Sales Training Investment
Sales Training Investment

How much money are companies spending on sales training? And is it enough to worry about whether or not one is optimizing the investment?

This, as they say, is the easy part. The answer to the first question is a lot; the answer to the second question is – yes. Companies spend a hefty amount of money – so yes, it is worth worrying about. As reported in a research report by Sales Performance International – “In the United States alone, industry estimates for corporate expenditures on sales training and performance improvement are more than 5 billion dollars annually.”

There are several avenues to attack the question: How do you optimize your sales training investment? Perhaps the one that has received the most attention relates to treating sales training as a “process not an event.” Inherent here is the point that what is done before and after sales training to position and reinforce it is as important as the sales training itself.

No question about the merit of that point – it’s a big deal. If you are still parachuting in on Friday afternoon of the national sales meeting and doing sales training with no plans for coaching, then you are totally wasting versus optimizing your investment.

A second, less talked about but equally important, consideration for optimizing the investment relates to how the sales training is designed in the first place. Most companies organize their training in terms of “content topics” like – account strategy, negotiation, or call execution. And, vendors design their offerings using that same organizing structure. When we first founded Sales Momentum we followed the crowd. We designed a separate program for each of these topics, too.

There has got to be a better way

The good news is – there is a better way. It took us less than a year to realize that we weren’t helping our clients optimize their investment. At that point we totally changed how we designed our sales training. We stopped organizing our programs around content topics and started designing around the customer’s business initiative. For example, one client wanted to move from selling individual products to selling an integrated solution. Another client wanted to shift from being the low cost provider to selling a value-added solution.

If a company, for example, is shifting their go-to-market strategy to be a value-added provider that change impacts all aspects of the sales organization from the territory design to market segments to compensation plans to the skill profile of the sales team. Since we are discussing sales training let’s just focus on the skill profile.

For such a go-to-market shift to be successful the sales team needs to adapt and adjust their sales skills and the sales training needs to be designed to help them do that. This means the sales training design needs to be customized from “top to bottom.” It must incorporate whatever skill sets are relevant to selling in the newly defined market. This is the exact opposite of defining every training challenge as “pounding a nail” because you have a hammer at hand.