Designing Better Sales Training Programs

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Is it possible that some training programs don’t measure the business outcomes that CEOs expect to see? It’s crucial when dedicating time and effort to a specific sales training platform that there is a positive outcome for both the trainers and employees. Sales training and enablement professionals can’t improve what they don’t measure. And it’s a mistake to assume that all training and enablement programs can measure all the variables in the training process, providing usable feedback leading to continuous sales success. It’s time to consider a better method.

What CEOs Want from Sales Training, But Don’t Get
In fact, the kind of training-outcomes data that executives most want to see is rarely provided.
A survey of Fortune 500 executives by The ROI Institute and the Association for Talent Development (ATD) found a yawning chasm between the outcomes that training programs typically measure and what CEOs want them to measure. For example, although the poll revealed CEOs’ top priorities to be measurements of (1) impact, and (2) ROI, these two metrics were the least likely to be captured by trainers.

Other surveys have also found that sales training ROI is becoming a “go-to” metric for gauging impact, but many training providers don’t provide any data showing that they make a bottom-line difference.

Ultimate Sales Training Success = Improved Business Results
If the ultimate success of a sales training program is measured by whether or not it improves business results, then (obviously) this is where more trainers should be focusing.

Historically, trainers concentrated on inputs, assuming that performance improvements would translate into results that could later be measured by the “bean counters.” This mindset needs to change – if only to maintain the support of the people who fund the training.

Sales Training is An Investment, Not a Cost
Without compelling data, training may be seen as a cost instead of an investment. Costs are easier to cut, adjust and freeze, especially in tough times, whereas investments are things to be managed, protected and nurtured. Whether training is deemed a cost or an investment probably depends on the value it’s assigned by the holders of the company’s purse string.

To increase both the real and perceived value of training, some practitioners are harnessing the principles of “Design Thinking.”

Designing Thinking isn’t new. It’s been around since the 1980s. It uses a checklist of actions, steps, processes and skills to create training programs that are intentionally designed to achieve the results desired by the company’s major stakeholders.

Design-Thinking Based Sales Training Programs
A training program based on Design Thinking focuses not just on inputs and outputs related to learning, but also on business outcomes. In a way, Design Thinking-based training programs “teach to the test” – with the test being anything from (say) a 20% reduction in the number of customer complaints or product returns to a 10% increase in market share.

In sum, Design Thinking programs supplement the traditional focus on performance enhancement with a new focus on achieving specific business outcomes that are agreed on in advance, overall bringing greater success to the designated sales teams.

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