5 Steps Required for Successful Sales Training Sustainment Planning
These five steps build upon one another in a sequential manner. By focusing organizational attention, time, effort, and resources on each step, new behaviors become more embedded in your sales team’s daily operations. Additionally, this systematic and systemic approach to sustainment enables counter-productive practices and cultural elements to be both surfaced and be addressed.
Step 1 – Set Expectations
Most organizations have strong and competing interests for people’s time and attention. This competition can make it very difficult for new behaviors to gain traction, especially since there will be a dip in post-training performance as individuals make the transition from conscious incompetence to conscious competence to unconscious competence. Management, at every level of the sales organization, needs to help people focus their time and attention on applying the new knowledge and skills. Officially, management should set expectations for what should (and should not) occur as individuals work to master their new skills back on-the-job.
Step 2- Retain Knowledge
After training, new knowledge quickly atrophies without consistent reinforcement. The foundation of sustainment is that individuals retain key knowledge gained from training so that it can be applied back on-the-job.
Step 3 – Apply Skills
This sustainment step is at the heart of helping people to apply retained knowledge and skills to their everyday situations and challenges. Successful application includes: (1) identifying when to use the new knowledge and skills, (2) using the new knowledge and skills, (3) receiving constructive feedback on how well the new knowledge and skills were applied, and (4) persisting in the use of the new knowledge and skills in appropriate future situations. The emphasis is on incremental change, individual persistence, and continuous improvement.
Step 4 – Support
This sustainment step is at the heart of you ensuring that people believe the required behavior changes are “real” and not a “flavor of the month.” If people go through training but their work environment has not noticeably changed to support the new behaviors, people will think that the new behaviors are optional or, worse, that management is not really serious about behavior change. On the other hand, if people go through training and return to a work environment that is significantly different and better aligned to support the new behaviors, people will think “management is serious about this change.”
Step 5 – Relapse Retention
Change takes time and most of us are impatient. If people don’t feel like they are making progress with the new behaviors, they are much more likely to return to their pre-training behaviors. It is important to break up behavior change into incremental steps so that people feel they are making progress. In addition, success, even partial success, is important so that people feel the benefits of putting in the effort to master the new knowledge and skills. Finally, holding people accountable for their behavior change through verification dialogues helps people to take personal ownership of the need to continue using the new knowledge and skills rather than the “old” way of doing things.