How many thousands, tens of thousands or even millions of dollars a year does your company waste on useless sales training? No, I’m not suggesting that sales training is useless. I’m suggesting that the way most companies approach sales training is wasteful in terms of time, money, and energy for both the company and the sales team members.
Sales training is typically a herd activity. Someone—VP of Sales, head of training, or a regional, district or branch manager decides that X training is needed. They either have the training department develop a training program or hire an outside training company to address the issue and then schedule a training session. On the day or days of the scheduled training, everyone comes out of the field to attend—mandatory, you know. So, for one, two, maybe even three days no one is out selling. Lost sales opportunities and revenue for those days, and of course, there are the expenses for travel, meals, possibly hotel rooms. The expenses alone can mount into the tens of thousands.
A small one-day training session for a region of say 18 reps can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 or more depending upon the training company fee and the travel expenses for trainer and attendees. That’s anywhere from $550 to $1,400 or more per salesperson, not to mention the potential lost sales.
That, however, is the least of the problems. A far more serious problem is that all of the salespeople are being treated as though they all had the same training needs. They don’t. Those individuals who don’t need the particular training are taken out of the field and required to attend, just as those who do need the training. Now, the company not only has lost production and incurred the expense of training individuals who don’t need the training, they also have salespeople who resent being forced to take time out of selling to attend a session they shouldn’t be attending.
But the most serious problem of all is that those salespeople who shouldn’t be attending are not getting the training they do need. Most companies hold mass training sessions only a few times a year—often only once or twice. If the training offered fits the needs of an individual salesperson, great. If not, well, maybe next year we’ll have something for you.
Why is training a herd activity instead of geared toward the needs of specific individuals? Primarily because companies have not been able to determine who needs the training and who doesn’t. They haven’t had the ability to pinpoint the needs of individual salespeople and develop programs to address them on an individual basis.
Secondly, sales training has traditionally been sold as a herd activity. Many of the most popular training companies are designed to do mass training, not to work with individuals on a one-to-one or small group basis. Many training companies are guilty of encouraging training waste by selling their services based on the assumption that the company wants to maximize the use of training dollars so they encourage the company to have everyone participate whether they need it or not.
And thirdly, as mentioned above, the company seeks to ‘maximize’ their training dollars, so the whole herd is to attend to squeeze every dime’s worth of training out of the training company’s fee.
As the use of sales technology that gathers a great deal of data on the activities and behavior of individual salespeople increases, the way sales training is delivered and consumed by companies will change. Managers will be able to pinpoint the real needs of individual salespeople and to develop programs either through the training department or with outside training and coaching companies, to work with their salespeople one-on-one or in very small groups to address their specific needs and issues.
The company may still spend the same $10,000 or more, but instead of a single day mass training session on a single issue presented by a single company, those dollars will be used to address multiple issues, probably using multiple training vendors.
Some companies are using this model today and experiencing far greater benefits than they experienced through the mass cattle call training of the past. Their salespeople are performing at a higher level, managers no longer have entire sales forces out of the field at the same time, and companies are finally squeezing every dime’s worth of training out of their training dollars.
Yet, to be able to create highly targeted training, managers and companies must understand the needs of their sales team members far better than most do today. They must have real information that reveals the real underlying issues of individual team members. Sales metrics technology if used correctly can keep salespeople in the field selling, give salespeople the real help they need, while saving the company thousands of dollars due to lost sales and wasted training.