Companies invest heavily in sales training to improve their people and processes. Business leaders want to affect a change through training that will impact their business through new skills, knowledge, and behaviors. Committing to training employees and sales reps is often a significant investment of time, money, and lost opportunity. So it should be no surprise that sales leaders want and expect to see a return on that investment.
What’s even worse is getting the sales training right but falling short of having it take root and influencing the long-term change you’re trying to achieve. The challenge, then, is to make the training “sticky,” which enables the sought-after sustained business change.
Making Sales Training Stick
- Sustained actions. What actions have you taken (or activities have you planned) to sustain the investment internally after the training? Is training an “event,” a once-and-done moment on the calendar after which sales reps go back to the way they worked before being trained? Or has it been presented as a critical step along the path toward a greater change initiative?
- Metrics. What metrics are being measured? How and how often? Is the process of measurement anecdotal or empirical? Is it effective? What are you learning from the data you have collected? Are you asking questions and analyzing data specific to the nexus of the training and its impact on the targeted change?
- Leadership. Are your leaders leading the change? Do organizational leaders understand their role and purpose in the change process and training investment? Do leaders have expectations for sales reps who have gone through training? Are they too low or too high? Are the expectations known to the sales reps and managers and being reinforced?
These challenges within the business explore how the investment in sales training is handled internally — specifically, how leadership roles impact the sustainment of business and behaviors beyond the sales training. Leading is not a spectator sport. If they’re watching from afar or behind, then your leaders are likely falling short of driving the change.
Causes of Unsticky Sales Training
- The change management plan may not be effective enough to support the desired change in business; as a result, the sales training is not sustained.
- Sustainment is not being achieved because a plan to address some or all components of the change does not exist.
- Leaders (at some or all levels of implementation) do not understand or live up to their role in helping to drive and sustain the change.
- There may not be an effective structure of discipline at each level of leadership, which prevents sustained change within the business.
What can you do to improve the impact of sales training on business? Here are five areas to explore:
- Leadership. Start at the top, then work your way down. Evaluate the current change management/leadership plan to assess its effectiveness on leadership members. Interview the leadership to examine their self-assessment as well as their vision, process, and the line’s perception; this will give better insight into how different members of leadership are being supported and where issues are occurring.
- Metrics. Look at the metrics of the business, and evaluate which new metrics should be added as a result of the training (and which ones to drop or modify). If you are measuring the wrong things, it could reflect inaccurate results that are misleading to the success and impact of training. And if sales reps take their cues from what you measure, then their actions and motivations will be out of sync with the changes.
- Sustainment Plan. Create a concrete sustainment plan that addresses all components of the change, including a plan to create vision and discipline at the leadership level. Communication at all levels of the organization connected to the change is so important to its success. An effective communication plan becomes the glue between events and activities that reminds people of what they’re doing and why.
- Change Leadership Plan. Understand the difference between change management and change leadership. While change management moves everyone toward a single direction, change leadership is where business gets done. To ensure business readiness, create specific roles, tasks, and purposes at each level of leadership. Be certain that it reaches beyond the training to ensure that leaders know how to reinforce the change.
- Reexamine Your Fundamentals. Lay the foundation of business and directly connect it to a sustainment plan. As part of your planning for implementation, training, and sustainment, examine the various parts of your business flow and ensure that no part gets “left behind” in the old way of doing things. And if you can help it, try not to overwhelm or distract your employees with other new changes or initiatives until the current one has been seen through.
Companies that fail to achieve or sustain their desired change after training are often guilty of treating the training as an event. “Okay, that’s done. Now on to the next big thing!” Truly enacting change requires long-term discipline and focus, not a once-and-done mentality. On the other hand, putting your sales reps through sticky training that is directly tied to your desired way of doing things will give you the best chance of succeeding.