With that level of investment, the exercise and process of setting next year’s budget in support of sales training and skill development presents an opportunity that should not be squandered. Don’t just take last year’s budget and add 5% or 10%. Unless you’re perfect in every way, doing more of the same will get you the same results.
Take a strategic approach to creating your sales training budget. Depending on your needs, it could be dramatically more (or less!) than last year’s. Here are a few suggestions to maximize your sales skill development budget and training efforts.
Organizational Strategy and Goals
Start by thinking about the big picture: What is your business trying to accomplish? How has that changed in the last year? A SWOT analysis can help you start to narrow your focus on what you need to do differently.
Now, based on organizational goals, what sales training is necessary to support these objectives? Your training should help you build on strengths, fortify weaknesses, capitalize on opportunities, and mitigate threats. For example, a common threat is changing buyer behavior. Functional buyers now have more authority over technical buyers, which requires a different sales conversation than your sales reps have had in the past. Another scenario is the introduction of new products or solutions, which requires sales reps to understand not just features, but also to know how to position the product with buyers.
At this high a level of analysis, it’s about tradeoffs: you likely have numerous strategies and goals, but you must prioritize them and address the most important ones. If you can’t do everything, what will have the greatest impact toward aligning your training strategy with your organization’s goals?
Individual Competencies and Capabilities
Now, take your focus down from the organizational to the individual level. What do your sales leaders, sales managers, and sales reps need to do differently to achieve your objectives and goals? How significant of a change is that? The degree of change will dictate the intensity and direction of your developmental efforts.
Before you know what training to tackle, you need to know their capabilities. Assess your sales reps’ strengths and weaknesses against your selling needs, and then, look for training opportunities to build skills and bridge knowledge gaps.
Determine Needs and Sales Training Budget
There are a number of factors and details to include when preparing your formal budgetary request:
- Scope — Consider all of areas that you will address through training. It could be some aspect of customer dialogue skills, opportunity or account management, presentation skills, and negotiation skills to name but a few. Typically, the broader the scope, the more you will need to budget.
- Scale — Consider the number of people you’ll train, noting the level and breadth across the sales organization. In addition to sales reps, consider training for sales managers and leaders to help drive the change. Clearly, the more people that will require training, the more you will need to budget.
- Pre-, mid-, and post-training assessments — To get where you’re going, you need to know where you are. Assess your team’s current capabilities before, during, and after the training to ensure that it has had the desired effect.
- Measurement — Just as you need to assess individuals, look for organizational benchmarks to monitor before and after the training. It could include the number of sales calls, meetings held, sales funnel status, length of sale, size of sale, win/loss, and others.
- Communication program — Let your sales reps know why you’re doing things differently this year and what you expect them to get out of it. Reinforce the mindset, behaviors, and approach that they should be taking when prospecting and selling as a result of the skills you want them to learn. Carry on communicating long after the training, and connect it to the big picture.
- Hard costs — These are the quantifiable costs of training, including travel and meals, conference rooms or centers, outside facilitators, training materials, equipment rental, and related expenses.
Justify the Value of the Training
After going through such a rigorous planning exercise, it would not be surprising that your budget request to fulfill next year’s sales skills development training needs could be markedly different than in previous years. This will likely raise a flag with not only your higher-ups but also leaders in HR and Finance.
Be prepared to outline why the approach and investment make sense given the potential benefit. “If we continue to do ABC, the results will be predictably like last year’s. But, if we do XYZ, the outcome will more closely align our selling activities to support the goals of the business.”
Be transparent and realistic so that your credibility isn’t questioned, and don’t overlook the need to “sell” the new sales training approach to the sales reps who will go through it, as well as your superiors who need to approve it.