“What’s the best way to measure the success of our sales training?” Our sales and implementation teams are asked this question fairly frequently now, especially since we launched Modern Sales Foundations. We’re seeing a good number of buyers and customers express an interest in measuring success.
I consider this a good sign.
In my lengthy career in sales, only two of my employers ever cared about determining a real ROI. For them, I conducted major evaluation/ROI projects. As you might imagine, ROI studies require planning, tracking, cross-functional collaboration, reporting – often amounting to significant time and effort. (I once read a study that suggested that major ROI studies may reduce the ROI by up to 20 percent, which is somewhere between ironic and humorous.)
In some cases, I did more evaluating than employers or clients required. Done for my own purposes, I kept it reasonable and focused on validating changing behaviors and getting the business impact we wanted for the investment. I did the early-stage measurements solely so I could diagnose gaps later, if we didn’t get the outcomes we were aiming for.
Generally, I have focused on ensuring the adoption and behavior changes required to drive results. This is a somewhat different approach than evaluating, per se, but the two do go hand-in-hand. In many cases, without doing a full-blown ROI project, I collected data and used evaluation strategies along the way, so I’d have the data to troubleshoot, if needed. But I felt a different approach was needed to truly drive results. And that approach is embedded in my Sales Training System.
The Sales Training System
In the system, you can see an opportunity to prepare for change, guide the behavior change, and to cement the changes into the culture.
In the middle Guide the Change stage, you’ll see The 5 Stages of Sales Mastery & Behavior Change, which is closely tied to what you’ve learned about the evaluation models.
- Ensure the content will produce results in the real-world, when used.
- Teach the content using evidence-based learning design methods to create an effective learning experience that will engage reps yet challenge them enough to grow and improve their skills.
- Use quizzes (during training) or tests/assessments (before and/or after training) to validate that learning occurred and concepts are remembered.
- Pre- and post-tests are helpful when the content is common knowledge or previously taught. If you are teaching new content or proprietary content, the data will be skewed in favor of better post-test scores, so in those cases, just test after the training. (Keep in mind, posts-tests assess that learning occurred, but not that it will be retained or retrieved when needed, without prompting.)
- Ensure your front-line sales managers are engaged, enabled, and empowered – preferably training them first – which is a best practice.
Especially when there is a gap between Learn and Practice, doing something purposefully to improve retention. This could include:
- Spaced repetition with reminders about what was taught
- Post-learning review with managers
- Retrieval learning (asking questions or sending out questions to answer, over time)
For doing skills training, which is what most sales training is about, you have an opportunity to provide practice. For best results, give reps a chance to:
- Practice newly learned concept, models, and skills
- Receive feedback and advice from an expert
- Rework their practice session, incorporating the feedback
- Re-run the practice to improve their skill level
- Receive more feedback to continue to hone their skill
These “prepare, practice, feedback, re-run” loops are incredibly powerful for skill-building and for preparing reps to transfer what they learned to the real-world and apply the new skills with their buyers and customers. Increasing confidence increases application.
Training often breaks down here, so purposefully supporting application on-the-job is critical. In the training profession, this is referred to as “the transfer of training” (from the learning environment to the workplace).
You can provide job aids to:
- Support preparation
- Incorporate support materials into CRM or the reps’ workflow,
Have managers support the prep sessions and ride-along to observe or listen to call recordings to ensure effective application and coach accordingly.
Depending on the complexity of the skills, mastery will typically occur over time, as reps move from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence to conscious competence to (in some cases) unconscious competence.
While muscle memory and habits do support mastery of a skill, it’s the good judgment, decision-making, adaptation, conscious use of skill, and lifelong learning that produces true mastery (an ongoing journey versus a destination).
Coaching is one of the best developmental and support tools to guide reps toward a growth mindset, continuous development, and ongoing performance improvement to achieve the moving target of sales mastery.
Other Outcomes to Consider
There are so many ways to gauge the effectiveness of sales training. Obviously, improving sales results is the primary outcome. But there are other benefits and outcomes to consider, as well. Here are some examples of other efforts that can be measured and the benefits:
- Training can provide a common language across the sales force (better and more efficient communication). This common language also supports the ability to coach systematically and consistently across the company.
- You have a foundation and framework for best practice sharing and success story sharing, to keep the learning (and motivation) going.
- You can incorporate and integrate your sales methodology into CRM or guided selling support systems, to support the training and desired behavior changes (such as incorporating your qualification method into your CRM and creating a scoring system for it).
- You can track the use of job aids, forms, and sales support collateral (are they being used – and if not, why not).
You can use the training evaluation models. You can focus on the change management that’s inherent in The Sales Training System, especially The 5 Stages of Sales Mastery & Behavior Change. And you can do a mix of both. The most important thing is to begin with the end in mind.
- What are your goals and objectives?
- What are you truly trying to accomplish?
- What are the outcomes you want or need to achieve?
Use these models to build the measurement system that makes the most sense for your situation.
I hope this post is helpful as you consider how you may want to measure the success of your sales training. If you’d like to discuss anything in this post or determine your best strategy, we’re here to help. Reach out to me on LinkedIn. If you are considering a new sales methodology and a sales training system that works, check out Modern Sales Foundations and ask for a free VIP Preview.
Modern Sales Foundations
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