hybrid approach, be sure you can tell a clear story about the reaction of the participants on the relevance to their role and if they think it will help them improve their results. For comprehension, ensure there is some type “graded assessment.”
Just because someone knows the five steps to overcoming objections doesn’t mean they can actually do it. But, if they don’t even know the five steps, it will be impossible for them to implement them successfully.
Qstream is a simple, effective tool to help participants revisit materials and answer questions to improve sustainment. There are many other online tools available as well.
Introduce something post-training to avoid the forgetting rule, while measuring the reps scores at the same time. For example, 100% is great, but over 80% is a solid comprehension rate. If you see lower, it’s time to dig into what the common issues are and address them. Top sales managers and Learning & Development Leaders don’t care about these things so much, but to deliver on the things they do care about, you’ll need to measure program delivery and comprehension reaction if things are not going to plan.
2 – Focus on the differentiators.
Real impact on sales results comes from driving the right behavior changes and a lift in 2-3 key, leading indicators.
Let’s start with behavior change.
To start, you have to differentiate between the sales team roles: Are they hunters or farmers? Is the focus on the one-to-one skills or strategic skills? Whatever it is, find a simple and clear way to assess those abilities before training and then at two or three points after training. Be sure the same, neutral group, does the assessment so it’s consistent.
Usually, you can leverage the sales managers to observe a sample set of sales calls or meetings and ‘score’ each key capability: for example, Engage, Discover, Build Value, Advance. A scale from 1-4 works best because the score is not about every single person, but instead reflects a sample of the population trained. If the team’s Discovery skills improved overall from a 2.2 to a 3.1, nobody will argue with you that the investment in training will lead to a positive impact.
To ensure that behavior change does impact/improve revenue, it’s best to identify a few key leading indicators that the rest of the sales management team buys into. Many organizations measure the number of calls or meetings, but sales training doesn’t really drive those numbers.
Instead, determine the two or three things in your sales process that are important, and highly correlated with closed business that requires solid sales execution. For example, the number of discovery meetings, pre-sales assessments, completed customer demos, initial prescriptions, credit applications, or any others that are specific to your business.
Most importantly, make sure the team buys into the key behaviors and leading indicators to improve, and benchmark them BEFORE training starts. Then, make sure that everyone working on the training project, especially trainers, knows what those key indicators are.
Here’s what we recommend:
1. Start with a pilot if you can.
The best way to determine impact, if you have the time, is to create two groups. One that gets trained and one that doesn’t. Make sure they are similar: the same place with the same products, the same experience level, and similar results. If training is the only difference between them, you can bet that any difference in behaviors, leading indicators, and revenue is from training.
2. Set expectations.
Be patient. Whenever you are changing people’s habits and behaviors, things might get worse before they get better. Think about the last time you took a golf lesson to change your swing and played horribly for a few rounds. Or, you rented a car and the brake and gas pedals felt different, resulting in some rough starts and stops. Change takes time – especially when moving out of our comfort zone. A slight downturn in behaviors or leading indicators is a good sign that people are trying. The coaching environment should be positive.
Initially, focus on quantity not quality. And soon, things should start to improve. Then, you should start working on your big presentation and prepare for the celebration.
Congratulations and enjoy the fanfare.
If you found this blog helpful and want to learn more about ASLAN’s philosophy, you can check out our new book, UnReceptive, at unreceptivebook.com.
As President of ASLAN, Marc is responsible for all day-to-day operations including our sales and marketing efforts and growing our success in helping our clients be Other-Centered®.