How to Increase the ROI of Sales Training

How to Increase the ROI of Sales Training
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How to Increase the ROI of Sales Training
Even though $20 billion is spent on business sales training per year, more than a third of sales leaders admit that they do not have a clear idea of what measurable return they are looking for on sales training.  That is a costly mistake if you want to increase the ROI of sales training.

While investing in solution selling training skills to boost sales performance makes sense, our training measurement research found that only 1-in-5 sales reps change their behavior and performance from stand-alone sales training.  Why? Because merely conducting sales training sessions (regardless of how good they are) does not guarantee improved sales results.

The real challenge lies in fundamentally changing and reinforcing the key sales mindsets, behaviors, and skills required to consistently deliver higher sales performance.

7 Strategies to Increase the ROI of Sales Training
Here are seven research-backed strategies to increase the ROI of sales training initiatives:

  1. Align Sales Training with the Sales Strategy
    While having a strategy before moving to tactics sounds like common sense, you would be surprised at how often business sales training is focused on sales skills versus what is required to execute the go-to-market sales strategy. For example, one recent client wanted to run sales training focused on helping their team to shift from selling one-off products to SaaS solutions.  They had a list of the normal sales skills like prospecting, building customer insight, selling to executives, influencing, giving sales presentations, conducting sales negotiations, etc. All those sales skills make sense.

    The problem was that they did not have a clear definition of or agreement on of their ideal target client profile, their unique value proposition, or how individual and team success of the sales team would be measured or rewarded.  Without commitment to the right sales context, sales skills and techniques get diluted.  Once your sales strategy is clear enough, you can then focus on the sales strategy success metrics that the sales training must impact.

    Is your sales strategy clear enough, believable enough, and implementable enough for the desired sales skills to make a difference?

  2. Create the Right Sales Culture
    The next step is to ensure that your sales culture is healthy enough, accountable enough, and aligned enough with the sales strategy to help, and not hinder sales performance. Do not underestimate the impact of sales culture.  Our organizational alignment research found that sales culture accounts for 40% of the difference between high and low performing sales teams.

    Before you invest in the sales skills to boost performance, make sure that you remove any cultural barriers related to the way people think, behave, and work that could impede sales performance.  For example, one client wanted to decrease sales cycle time to hit aggressive revenue growth targets, but their legal department was rewarded for eliminating all risk — which delayed and often lost big deals.

    Is everyone on the same page about the ways of working and thinking required to meet sales targets?

  3. Get Senior Leadership Buy-In
    Expecting sales reps to change without full support and involvement from sales managers is just wishful thinking. Senior leaders should actively design, encourage, participate in, support, reinforce, and role-model sales training programs. Leadership commitment and involvement signal the importance of sales development and can motivate sales reps to fully engage in the process.

    Are your senior leaders setting the right expectations and holding people accountable enough for taking their sales skills and performance to the next level?

  4. Customize Sales Training Content
    If off-the-shelf sales training worked, everyone would be meeting their sales quotas. It is no wonder that a recent survey found that only 28% of sales professionals expected to hit their quotas. Sales training that is not highly customized to help sales reps to overcome their most pressing sales challenges is not worth anyone’s time or effort.

    Because sales teams are often composed of individuals with varying levels of experience, expertise, and learning preferences, a one-size-fits-all approach can lead to disengagement and ineffective learning. To get it right, invest the time to:

    • Assess Needs
      Start by conducting a thorough training needs assessment to understand the specific needs and sales challenges that matter most to your sales team to execute your sales strategy. Most assessments involve a combination of deploying sales simulation assessment centers, analyzing KPIs, and conducting 360-degree interviews to understand strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. You will know you are headed in the right direction when you understand and agree to the individual, team, and organizational needs and sales scenarios that matter most to meet your sales targets.
    • Customize the Design
      Customize your sales training programs to fit the unique goals, problems, and needs of your sales reps. This could mean focusing on specific roles, products, techniques, strategic accounts, or market conditions most relevant to their success. It also could mean blending different learning modalities, utilizing microlearning, and providing target job aids.
    • Focus on Real-World Application
      Use action learning, case studies, and real-life examples that sales reps can relate to. Every learning activity should be highly applicable to their daily sales tasks. Matching the content and approach on the specific needs and strengths of each team member enhances participant engagement and knowledge retention. Incorporate scenario-based learning, role-playing exercises, and simulations that mirror the actual sales situations that matter most.
    • Use Performance Tests
      Performance tests measure if participants know what you want them to know and can do what you want them to do in a controlled sales training environment. Examples include role-plays, simulations, gamification, and presentations.  When done right, performance tests build confidence and proficiency, which translates into improved performance in the field.
  5. Reinforce Learning with Coaching
    Training should not be a one-time event but an ongoing change management process. Post-training reinforcement through regular sales coaching and mentoring is crucial for embedding new sales skills and behaviors. Sales leaders should attend sales management training focused on how to effectively lead, manage, and coach their sales teams.

    Are your sales managers engaging in consistent follow-up sessions with their teams to review progress, address challenges, reinforce expectations, and provide feedback?

  6. Measure and Analyze Outcomes
    To understand the impact of your sales training program, it is essential to measure training outcomes. Regularly review sales training metrics to gauge the effectiveness of the training and identify areas for improvement. Use this data-driven approach to make informed decisions about future training initiatives, provide targeted sales coaching, and make sales team adjustments.
  7. Foster a Culture of Continuous Learning
    Creating a sales culture that values continuous learning and development can significantly enhance the ROI of your sales training efforts. Encourage your sales team to view training as an integral part of their professional growth and development rather than a one-time training event. Recognize and reward those who actively engage in learning and apply new sales skills effectively.

The Bottom Line
Changing sales skills and behaviors takes time and effort.  Maximizing the ROI of sales training requires a strategic, personalized, and change-oriented approach that aligns with individual, team, and organizational priorities. Regular measurement and feedback ensure that these initiatives deliver tangible results, driving performance and profitability.

To learn more about how to increase the ROI of sales training, download The 6 Top Reasons Business Sales Training Initiatives Fail

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