As you drive toward revenue goals, sales training is one of the tools that helps to reinforce the right behaviors, enabling reps with the tools needed to win in the marketplace.
Putting a training plan in place has significant upfront costs: First, you need to hire people to deploy and design a program. Then, it needs to be built. Finally, it needs to organized in a repeatable, scalable way so that it can be delivered.
Yet, the classic two week training program has often rightfully earned a stigma, as depicted by GE Capital’s Mike Kunkle:
“Usually it's a content dump. No interaction, often not new content or content proven to make a difference, no real learning occurs, there's no skill practice, no coaching and feedback loop, and no transfer strategy to bridge it back to the real world. And therefore, of course, no ROI.”
Training programs are not easy to start in a short period of time, and may even require a new hiring cycle to pass before fully effective. The significant costs are also mostly up front: new messaging, professional programming from groups like CEB, Corporate Visions, and Force Management, or even just the cost of hiring a trainer.
Without a deeper time investment, including a focused, progressive curriculum and a proper schedule, getting an ROI on training is an uphill battle. Still, when organizations face revenue goals and higher targets, a common reaction may be to increase the time spent selling, at the expense of training. Regardless, the money is already spent.
With the upfront investment already made in training, ensuring the program persists throughout the year remains the best investment. By delivering a truncated training program, three key measures of your organizations success are negatively impacted: the principle sales metrics, the costs of turnover, and the long-term loss of revenue and quota attainment.
Impact on Sales Metrics
Sales leaders are trying to impact a host of metrics, like speeding time to productivity for new hires and new products, reducing attrition, and increasing win rates. Engineering to these goals requires focus and guidance on behalf of sales leadership.
When a training program ends abruptly, reaching the full potential of the program in any reasonable timeframe is virtually impossible. Tracking to higher revenue targets requires continual improvement in your sales organization, but without robust, progressive training, you have few means of reaching these targets – other than simply hiring more reps, which works…until it doesn’t. The upfront training costs are already paid, and you have little to no real improvement to show for it.
By creating a robust training program that extends beyond onboarding and past three months, you give yourself the chance to realize a full ROI against the metrics you’re tracking. Training programs require time to mature.
Increase in Rep Turnover
The costs associated with hiring, training, and firing a rep can be astronomical, and may not even be clear to your organization. Yet, these costs skyrocket at scale and weigh heavily on budget projections.
While your mileage may vary, CEB estimates the average annual cost of training a rep to be approximately $3,400. Many sales organizations run a simple payback equation to see how long it takes for a rep to become financially profitable for the company, taking into account salary, other expenses, and training.
When you suspend or shorten training, attrition increases as reps fail to get better and never develop the necessary skills to reach higher performance levels. Losing these reps means losing your training investment into their performance, but more importantly, losing the entire value of that training investment each time.
At average spends, you not only have to estimate a loss of a $3,400 training investment, but also the lost productivity of a reduced salesforce and the costs of recruiting and training a replacement rep. These costs grow exponentially too – the higher the attrition, the faster the costs pile up. Losing a rep is probably more expensive than you realize, and without an ongoing training program, keeping attrition rates manageable becomes a full-time exercise rather than a predictable process.
Forecasting revenue can be difficult with an inadequate training program. Not only do you have to guess at the change in revenue gained from too-short training, but you also have to factor in the potential loss in revenue brought on by undertrained reps failing to hit the number. Both issues stem from the same core problem, and their effects can impact your budget and your job.
When the training investment does not meet the needs of your reps, there is a direct correlation with your revenue output. A training program that ends without continued improvement or leaves reps more or less on their own after two weeks can result in reps reverting back to older, suboptimal habits.
Extending training in some sense throughout the year ensures that, at the most basic level, new concepts remain sharp and familiar, making it more likely that reps will not only recall them on sales calls, but also use them correctly. Additional time working on the craft of selling reinforces the right concepts, while ensuring you have the ability to shift behaviors in your organization. A sales leader’s job is part change management, and managers that lose sight of this end up with teams that don’t improve. If your reps get better, they stay longer and they perform better.