Axioms for Successful Sales Training Programs


Surprising Sales Axioms

I came across an interesting, yet not surprising statistic the other day. According to a 2011 report by ES Research Group, 90% of all sales training programs have no long-term impact beyond 120 days. This means that 10% of programs do, which is typically a solid return for sales training investments. But what if you could get well beyond such axioms? An already strong ROI for sales training would only get stronger.

Currently, $5 billion is spent on sales training. A wise investment especially when you consider the landmark work of Dr. Laurie Bassi, CEO of McBassi and Company a consulting firm that specializes in human capital analytics. In her research entitled The Impact of U.S. Firms’ Investments in Human Capital she writes that the education and training variable is the most significant predictor of an organization’s success as measured by price-to-earnings ratio, price-to-book statistics, and measures of risk and volatility. Dr. Bassi proves something that leaders often proclaim, “our people are our most significant asset” – therefore they are worth our investment.

So how do we maximize our investment in sales training and help our sales professionals become partners with their customers? To answer this question I offer 5 axioms or truths, that must be considered for every sales training engagement.

sales axioms

1 – Customize the training for your company.

I have been taught to sell insurance, software, and trucking equipment. I have never been in any of these industries. When we learn new skills in a “foreign”, not relevant environment, we have to work much harder to understand the skill, no less begin to practice it. It’s like taking a college history course in Spanish when you only studied Spanish in high school. To leave the translation burden to the sales professional is not fair, productive, or efficient.

2 – The trainer must be credible.

There are two reasons the trainer must be credible. First, adult learners are skeptical and demanding by nature. If they are to invest their valuable time they will make certain that the trainer has something to offer. The sales trainer must be knowledgeable about the company and well-practiced in the skills and behaviors they are teaching so they can demonstrate the skills on-demand in a realistic environment thereby gaining credibility with the class. After all, who doesn’t want to learn from someone who has something to offer?

In addition, the instructor must be able to demonstrate the skills being taught. Because people learn differently, modeling key skills will help some learners better understand them and execute better during their guided practices. Better understanding and improved application are keys to securing lasting results.

3 – Establish ownership objectives throughout the courseware.

The truth is that people will only change when they believe it is in their best interest to do so.  Unfortunately, most sales training programs rely on traditional learning objectives that don’t take into account this critical fact. In order to maximize sustainable impact, it is essential that participants take ownership of the new sales skills and commit themselves to develop personal proficiency. These ownership objectives help trainees come to the realization that they alone must own the knowledge and skill acquisition. No one can make them more skillful or knowledgeable.

4 – Develop job aides and continuous learning tools.

Let’s face it. Behavior change and skill development do not happen in the classroom. Training builds the foundation for change. But it is only through application and practice that the new skills become a habit. Effective training programs provide job aides. This assists with the point-of-sale application and structured learning tools to help participants reinforce, refresh and practice what they learned in class.

5 – Training axioms are supported with effective coaching.

Point in fact, sales coaching is the most effective way to improve sales performance. Coaches work with their teams to understand performance and behavioral gaps. This increases the underlying skill and knowledge needed to execute effectively. Specifically, coaching is the insurance policy on all of your training efforts.

Do you believe these axioms will help improve your sales training ROI? What other tips and insights would you like to share?

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