How Do You Know Your Sales Training Works? (Part 5)
Suppose you had a very large database—an ocean of “Big Data”—that you could mine for reliable answers to questions like these:
- Which key sales skills will a given sales training program improve, and by how much?
- Assuming that these skills can be measurably improved, to what degree will salespeople actually use them on the job?
- How can I prove to a skeptical CEO that an increase in sales revenue following a training program is definitely a result of the training and not due to other changes in our company or its markets?
- If I am choosing a sales training program, how can I know in advance which one will, in fact, produce measurable skill improvements that will translate into measurable business results?
A database that could answer those questions sounds like a fantasy, doesn’t it? But today that Big Data actually exists.
Two decades ago, my company, The Sales Board, formed a development team of software engineers and psychometricians to create a validated instrument that would reliably measure factors pertaining to Action Selling training. Those factors include how much knowledge a salesperson has about each of the five Critical Selling Skills that Action Selling teaches; how much that knowledge level improves after training; and how well the person is able to use the knowledge on the job.
That last point—measuring the application of skills and knowledge on the job—is the real link to proving a direct connection between sales training and a subsequent increase in sales revenue.
We now have compiled 20 years’ worth of data on 400,000 salespeople from more than 3,500 companies in a broad range of industries. Our SQL relational database contains about 78 million data points.
Yes, you can measure critical sales skills
Research has proven that sales success is most affected by five Critical Selling Skills. Action Selling isolates and teaches those skills. They are:
- Buyer/Seller Relationship
- Sales Call Planning
- Presentation Skills
- Gaining Commitment
The “big data” we have amassed over 20 years allows us to look at each of the five Critical Sales Skills (and at all five together) to determine the average starting point for students, prior to training, in both knowledge and ability to apply the knowledge. We also can determine the levels that students reached upon certification in each skill. We then can calculate (in percentage terms) the skill gain that occurred, in both knowledge and application, as a direct result of sales training.
In previous editions of eCoach, I showed what the data reveals for the first four of those critical skills. Here are the results for the final skill, Gaining Commitment.
- Blue bars indicate average assessment scores prior to training. Green bars indicate assessment scores upon certification.
- Two bars on the left indicate Knowledge measurement. Two bars on the right indicate Application measurement.
Remarkable findings about this skill
- Salespeople and sales managers admit this is the greatest skill challenge they face.
- With Knowledge and Application scores before training at 56% and 36%, respectively, the data agrees with them.
- Since Gaining Commitment is the principle duty of salespeople, this skill gap is a huge problem.
- After training, Application scores improved by 119%. That translates directly into a big impact on business results.
Gaining Commitment is truly the ultimate skill that salespeople must possess. To put it bluntly, if salespeople can’t gain commitment from customers, what are they doing on your payroll? When the Application score for this skill more than doubles after training and certification, dramatic sales increases are bound to follow.
In the next edition of eCoach—the final entry in our series describing this landmark study–we will look at what the data shows about the effects of Action Selling training on all five critical skills combined.
For information about how to make sales training pay huge dividends, contact Action Selling at (800) 232-3485.
For a far more complete look at findings from The Sales Board’s 20-year sales-training evaluation project, see my current white paper, Big Data Reveals the Best Way to Develop Sales Talent.