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How to Ensure Sales Training Improves Selling Skills

The decision to pursue sales training comes down to three letters: ROI.

Leaders face considerable direct and indirect costs. Direct costs consist of the cash outlay needed to engage professional sales trainers and corresponding digital solutions. Indirect costs include the expense of taking quota-bearing sales professionals out of the field for training.

Given the substantial resources needed to embark on sales training, leaders want assurance that the experience will lead to meaningful and measurable outcomes. Therefore, sales leaders need a blend of analytics that reveal how well the participants are learning and applying the selling skills.

While the benefits of a formal measurement strategy are intuitive, research from Bain reasserts just how valuable metric-driven initiatives are by showing that they “increase profitability by as much as 25% over sustained periods.”

A successful measurement strategy means tracking both learning and the financial outcomes of that learning. Therefore, leaders need to consider the learning metrics and the selling metrics they will use. In our 40+ years of experience training some of the largest Fortune 500 companies, we have identified the following metrics as the most telling of progress.

Sales Training Learning Metrics

Effective learning measurement guides the sales training process as it unfolds. Sales professionals discover where they need to focus their attention and where their blind spots reside. Therefore, measurement is for the learner as much as it’s for the leadership. Making this measurement manageable means focusing on the “E3” of learning: engagement, experience, and effect

Engagement

Engagement is a critical measurement because learning is no longer an event. It is an ongoing journey. The question, however, is how an organization accurately measures engagement.

A company can get an overview of engagement by looking at the percentage of the addressable population that is enrolled in training. Leaders can build on this measurement by examining activation, which is expressed as a percentage of enrollment. This figure shows how many participants are using the training platform. These two data points work together because a high engagement offers no value without a strong activation rate. Organizations can go even further by looking at completion to determine how far trainees have moved through sales training.

Additionally, sales leaders can track the percentage of completion toward a milestone and pace of completion. This detail is important as participants engage in training that extends over several months. Finally, frequency and channel are also effective engagement metrics. Frequency indicates a participant’s general level of activity by showing average session time, when they were last logged in, and the number of days between activities.

Experience

A good learner experience matters because it drives adoption of sales skills and ultimately better outcomes. Therefore, experience measurements should not be “one and done.” Leaders need to know the learner’s satisfaction with training not only today but over the following months. This gauge of change over time is especially important as organizations embark on long-term training.

Experiential measurements can include metrics like net promoter score, commitment to change, course rating, qualitative sentiment, and confidence. Each of these measurements provides timely info for managers who want to ensure skills will survive into selling situations. For example, confidence is a good predictor of how likely a sales professional is to use a skill in front of a customer. Additionally, qualitative sentiment offers feedback in the form of free response text from sales professionals in the field. This data allows managers to analyze and interpret the data. If an organization sees its net promoter score falling, it can turn to qualitative sentiment for the detail revealing why the figure is low.

Effect

There are several ways to measure effect. This is an area in which the traditional Kirkpatrick training evaluation model is strong. The Kirkpatrick model evaluates sales training effectiveness across four levels: engagement, knowledge retention, behavior change, and business results. We often think of effect as the business impact. However, the Kirkpatrick model reminds us that we only reach business impact when we have a high degree of confidence in the other three levels of data.

Effective organizations bring together several measurements like baseline assessment, knowledge retention, formative in-process assessments, summative assessments, and, finally, business impact data. For example, a business can measure knowledge retention by comparing the average number of correct responses to a question on the first attempt with the average number of correct answers on following attempts. Leaders can also gauge behavior change by comparing learners’ baseline assessments to their final checks.

Sales Training Sales Performance Metrics

Many businesses are hard-pressed to find the time and expertise to source and organize these specific data points. Therefore, it’s often more effective to think about using the data that is readily available in a different way. In doing so, the business can get an actionable read on how they’re performing as an organization that is driven, in part, by sale performance initiatives.

We’ve determined a core group of eight sales metrics that are the most critical for revealing the financial benefits of sales training. These metrics represent a variety of methods for understanding how a business is performing relative to the market. These metrics work because they are universal and cover operational and financial aspects that apply to both the organization and the individual.

Time to Productivity

Like a jet on a runway, a new seller has only so much time before they need to be “wheels up.” Time to productivity measures the length of this runway. When new reps require more time to contribute to the bottom line, the productivity and profitability of the entire sales team diminishes. This metric is particularly useful when looking to expand team capacity or when an organization is facing high turnover. With this information, a leader can step in to help a new hire earlier in the game for faster course correction.

Win Rate

A team or company’s win rate serves as the primary indicator of market competitiveness. As an all-encompassing measurement, the number is easy to track and easy to baseline. This is a simple gauge of how many new pursuits close with a win status. Nearly all other aspects of the business perform at a higher level when win rates increase. By isolating competitive differentiation from demand creation, a company can see how well their approach to selling resonates in the field. Moreover, different win rates among various teams or verticals can be compared in order to determine the effectiveness of different strategies. Leaders, however, should not view win rates in isolation because the measurement is often a starting point telling leaders where else to look for clues on business performance.

Sales Cycle

A company’s sales cycle reflects the effectiveness of the sales team and the buyer’s engagement. As teams increase their productivity, the sales cycle decreases, which narrows the distance between the start of the pursuit and the contract. Longer sales cycles drive up costs and can be particularly taxing on the company’s resources. Changes to the sales cycle arise from the ability to adapt to a changing marketplace. Additionally, new customer acquisition requires much more time than selling to an existing customer. Therefore, a shorter sales cycle emerges from improved customer loyalty.

Getting a read on the effectiveness of sales training means using a holistic measurement strategy. Leaders need to assess the participants’ engagement during training as well as the financial results after training. Training solutions from Richardson Sales Performance and Sales Performance International offer the ability to track engagement during the process of skill-building so that the financial results meet expectations.

About the Author

Ben Taylor is the content marketing manager at Richardson. He has an MBA in finance from LaSalle University and over a decade of business & writing experience. He has covered content for brands including Nasdaq, Barclaycard & Business Insider.

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