White Paper: Can Sales Training Big Data Answer Big Questions?
Big Data Reveals The Best Way to Develop Sales Talent
Your Company has much more potential than you realize.
While many industries are neck-deep in what has become known as Big Data, the sales-training industry is not. We have never really known what causes sales training to succeed or fail in producing long-term performance improvement. We basically would just put a salesperson’s butt in a seminar and hope that some new formula or technique would prove transformative, sparking dramatic improvements in performance. Sales training grew into a multi-billion-dollar business based on that hope.
Over the years, we blindly switched methodologies in search of the right formula to improve salespeople:
- Motivational Speeches were the rage in the 1970s. All we needed to do was to pump salespeople full of hot air and teach them some tricky closing techniques.
- Personality Styles took center stage in the ‘80s. Learn to become a chameleon, and you’ll sell things like crazy.
- Strategic Selling had its turn in the ‘90s. Fill out a complicated blueprint of your client’s business, and you’ll crush the competition.
- Solution Selling rose to the top in the early 2000s. It was available in 42 flavors. (All kidding aside, this is still the closest the industry as a whole has come to a successful approach.)
- Challenger or Insight Selling had a short run from about 2010 to 2015, as trainers attempted to turn salespeople into gabby know-it-alls, pretending to understand their customers’ businesses better than the customers did.
Through it all, there has been no hard data (“big” or otherwise) to support the claims made for sales training.
For years, I have maintained that a focus on a small set of fundamental selling skills is the best way to develop sales talent. I have hard data to support that contention. But I didn’t fully appreciate the potential of my own database until recently, when a prospective customer of my company, The Sales Board, challenged us with some extremely interesting questions:
- How much has your training improved critical selling skills in companies in particular industries, such as technology, health care, manufacturing, finance, or agriculture?
- Which of these skills was the most deficient? Which skills improved the most?
- How do you compare gains in knowledge (how much students learn in a training program) to how much they transfer into the field?
- Which of the critical skills, when improved, produces the greatest return on investment for the salesperson’s company?