Sales Training has a 90% Failure Rate


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While doing some on-line reading, I came across a pretty remarkable statistic. In a recent survey, a research firm found that of companies surveyed, sales training initiatives failed 90% of the time. 90%? Really? That’s almost complete failure. I’ve seen other reports that don’t paint this dismal a picture, but most research on sales training points to a failure to produce sustainable, long-term results.

So this begs the questions:

Why do companies keep investing?

How does the sales training industry continue to generate billions of dollars in revenue every year?

The simple answer is many companies continue to struggle with sales results and believe something has to change. So they train and then train again. They go from one sales methodology to another, one provider to another, seeking to find the right fit for their sales organization. They keep spending significant sums of money, get short-term results, and then repeat.

So is this failure the fault of sales training companies?

It would be impossible not to point at least partial blame at providers but, as most know, what happens in the classroom isn’t all that counts. It’s sustainment, what happens after students leave the training room that presents the challenge.

Is that the responsibility of the provider or the company that buys the training? It’s both.

My readings lead me to another interesting tidbit of info that begins to make this picture a little clearer. To see just how interesting, I need to give you a little background. Most training folks are familiar with Kirkpatrick’s method for evaluating training efficacy. For those of you who aren’t, there are four levels.

They are as follows:

Level 1: Reaction

This level measures how the people being trained reacted to the training. Did they like it?

Level 2: Learning

This level measures what your trainees have learned. How much has their knowledge increased as a result of the training?

Level 3: Behavior

This level evaluates how far your trainees have changed their behavior based on the training they received. How do they apply the information?

Level 4: Results

This level analyzes the final results of the training. This includes outcomes that you or your organization have determined to be good for business, good for the employees and/or good for the bottom line.

So here’s what’s interesting:

The American Society for Training and Development Benchmarking Forum conducted a study to determine what percentage each of Kirkpatrick’s four levels are used in organizations. The study found that 95% used Level 1 evaluations (Trainee reaction). 37% used Level 2 evaluations (Learning). Ok, I hope you’re sitting for the last two. Ready? 13% used Level 3 (behavior) and only 3% used Level 4 (RESULTS). You read that right. Only 3% evaluated results.

The last two levels should be a wake up call.

The problem for most in sustaining the results of sales training is a failure to understand what you’re trying to accomplish. This applies to sales organizations and training companies alike. Sales results won’t change UNTIL YOU CHANGE THE BEHAVIOR OF SALESPEOPLE. If your sustainment model doesn’t include methodology for monitoring, evaluating and CHANGING the behavior of your salespeople, what should you expect to happen? Do you honestly think because your salespeople liked the training and may have even learned something that their behavior will change? Right…

So my reading inspired me. In my next blog, I’ll focus on what sustainment means, what it is and what it isn’t. I’ll talk about what the most successful organizations do to make sure their training sticks, best practices and more…

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Bob Nicols
Bob Nicols serves as Founder and CEO of AXIOM. He has 34 years of experience in sales, sales management, executive management and sales force development. He has managed and mentored thousands of sales people, sales managers and senior managers and been responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. For more than 21 years he has developed and delivered sales programs that have become the standard for many Fortune 100 companies including AT&T, BellSouth, Disney Enterprises, Alltel, Verizon and ESPN.


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