If you do a web search for sales training it will likely return with hundreds of thousands of hits and there are hundreds of great books on the topic. With so much information out there for sales people and their managers, why are training departments continually asked to train? Sales training itself is not the answer. As a consultant who works in this arena, that might seem shocking to hear from me, but it’s true. The real special sauce that helps sales teams excel is in the follow up engagement after sales training.

If you’re in the training industry, you most certainly have heard about how fast people forget new information. Training professionals do several things to help their attendees and sales people retain new information longer. They provide realistic role-plays, gamification, and stimulating high-energy learning environments. However, all of the training is doomed to fail unless you and your sales leaders have plans to drive engagement and usage of the new skills after the classroom or workshop experience is completed. Let’s review some of the most effective ways to drive transformation and engagement after a sales training workshop.

Leading vs. Lagging Indicators

Avoid the common mistake of focusing on lagging indicators like close rates, sales growth, and quota attainment. Those are all potential results, but they show up late in the game. When examining team engagement, we must look at much earlier indicators like how often did they use their new skills? If you have a sales process centered on strategic questioning, then look at how often your sales team used those kinds of questions. If you are focusing on uncovering customer needs, then examine that. Don’t get lulled by looking at the easy numbers.

Accountability & Incentives

Sales leadership needs to be involved at all levels of sales training and they are key for maintaining post-training accountability. Asking the training staff to enforce sales training is like asking a child’s teacher to make them clean their room at home, not going to happen. It’s equally important to add incentives with this new level of accountability. It can be particularly effective when you combine the leading indicator you would like to see change with a financial reward.

Support and Reinforcement

Make sure that you have an adequate number of staff that are up to speed on the new sales methodology and skills. Everyone can feel unsure or doubt their confidence when using new skills and knowledge. It’s very important to have the internal safety net set up for the early adopters. If possible, hold several reinforcement sessions, and link to online resources or videos often. Make sure you advertise success early and often. Other people’s success is often the best motivation to someone sitting on the fence and waiting to engage.

This author originally published this article in the Fall 2016 issue of Focus Magazine.