Who Says That Sales Training Improves Sales Performance?

Sales enablement professionals with responsibility for sales training clearly have a conflict: the desire to  help salespeople be successful, and  the demands of the organizational leaders who request multiple training activities for Sales. The fact is,  many sales training plans are massively diluted by a mish mash of uncoordinated  training activities. Training organizations are so bombarded by requests from Marketing, product groups, executives, sales management, and others, that they could deliver many months-worth of full day training events to salespeople every year -- if sales leadership would allow it. So managing demand, expectations, and results is a major challenge for training leaders.   

How Effective Is Sales Training?

Considering the amount of time that’s already invested in training, CEOs, sales leaders, sales managers are often asked how effective and impactful they believe sales training is. That’s reasonable given that they foot the bill, right? Nonetheless, their views are a distant second in importance to those whose opinion matter most. The people that best know how effective and impactful your sales training is are your buyers. 

Think about it. Salespeople are employed for the sole reason that you sell something complex enough that your customers need to talk with a salesperson to buy it. If that was not the case, they’d buy online and be done with it. Wouldn’t you? So every salesperson’s job is to create value for customers via their conversations. If they don’t accomplish that then there’s little chance of a sales because they’ll go elsewhere. So buyers, ultimately, are the purest judge of whether your sales training is effective in supporting selling (and consequently buying).

Sales Training Effectiveness According To Buyers

While not every sales team is tasked with calling on executives (e.g. Directors, VPs, C-level executives).  most of the leaders we talk to want to enable at least some of their salespeople to competently sell higher-volume and higher-margin deals to buyers at higher organizational altitudes. In Q4 of 2013 we asked 319 senior-level executives located in Canada, France, Germany, the UK, and the US how well prepared salespeople were to meet with them. Based on the results, below, it’s pretty clear that the companies who are preparing their salespeople to meet with these buyers are not focusing training on what buyers say creates value for them (also see What Do Executive Buyers Find Valuable?). In fact, only one in five of these salespeople got another meeting. Do you expect your salespeople to sell to executive buyers? How salespeople are prepared to have valuable sales conversations has to change in most organizations.

Executives Don't Believe That Salespeople Are Prepared To Meet With Them

Forrester’s Sales Training Solution Framework

The onus is on sales leaders, sales trainers, and other sales enablement professionals with responsibility for training the sales force, to revamp current development practices and realign salespeople to their buyers’ needs so that buyers experience more valuable conversations that make it easier to buy. We’ve developed a Sales Training Solution Framework to help you.  The Sales Training Solution Framework helps leaders together to prioritize training requests and focus resources on what matters most. The reality is, some training is massively more important than other training, and you can’t do it all without diluting the impact of what’s most important.  

Help Your Salespeople Step Up

To help salespeople be successful, professionals in sales enablement roles must work back from the needs that specific buyer roles have during conversations with your salespeople, and build training to support valuable conversations as a primary design point. Forrester’s Sales Training Solution Framework is a foundation from which to discuss short term, mid-term, and strategic training needs within your organization, and helps to ensure that sales training positively impacts top-line sales growth as decided by your buyers.

I’d like to hear how your organization is prioritizing sales training and what you’re doing in training and development to ensure valuable sales conversations with buyers. Of course, we’re here to help you apply this Framework should you want some advice or guidance.

Comments

Sales Training

Well written Mark. Right Training does impact sales performance (both +ve and -ve). Sales Training should be designed keeping in mind that salesreps aren't the typical employees and to get high adoption the training needs to be designed differently.
Some pointers

1. "Can (online) Training give the same impact as showdowing the rainmaker?"
2. How can we measure the effectiveness of sales training? (Kirkpatrick's four levels, Kauffman's five levels etc)
3. Last but probably the most important - What is the objective of the training?

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