What keeps Sales Leaders awake at night? Part 3

In this final post of his 3-part blog series, Dr John Heaford, Head of Sales Methodologies at SalesMethods, concludes his thoughts about what keeps Sales Leaders across large businesses awake at night and how to effectively address the challenge.

In my previous post I outlined how the organisation needs to determine the effectiveness of its sales approach as well as how to put the right measurement programmes in place. So to ‘cap off’ this series of what keeps us awake at night, I want to look at two further key issues; behaviour in the field and the ultimate goal, business results.

Behaviour in the Field

Behaviour measures the participants’ application of the learning on the job—or what happens when the participants leave the classroom and return to their work environment. It addresses the question ‘are the participants using the learning?’ It is important to measure behaviour because the primary purpose of sales training is to improve business results by changing behaviour. New learning is meaningless to an organisation unless the participants actually use these new skills, attitudes or knowledge in their daily work activities.

Since these measurements must take place after the participants have returned to their jobs, the actual implementation of these measurements will typically involve the participants’ manager or other staff management personnel who are in a position to observe changes.

Although it takes significantly more effort to collect this data than it does to collect data during the training programme, its value is of vital importance to the organisation. Data at this level can also provide insight into the transfer of learning to the participant’s work environment or the barriers encountered in attempting to implement the new techniques or processes learned in the programme. However, the best-in-class organisations go that one step further to determine the ultimate value of the entire initiative.

Business Results

Targeted business results should measure the impact the new business process tools and training programme have on the organisation. This addresses the key question: Is it working and yielding value for the business? These results can include increased sales, sales with increased levels of profit contribution, lower costs of sales and higher close rates. Now we expand our thinking beyond the impact on the salespeople who participated in the training programme and begin to ask what happens to the organisation as a result of our training efforts. Here is where the Sales Director’s nightmare might be dissolved as specific links between the implemented tools and newly learned behavioural disciplines begin to improve forecasting accuracy and ultimately business results.

While it is difficult to isolate the business results of a training programme, it is usually possible and feasible to link training contributions to organisational improvements. Collecting, organising and analysing information at this level is more difficult, time-consuming and more costly than the other three levels. The payoff, however, is typically worthwhile when viewed in context of its continued value to the organisation.

Summary

We started looking at what research tells us is the Sales Leaders biggest worry – forecasting accuracy and have worked through the argument that best in class organisations look to form best in class sales methodologies, deploy them effectively and monitor their success both in terms of behaviour and ultimately business results.

Easy to say – harder to do

While many of us have good intentions and starting an initiative be it a training programme or supporting software tools is commonplace, too few of us effectively measure progress and look to continually improve performance.

The most frequently used measurement is at the point of sales training (reaction and learning and practice) because it is the easiest to measure. However, it provides the least valuable and least powerful data. Measuring business results is more difficult and is conducted less frequently, yet yields the most valuable information—whether or not the organisation is receiving a return on its software tools, training and change management programme investment. It may be tempting to avoid measuring at the point of training and go directly to the higher levels of evaluation but monitoring progress at each stage; reaction, learning and practice, behaviour and business results provides us with a unique set of data and measuring all four levels is critical to effectively evaluating any sales productivity initiative and associated training programmes.

Management reinforcement and support of the techniques and processes delivered in the training programmes are critical to not only the programme’s success, but also the infusion of these techniques and processes within the sales organisation. Having managers attend the sales training programme with their salespeople, reinforcing the main messages during and after the event and subsequently learning about the best practices of implementation in management initiatives with their peers will yield measurable long-term results, which the ‘best-in-class’ businesses are demonstrating in the recent research.

John Heaford

John Heaford

John is a sales skills training consultant, company director, conference speaker and training systems designer. His ultimate goal is to build world class training support tools, for distribution over the mobile internet to hand-held personal devices, to field sales professionals and business executives. He is Head of Methodologies at SalesMethods.