ELM Expert Series: 3 Fundamental Pillars to Sales Training Success

vital sales training future

What’s Your Foundation?

Organizations are currently spending billions of dollars a year on sales training without seeing a lasting impact to their programs. As a sales training professional, I believe we can do better. By developing programs with a solid foundation, sales training can shift from being just a required organizational function to a strategic sales partner that provides direction and helps grow revenue.

Sales training is evolving rapidly. Flying sales reps cross country to attend multi-day classroom trainings on new products and then sending them back out to the field as your only strategy is an old, antiquated and ineffective approach. Applying instructional design processes, innovative training technologies along with enhanced teaching and learning methodologies are the wave of the future.

With so many new ideas and technologies emerging though, sales training leaders must be more strategic in their decision making of where their budget dollars should be invested. To make the most progress quickly, and create the most value, the right combination of structure and process must be implemented. A great place to start would be by incorporating the three main pillars of sales training success:

  1. Instructional design methodology
  2. Mobile training with micro-learning
  3. Measuring training impact and effectiveness

Using Instructional Design Methodology

Traditionally, sales training teams have relied heavily on subject matter experts (SMEs) from marketing,  as well as successful sales reps from the field, to develop and teach their programs. In smaller organizations this may be an appropriate strategy, however, as organizations mature, so must sales training to properly scale to achieve desired results.

This is where integrating an instructional design (ID) methodology is critical.

Instructional design uses analysis and instructional theory to ensure higher retention of information through intelligent program design. Many sales training departments do not fully understand or even apply the different ID methodologies available. This leads to ineffectively designed and delivered programs that have unclear objectives, low engagement, and poor results.

There are a number of ways companies can implement ID methodologies into their programs – from hiring an instructional designer, outsourcing consultants, or training an employee on your team in instructional design. Effectively using ID principles is a competitive differentiator and a must for organizations striving for higher performing sales reps.

Going Mobile With Microlearning

Demands on today’s sales professionals require them to accomplish much more in a shorter period of time, thus pushing organizations to quickly develop and deliver training outside of the traditional classroom model. In conjunction with modern society’s rapidly shrinking attention span, it is critical to develop sales training that is easily accessible and digestible for reps in the field. Doing so will not only help sales reps survive, but also allow them to become more effective in their marketplaces.

We now live in the YouTube generation, and people want access to information on demand and delivered to their mobile device when they need it. This is where going mobile with micro-learning is essential. Micro-learning is short, digestible and well-designed content that is broken down into single segment topics. Training your sales reps with mobile, micro-learning modules is a more efficient way to provide information while still keeping them in their territories to generate revenues.

This concept may require a higher technical ability, depending on the sophistication of the training module, coupled with ID skill, so you may need to partner with outside vendors or hire someone with the proper expertise and experience to implement these. Sales training leaders who embrace a blended approach to learning using mobile micro-learning and supplement with classroom training will be the ones who have the most impactful training and be more cost-effective.

Measuring Impact and Effectiveness

Some sales training departments have done a great job developing well-structured programs with effective content but are still in the dark about the impact their programs ultimately have on the business. This becomes a challenge for sales training leaders when the organization does not meet revenue goals and they are forced to justify budgets, programs and staff. By developing a process to measure the impact and effectiveness of programs will allow you to better prove their value.

One of the more well-known methodologies for evaluating effectiveness is the “Kirkpatrick Model”. It breaks training objectives down into four key levels:

1. Learner Reaction

2. Learning Objectives

3. Learning Application

4. Business impact.

Creating evaluations for these levels is how you link your sales training programs to how they are providing value to the organization.

Most organizations typically only measure Levels 1 & 2 when evaluating their programs. However, this only provides insight for sales training teams on how to incrementally improve their programs. In order to really know if your content is worthwhile, you must investigate deeper. Measuring Levels 3 and 4 can help you more clearly show how reps are applying what they learn and how it impacts the business results.

What’s the Future?

New trends, technologies, and methodologies will continue to emerge as we move into the future. Sales training leaders will need to continue to use discernment before implementing anything new. The most critical element is to make sure you have a solid foundation to your programs first.

A great place to start is by establishing the three fundamental pillars of sales training success into your programs. This will give you a great structure to build off of and help you evolve your training programs to gain the results you seek and ultimately prove your value. Doing so will support you in becoming a more strategic partner to sales and gain you a seat at the leaders table.

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Author: Jon A. Martin has had 15+ years in medical device sales, training and organizational development. Currently the Sr. Manager, Sales Training & Development at NuVasive driving the design and creation of instructor led sales training and process improvement initiatives while managing a team of trainers, coordinators and instructional designers.