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Sales Training Might Be Missing a Crucial Piece

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” This expression of frustration was supposedly uttered by John Wanamaker, a 19th century Philadelphia merchant.

I’ll bet my top hat that you recognize this quote. It’s used in meeting after meeting and routinely by business executives that want greater productivity from their spend.

Let’s play a quick game, fill-in-the-blank style: “Half the money I spend on [insert action here] is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Simply insert the process, area, or activity that was referenced when you last heard Wanamaker’s quote used.

Sales executives that play the game often point to sales methodology and sales process training as the budget items they would like to take a closer look at and see a higher return on investment. Billions of dollars are invested into sales learning and development each year. Roughly $20 billion in North America alone.

This type of funding demonstrates an organization’s commitment to investing in its employees with the goal of increased productivity. Few sales training programs, however, incorporate the fourth and highest level of Kirkpatrick’s Model of Training Evaluation, business results, as part of their performance evaluations. Ask yourself: when was the last time your sales training vendor offered to put some of their fees at risk based on the business results of their work?

We all know that training participants forget much of what they just learned from the instructor throughout the day. During webinars, sales professionals listen with one ear while checking emails and engaging in IM conversations with associates. And “off the shelf” training programs are not as effective as they once were.

Adding to the complexity, each sales person is different and responds differently to the training provided. If one employee shows improvements in opportunity conversion after the training and another doesn’t, does that mean that the training was a failure or a success? It may be that the training focused on topics that resonated more with one sales professional than with another.

While there are different training effectiveness metrics out there, a few more might need to be drawn into the spotlight to paint a more robust picture; the so-called “missing” pieces of the puzzle. The puzzle pieces that focuses on the learning styles and needs of the individual sales professional.

Perhaps, just perhaps, results driven by sales training are also a

function of an individual’s learning needs than just the type and design of sales training. That’s a thought being heard more frequently in conversations regarding learning and development.

We assume we know what sales professionals need to be trained on but then again, we don’t know what we don’t really know. Perhaps a deeper understanding of the learning needs of each sales person is a starting point.

Bottom line: getting a return on your sales training investment is getting more and more difficult. Diminished engagement and a ‘one-size fits all’ approach combined with information overload may constrain gains in performance and limit the duration of the sub-optimal gains we experience. It’s time to factor in focusing on the individual.

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