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Businesses, particularly in technically intensive industries like pharmaceuticals, may spend significant sums training sales people. Companies strive to improve sales effectiveness through ongoing sales coaching and mentoring, sharing of success stories and best practices, and key account and territory management. Yet measuring the sales that happen as a direct result of these initiatives isn’t as common as you might think.
Many sales trainers state with conviction that their training adds real value, but often these statements are based on casual observation or hunches rather than on measured data. To be confident that your sales training is producing a positive return on investment, adding value and making the most of your training investment, you have to measure outcomes against training expenditures. There are multiple ways to do this, and the right way for your organization to go about it may be unique to your organizational characteristics.

Key Tools for Measuring Sales Training Return on Investment

To effectively measure the return on investment for sales training requires the use of multiple tools, because simply measuring increased sales compared to spending on training won’t give you a detailed enough picture. To gather the information you really need to optimize your sales training program, you need to make pre- and post-training assessments, measure application of training content, measure retention of training content, and correlate sales revenue to training spending. Many businesses know that they should measure a number of parameters surrounding training and sales but may not get around to actually doing so.

Most Esteemed, Yet Least Used Sales Readiness Techniques

For example, sales managers largely believe that effectively communicating the value of particular products or services is important, and they take the time to measure that value in some way. But they also strongly believe that speaking with executives (or other decision-makers) and correctly assessing customer needs are essential to increasing sales. Creating measurable initiatives surrounding these concepts is not as common, however. The most frequently used measures of how much impact a training or sales readiness initiative has may include observations, testing, tracking of top performers, analytics, and customer feedback. Is your organization making the most of these measures?

You can't fix an employee attrition or performance problem by simply increasing the size of your deployment / support / training / mentoring / managing departments. That simply increases the financial spend in this area.

Greta Roberts, CEO and co-founderTalent Analytics Corp.

Competitive Positioning and Customer Success Stories

Competitive positioning statements and customer success stories are commonly used in sales readiness initiatives. But, popular as these are (with 93% and 90% of respondents to a Training Industry Inc. survey citing them, respectively), measuring the actual effect that competitive positioning and customer success stories have in producing results is far less frequent, with only 79% and 73% of those using these initiatives taking the time to measure the results of them. Yet training on company software and tools is measured by 91% of the responding organizations who use this type of training as a sales readiness initiative, possibly because this is easier to measure. As important as competency in software and tools is, is it really more important than competitive positioning statements and customer success stories?

Top Performers Tend to Have Excellent Training Outcomes Regardless of Training

Another vexing problem with measuring sales training outcomes is that frequently your top performers start out as top performers and continue to perform with excellence, regardless of your training programs. The other side of the coin is that other performers tend to start as they mean to go on, with average performers at the beginning of a training program continuing to be average performers afterward, and bottom performers continuing to be bottom performers afterward. Training may have a short-term impact on individual performance, but long-term business performance tends to remain consistent with initial performance regardless of training.

The key to overcoming this is being able to predict top performers and screen out bottom performers before you hire them. That’s obviously easier said than done. Finding those people who have it in their nature to excel before making a job offer is challenging, but predictive models are starting to develop ways to do this more accurately.

Pharma Sales Training ROI Requires Measurement, not Hunches

The bottom line is that measuring sales training return on investment requires actual measurement, and not just gut feelings or hunches. It’s the only way to learn which training dollars are being spent most wisely. That’s why it’s essential that sales trainers make use of the many resources available to them for keeping up with what types of training initiatives work and produce positive ROI.