Research First Look: Emerging Practices in Sales Training

 

Many sales organizations are changing how salespeople learn and develop skills, by adapting conventional training methods (classroom training, for example), but also by incorporating bold new approaches. This on-demand webcast provides our first look at recently concluded research on this topic.

The research surveys a broad range of sales training practices, and examines how firms allocate current training investments, and how their investments are expected to change. The research quantifies management’s importance ratings for training objectives, and firm effectiveness in a wide variety of training practices, while correlating training practices with firm sales performance.

In this on-demand webcast we’ll share our first look at research findings, and provide commentary on how practitioners should interpret and apply research outcomes. Topics include:

  • Management’s training investment priorities
  • Key gaps and challenges in realizing desired training outcomes
  • Projections on how training investments are likely to change over the next three to five years
  • Quantified impact of best practice training approaches on firm sales performance

 

Webinar Transcript:

Bob: Hello and welcome to today’s webcast hosted by the Sales Management Association. Our session will start in just a few moments. Before we start, I have a few announcements. Please note that we will not open attendees’ audio lines during the Q&A portion of our broadcast today but we do very much welcome your questions and your comments. You may submit these at any time by typing them into the small window on the right side of your webinar application that’s labeled “Questions” and they’ll come directly to me. I’ll read them during the Q&A portion of our session today.

Also, as a reminder, we’re recording today’s session and we’ll make it available for playback in the Sales Management Association’s resource library. If you’re a member, you’ll also be able to download copies of the slides from today’s webinar there in the resource library.

Today’s session is one in a series of web-based Sales Management Association presentations that feature practitioners and thought leaders in the field of sales force effectiveness. The Sales Management Association is a professional association for sales operations and sales management professions. We provide our members with research, case studies, training, peer networking and professional development.

If you’re joining us for the first time today we invite you to consider membership in the association and to visit us online at salesmanagement.org. Also, you’re among the first to know that we’ve booked firm date for our conference this fall. It will be October 23rd through the 25th at The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta. We’ll send a save-the-date announcement about that shortly but I thought you’d like to be the first to know. I hope you can join us for that. You can learn more about our conference at salesmanagementconference.com.

My name is Bob Kelly. I’m pleased to be with you today and also to introduce my co-presenter Gary Greenberger from Qstream. Gary is the Vice President of Global Sales at Qstream which is a provider of mobile microlearning solutions that improve sales proficiency and organization performance. At Qstream, Gary has responsibility for the firm’s direct and channel sales strategy around the globe.

Gary previously held senior sales leadership roles with Corvium, Sample6 Technologies and with Autodesk. Gary Greenberger from Qstream, thank you for being with us today. Welcome to you.

Gary: Thank you, excited to be here.

Bob: Excellent. Well, first a brief comment just about the format today. If you’ve joined us for these types of sessions in the past, you’ll recall that when we conclude a research initiative, we do something just for our members which we call a Research First Look. It’s an opportunity for us to quickly paste the charts as soon as they come back from the designer and do a PowerPoint and give you the highlights of some of the more interesting things we found. This won’t be a complete review of our findings related to this recently concluded research but it will give you some interesting highlights and because you’re a member, you’ll be among the first to know.

I will say at the beginning of this session that this is very interesting research and results that we found and that have been analyzed so far are quite compelling and we know they’re quite relevant. I’m going to start with just a quick overview of the research.

The research is on emerging practices and sales training and in broader learning and development activities. We had an objective of this study to answer some basic questions about how firms do things now. How do they decide where to spend the budget when it comes to training salespeople and more broadly in other learning and development activities? We wanted to know how that’s likely to change in the next three years, what management considers important and most importantly of all, how effective are firms in doing this and of all the things they do which things, which practices have the greatest impact on results?

In today’s presentation, we’re going to try to hit the high points of these various topics and we’ll welcome your comments as we go. A quick note just about the structure of the study itself, we collected this data over the past, roughly, four months, roughly January to April 2019. We had data from 92 firms. These are firms that skew to the large side in terms of size. Approximately, a little more than half have annual revenues in excess of 100 million US dollars and about 25% have annual revenues in excess of $1 billon US.

The respondents that participated are themselves, predominantly sales enablement, sales effectiveness or sales operations. Importantly in that category, we included corporate learning and development leaders. We had a few of those and they’re included in that 53%. Most, everyone else, is either a first-line sales manager in the case of 24% of our respondents or a senior sales leader defined as someone managing sales managers, and they make up 20% of the sample.

With that out of the way, I want to jump in to some findings that I think help us understand the context that many companies operate learning and development within in their organizations. That is generally what’s happening, how are firms dealing their investments and what is the level of activity.

Let’s start with some basic things that we learned, namely that on overage salespeople spend about 21 days out of the year across a variety of, what you might call, learning and development activities. This includes, on average, about two and a half days of classroom training, maybe the most conventional of the various categories we asked about. They are also getting a lot of what you might consider informal training. It happens in the form of one-on-one coaching which is almost four days of activity and informal feedback designed to have a developmental objective. Again, another four days.

You can see we took a pretty broad view of the various different activities that represent learning and development for a typical salesperson. Incidentally, a new salesperson gets almost twice as much training in the form of these various activities as an experienced salesperson. Let’s see if I can tell you the difference but this will of course be in the final report, but a new salesperson has on average 30 days of activity in these areas, whereas an experienced salesperson has something like 16, to give you some idea.

Now, moving on, this level of activity is expected to grow. In fact, I was surprised at how much it will grow. We found that 63% of firms in our study planned to increase the amount of sales training activity over the next three years and a great many that is overall, 63% expectant overall increase in activity. You can see from the chart on this slide that the largest percentage of firms expect to increase their provisioning online course content.

There are lots of companies, in fact, the majority of companies, will increase all of the activities on this page except for classroom training or just a 27% expected increase the amount of classroom training. It’s worth noting that, in general, an aggregate classroom training won’t decline. This doesn’t suggest it’s declining and in fact we think that’s important. What looks to be happening here is that there is going to be a growth, a broader expansion across a whole range of modalities and because the more conventional stuff isn’t declining, these new ways of training are complementing and augmenting those conventional in-person training activities.

Well, it’s worth asking is this a good idea, is this a good investment really is the question. Does dollar invested in training payoff? We believe that it does and the data support that. We found, in fact, that those companies with effective sales training outperform those without, that is those with ineffective training by a substantial margin. In fact, they have rates of sales objective achievement is 32% higher than firms ineffective in sales training. A dollar spent in sales training appears to yield a substantial return but there’s an important caveat, you must be effective in doing it.

A corollary of this chart is that it appears to be pretty easy to waste money on sales training. In fact, we found that almost half of all firms consider their sales training efforts ineffective and just about a quarter 26% say that their training is, in fact, effective. I present this as the states of affairs in sales training. I’d summarize it as large advantages accrue to companies that are good at training and developing salespeople but they are in the minority, and this appears to be a great problem for many firms.

Now, I’m going to stop there and I’m going to invite Gary to comment. My hope with Gary’s input is that I’ve asked him to be our caller commentator and toward that end I’ve developed some questions that he has to respond to but he has also free range and comment on any of the things that we talked about so far. Gary, thank you again for being here and I’d love to hear your thoughts so far.

Gary: Thank you, Bob. What I’m going to share is my 30 years of sales and sales management experience. That’s the basis from where I’m coming from. Frequent misperceptions and I have five points. My number one point would be sales reps have unlimited time to train and sales managers have unlimited time to coach. The fact is they don’t, so the time they do have needs to be used effectively and with measurable impact.

My second point is sales performance or revenue achievement is the only important metrics. Actually, proficiency is one of the most underappreciated measurements and in my opinion knowledge and critical thinking skills are leading indicator of sales performance. My point three is sales reps and other cross-functional departments are consulted in advanced of sales performance. The fact is it’s really not a team sport today. It’s more of an individual sport and collaboration and communications is key to a successful learning program. We need to focus on that.

My point four is that sales reps value generic sales content. The truth is at training, that is not specific, so their business objective is generally not effective when measured against business goals. Finally, my last misperception is salespeople are productive once they’ve been on board. The fact is and that’s on my research validates this and it could take nine, ten months to ramp up a sales rep, but sales enablement is a continuous process even for the most tenured reps. All right, Bob, that’s it.

Bob: Thank you, Gary. Thank you for some very organized and cogent comments there. What I’d like to do now is we’re going to revisit much of what you just introduced and your ideas, but before we do that, I want to revisit some things from the research and I’d like to suggest that these represent characteristics that we found about companies sales training effort and we think some they go much of the way toward answering that question. Why aren’t companies better at training salespeople?

There are numerous challenges. In fact, Gary, to your very first point, there’s not enough time spent training or perhaps there’s this misplaced assumption that salespeople have unlimited time to train when in fact we know that more than four out of five firms in our study said that they spend too little time training salespeople. Just 8% said they spend too much time, and just 11% said they spend the right amount.

The first problem is there is not enough of it. I’m talking just about volume here, activity not necessarily quality. Let’s also look at another issue which is sales training has to cover a lot of things. In our study, we asked how important are these various things? It turns out they’re all important, at least they’re all somewhat important.

This chart shows just a breath of topics that the typical sales organization must address and its learning and development activity. These are very strategic things in some cases and other cases they’re much more tactical, sort of, practical things, but there’s a lot to do here and so it’s worth just acknowledging that… one recent training salespeople is very hard because typically there’s a lot they must know.

Now, something a little bit more subtle. We looked at a few characteristics of the training that our respondents are providing. We found three things that we think are especially telling of firms’ training characteristics that in part contribute to the ineffective outcomes that they’re getting.

Those three things are; training is too generic. Secondly, it’s too prescriptive in that by prescriptive what I mean is it represents objectives that are mandated by management as opposed to jointly developed by trainer and trainee. Then thirdly, it’s not continuously delivered.

We’ll talk about all of these things but in fact just a hover on the last one a little bit. Clearly, most firm, about half of firms, have what they characterizes a roughly equal emphasis on episodic and continuous delivery. They might have an annual conference and then they have other that is where there’s an annual training event and then they might have regularly spaced training content that is in the form of an event or even online.

What we found was in fact even that is not enough. It’s better than solely focusing on single events but what really makes a difference is the emphasis on continuous delivery. We’ll look at all three of those things in more detail shortly.

Lastly, I would suggest that what we learned from our study was that the effectiveness that a lot of firms are seeing from their training efforts is this weak tea. It’s somewhat effective in some areas. It’s most effective in training on products and services that is on the offering. It’s most effective in teaching salespeople what they’re selling and somewhat hopefully it’s also its second most effective characteristic is its ability to train on how to deliver value to customers.

It’s not an especially high rating of effectiveness. It’s a 4.6 on a seven-point scale but it does suggest that at least in terms of current investments companies are focusing on that and that’s a pretty important thing. I want to turn it over to you, Gary, and just get some insights from you on what you see driving some of the trends that we found in our study. Why is this the state of affairs and firms today with their training?

Gary: I’ve thought a lot about that, Bob, and I think there is some common characteristics make up my skills organization in manning, and one is that we’re dealing with a global sales force. Today, the trends that we see are remote workers are everywhere today in most sales organizations, and that’s requiring us to think about how we want to develop and how we want to consume sales training.

Another point that I thought was very valuable is we’ve got to deliver a better user experience; that’s a common trend. I think that’s being driven a lot by millennials but they’re looking for a short burst of information in how we train. An area that’s important at Qstream is technology. There’s all types of new technology: mobility, smart phones, video, gamification, all of these are game changes in trends that we have to adapt and adopt.

Another key point that I would make is we have a very gated driven wall, so there’s a lot of analytics. The main thing I hear and the trend that I’m seeing is senior management in large organizations need to see a return on investment when it comes to training. Then finally, we have this wonderful proven science around knowledge, reinforcement, and retention and a lot of this type of science is now actively built into the training experience. Bob, those are some of the common trends that I’ve seen.

Bob: Well, I mean, to your last point, at least it can be that is technology now exists to help teachers or training providers do that. It’s an interesting idea though. Do you suppose that the difference in these things that you point out, to what extent do they reflect generational differences? Forgive me for jumping the script here a little bit, Gary, but I’m curious about your thoughts.

Gary: Yes, there’s just no question about it that the younger generation that have come in to the sales force, they’re just not satisfied with the traditional ways of learning. They are pushing the envelope and then requiring some out-of-box thinking on how you deliver. Most of it is taking advantage of the technology, and most of it is less is more. That is a very big difference from the days when I got started in the late ‘80s with training.

Bob: Indeed. Well, let’s just jump ahead in our research, and talk about three areas that we think represent good places to focus if you’re planning on investing in more training, because these three areas… we’ll talk about the characteristics that we correlated with higher performance in the study. They’re the three areas that we’ve already visited. They include collaboration, in fact, they’re on this slide. They include customizing training, developing training objectives in a collaborative fashion, and focusing on continuous delivery of training.

The first one I want to talk about is the notion of developing of collaborative learning objectives that is objectives where the person learning has an equal say in where they’ll focus alongside the person who is managing the efforts. We did separate our respondent firms into these three categories. We found that one group defined objectives by fiat a little bit, management dictated those objectives. In fact that was the majority of firms. There was another group that lets salespeople determine the objectives and that was their predominant approach. Then, there was a group in the middle that established those learning objectives collaboratively.

What’s interesting is we found that that middle group, the goldilocks subsample, if you will, outperformed their peers by having sales training that is 9% more effective, and they had a 16% advantage in achieving sales objectives. Put in another way, this group was 16% more effective in financial results, and the training overall was 9% more effective. What are your thoughts on this one, Gary?

Gary: I love this. I think collaborative learning, it’s critical. Let me state the obvious, you have to engage top sales performers in cross functional departments in the process. If you want to have effective training, buy-in is key. I think you need to start by setting goals cross functionally and work in a team toward the stated goals and obviously those goals that drive sales revenue. Developing custom context, pouring in the proper people from those departments and having them be supportive in the content creation is invaluable in the process.

The other piece, Bob, that I wanted to bring up in my experience is you got to communicate effectively sales training objectives up front by executive or senior management. If you want to get the buy in that’s got to come at the top down then be really crystal clear about linking sales learning goals to business goals and business objectives. People really want to make sure this applies specifically to them and they had to buy-in the process.

Another quick point is just make the learning process active versus passive. Engage in competitive leaderboards. This improves the engagement process which is the goal of this training and encourage comments and feedback throughout the entire training process. I think this really makes a world of difference.

Bob: Yes. I think those are great points. Part of engaging with the learning is helping to establish the objectives. It’s a self-reinforcing idea, this notion of fostering more engagement and in having the salesperson participate in setting the goals of learning. I’m going to go backwards and look at the slide again. I’d like to think of this, on the left, as a Catholic school and on the right as Montessori school. I’m a prior attendee of 12 years of Catholic school but my cousin who is the same age, he got to go to Montessori school.

It always seemed like he had more fun. In fact what I think this chart is telling us that the optimal is somewhere in the middle that is where you have… maybe even you have a set of objectives some of which are table stakes. You got to have skills in this area but you have some other areas where you have the opportunity to grow where you want to grow. Is that a reasonable way to think about this, Gary?

Gary: No question about it. I think the collaborative effort management, salespeople equally involved, without a doubt, gives you the greatest result.

Bob: Great. Well, let’s go on. Let’s talk about our second category which is customizing content and the benefits that are created to those companies that do that. Actually, before we do that, we’ll talk about that last. I want to talk next about the frequency of delivery in this notion of continuous delivery of learning and development.

We did the same basic approach here. We separated the firms in our study into three categories. Those whose focus is predominantly on events, an episodic focus, those whose emphasis in delivering training is on continuous delivery, and in those that say they combine roughly equal proportions of those two things, episodic and continuous. This was also a surprise to me in that I would have thought having this roughly equal moderate balance between single events and continuous delivery of content would be best, in fact it is not.

Clearly, a focus on single event, it correlates with the worst performance but those that combine the two in roughly equal proportion in fact perform at a slight disadvantage. It’s this group on the right that have a focus… their chief emphasis is on continuous delivery of content. They have rates of sales training effectiveness that are 35% better than their peers, and their rates of sales objective achievement are 21% greater than their peer.

Substantial improvements most dramatically in the overall effectiveness of training and a nice follow through impact in financial results. What does this look like? I’d love to hear your comments about how you transition from a mindset of having these events to a mindset of this continuous learning idea?

Gary: Yes, Bob, this is near and dear to our heart at Qstream. I think the number one point is this starts by embracing learning as a continuous journey. This is not event-driven. This is a commitment to a continuous program over a period of time. The old saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” reinforcement, repetition that’s the answer. It’s not complicated. It’s pretty simple actually and you got to make the training and the delivery of it fun, effective, competitive. You will engage the ultimate salesperson whether it’s a younger person or a more tenured one if you follow those types of attributes.

Now, let me explain what I mean a little bit. You should have annualized planning of sales training. You should calendar it out at the beginning of the year. Again, this is a continuous sequential type of training that builds on each other. Certainly, event-driven, in my humble opinion, is not going to get the job done.

Now, there’s knowledge reinforcement platforms that you can use but the concept that I would pretty much emphasis is start to launch quarterly programs. Be very respectful of time, mention that, customize the content, make sure it’s focused on current business objectives, ensure that you’re driving proficiency and skills, but let one program lead to the next program.

Study the gaps, the deficits, and training that is the data that comes back from the first-quarter program and utilize that to help build on the second quarter and the follow on training. I think if you do this and you rely on science behind the skills and knowledge gaps, you’ll end up having a very effective program that lasts over the course of a year and those results will be seen. In my opinion there is sales performance and sales productivity. That’s how I would focus on that, Bob.

Bob: Good. Thank you. Well, we want to take questions from the audience. I have really one more slide and it talks about customization. I’ll take a moment to remind our audience that if you have a question, you can go ahead and submit it now. We’ll be happy to read it.

Let’s do, in fact, talk about the role of customization. We have a similar-looking chart here where on the left we had firms that provided, mostly, generic training content where those in the middle appropriately enough they had content that was half customized but half was the same for everyone. On the right were those firms whose content was mostly customized.

Let’s talk about their results. They had sales training effectiveness improvement of 22%. Most interestingly, their rates of sales objective achievement that is their sales performance was 40% higher than peers. This in fact had the highest impact in terms of financial impact. It had a pretty substantial impact on the effectiveness of sales training overall, this notion of customizing content.

Now, there are a number of ways you can customize training content, so let’s talk about this, Gary. I want to get in the details here about what exactly these firms are doing and how they’re approaching this goal, making learning and development content customized?

Gary: Yes, let’s do a segue there. The question is, what part of training ought to be customized? Let me say it very succinctly in three words, “most of it.” We are in a world now especially in the sales side of the house, and I’m speaking to the choir, preaching to the choir. It’s got to be focused on your company’s business objectives and your business outcome. It’s an absolute all hands on deck with customized content.

The content has to be specific to the salesperson’s job and specific to his objectives and always aligned, in my opinion, always aligned to the customer. Without that, I really don’t think you get engagement. Without that, I don’t think you’d get good consistent results in this whole entire process.

Now, the beauty of tools like Qstream and other types of technology that’s out there today is they have coaching actions that are an end result of the training. The sale managers have to focus on the individual needs that come about from the results of these trainings. It’s really important that it’s captures in a continuous program.

I think if you do this, the way I’m describing based on my experience and you take advantage of it you’re going to get the results that you need. There are wonderful technologies and solutions out there that I believe today allow you to customize. Really engage these participants and managers in a process that has an end result that is measurable, that’s scalable, that’s reputable.

I hear this every day. I try to challenge people that are using more traditional forms of training to leverage the technologies that are out there, and find companies that have a proven track record, a proven technology and engage them. It can make a big difference ultimately in the results at the end of the year. That’s my thoughts from 35 years of experience. A lot of them are repetitious and that’s part of the solution but they’re actually proven based on results.

Bob: Listening to you, it occurs to me that these three things that we’ve decided to focus on it really came out of the research are very connected. Let’s talk a moment about how they are connected. I think it’s actually difficult to tease out one of these splitting a molecule here. These are, maybe not best considered as atoms, but part of a whole.

In fact, if you’re collaboratively developing goals, allowing, if you will, a salesperson to create some electives in their course of study with you, you are in fact customizing that content in that way and so those two things are really closely connected. I think also if you’re continuously delivering stuff there is every chance that one way you’re deciding when and what to deliver is based on someone’s learning success. If they learn something, maybe you don’t deliver stuff related to that topic. You’re going to deliver things that they’re struggling with.

These things are self-reinforcing I think. They somehow add up to a different mindset of training and developing salespeople. I’m not sure what we call that but it does seem to include all three of these things. I think it’s important to maybe not try to attack this separately but to think of them as organical. What do you think about that? Does that make sense?

Gary: No, I cannot agree more. I think it’s a holistic approach. Let me label it as we are going through thinking this. Probably, as you said there are three C’s, if you would: collaboration, customization, and continuous. It’s one approach, one program. I think if you integrate them into your program it’s really the only way to have a successful learning experience. At the end of the day, Bob, it’s all about the user experience.

I mean, on the front end of it for your sales organizations, that’s what it’s all about. On the back end, it’s all about measurements and being able to produce return. Collaboration customization, continuous learning, it’s integrated, it’s one approach. I could not agree more with the way you’re going about it and the way that data speaks to it.

Bob: Great. Thank you. Well, that’s the end of our prepared stuff. Let’s take some questions from the audience. Are you ready, Gary?

Gary: Ready.

Bob: All right. I’m reading through them now. I’m going to give you the hard ones if that’s all right. I’ll take the really easy ones. Anyway, here is our first question. This person has two questions. I’m going to read them both, I think they’re connected.

Anyway, they ask, how can a continuously delivered training program convince a salesperson to change behavior if that training is online based? I think they’re asking here, when you’re trying to implement meaningful change, does digitally provisioned training really help you do that, or should you be looking at something else?

Gary: No. I think absolutely. The answer is yes. The answer is finding a program or a solution like scenario-based questions that can be delivered anywhere, anytime over a mobile device, for example, or online through a web interface is fantastic. It’s a perfect way to begin to improve critical thinking which will lead to change in behavior, so absolutely. It’s a fantastic way, and I think it’s a necessary way today. It doesn’t really place traditional training, but it all matches. Without a doubt, you can change behavior.

Bob: Yes, that’s a really important point. I think that what we found in the data from the study is that firms aren’t transitioning to this online stuff or digital content as a way of replacing their existing assets in training, that is, their classroom, their in-person manager, the salesperson interactions. They seem to be layering on top. In fact, I was surprise at that.

All right, let’s go to our next question which is, could Gary elaborate on his point about engaging in competitive leaderboards, what’s an example of this? I remember when you said this, Gary, maybe you can differentiate it. Were you talking about performance, or was it related to learning, or was it both?

Gary: Yes. In the example I was using, it’s in the training. I mean, look, sales is a competitive sport. Good sales reps are always competitive, so when I refer to leaderboards and what we tend to talk about at Qstream, we call it game mechanics; it engages people. Running a program where you’re starting with a group of sales reps and they’re active in a very disciplined program over time, the competitive nature and the leaderboards to see how you compare to somebody else is very engaging.

It’s what gets sales organizations to begin using this new technology and they find it fun and I think it’s a balance. You don’t want to go overboard on the gamification, but the leaderboards are exciting; they drive usage; they drive participation, and people like them. That’s what I mean by… now, the competitive nature of sales and performance is such a natural but engaging the learning process through leaderboards is new and is compelling, in my opinion.

Bob: You know what? I think is really interesting, Gary… thank you. Those are some really insightful comments. I think these issues about how do you train salespeople. They’re no different that the issues salespeople themselves face in trying to sell. Customers don’t want someone to show up and just tell them what to do, what they should buy. They want to evaluate your product in the context of interacting with it and really understanding how it will impact them on a customized specific basis.

Gary: Can I have one comment on it?

Bob: Yes.

Gary: I don’t mean to cut you off. It’s very important that it’s an active versus a passive process. I mentioned that earlier but leaderboards, some of the new technology, makes the process active. The fact that it’s active, it’s what’s really helping drive change in behavior. I just wanted to add that point because I think it’s very important.

Bob: Yes. These are great points. Thank you. Let’s see if we have any more questions. I think we have at least one more. Sorry, I lost my way here.

The question is, what advise do you have for estimating the ROI on training? Let’s take that question in a really broad sense, because everything we’ve learned says it’s a mistake to have a classroom, send people to class, and then try to figure out was it worth it. What we’re really talking about here are broad investments but I’ll let you try to address that concern.

Gary: No, that’s the million-dollar question. It’s the one that being driven in the business, and we have many views on it at Qstream. I would say, first and foremost, very important that you have measurable results. We drive proficiency as just the critical measurement. You can drive and you can correlate proficiency to sales performance. You can show a measurable return. We love doing that. It’s something that we’re very gated driven as a company.

I’m always looking at measurement, like what is the percentage increase in proficiency, and how does that correlate to sales performance improvements? I think another one that will very dig on is measuring the percentage of retention, and you can measure that. I call it the return on retention. You can end up driving a lot of retention, most of the training.

What I tend to tell people is 80 cents on every dollar lost because people just forget when their power hose, as I like to say, with information. If it’s a continuous journey where you’re updating people over a period of time to help them with retention, you can measure that. That result will have very positive business outcomes and it can be quantified. We like to do that at our company, and I think it’s something that you should expect to get from technology vendors. You should expect that the senior management in your company is going to ask you, what is the return?

Again, Bob, I don’t think it’s a replacement of traditional training. I would look at it as augmenting it to provide the best experience and the best return. Great question. ROI is top of mind in most topics.

Bob: Yes, I just wonder. We all know training tends to get cut quickly when expense-reduction initiatives start, so answering that question can really help that problem. You mentioned retention. You mentioned it in a way different than what I’d like to suggest, but we’ve actually done some research that correlates good training with salespeople sticking around in the organization.

What we’ve learned is that one way salespeople value the company they work for is how much they’re learning. I think, in part, an answer to this question is impacting the desirable retention in your sales organization, especially for a larger firm, that can really make a huge difference. I just throw that out there as an additional way to address this question or concern.

All right. Well, listen, Gary, thank you. First of all, on a personal level, I want to really thank you for your involvement, also for Qstream’s support of this research which was made possible, in part, through your underwriting support of our organization. We’ve been able to share some pretty interesting findings on today’s webinar, but in fact the research was more extensive than the portion we’ve shared but really looking forward to sharing more of this. I hope you can join us for future sessions. Thank you so much for being here with us today, Gary.

Gary: Thank you for allowing me.

Bob: Great. Well, before we go, I will remind our audience that our next Sales Management Association webinar is on June 5th. We’ll host a session then called Essential Planning Approaches to Managing Sales Capacity. You can learn about this session and many other sessions on our website at salesmanagement.org. I’m Bob Kelly, Sales Management Association Chairman, on behalf of Gary Greenberger from Qstream, we’d like to thank you for your time and attention today. Goodbye. Until next time.