While sales is undoubtedly the lifeblood of any organization, the thought of implementing a successful sales training program is enough to give even the strongest business leader pause. Many organizations invest heavily in sales training (Training Industry reports $300 billion is spent globally on training programs and activities, with $161 billion spent in the U.S. alone) -- but most continue to struggle with the intricacies of managing and developing productive sales talent across various age and experience levels.
There’s clearly a gap between perceived and actual ROI when it comes to sales training, with good money being spent on ineffective practices. Research shows that the annual sales kickoff -- even when supplemented with intermittent classroom training -- is no longer producing the desired results. In fact, the National Association of Sales Professionals found 84% of training content is likely to be forgotten within 30 days. Flying sales teams to company headquarters for a three-day firehose delivery of PowerPoint no longer suffices; reps need to acquire new knowledge, absorb it, and quickly recall high-impact refreshers at the exact time and place they need them. Which modern training strategies are reps and their managers looking using to improve sales training?
The Sales Management Association (SMA) and Allego examined the highest-ROI sales training methods and the training topics most important to reps and managers. The results of Salesperson Learning Preferences revealed the two groups don’t always agree on priorities.
The Importance of Sales Skills: Where Opinions Differ
Respondents ranked nine different selling skills development topics on priority and how effectively their firm teaches them. On average, both reps and their managers consider these skills important: Product knowledge, objection handling, customer buy-in, and solutions crafting.
But managers and reps aren’t necessarily aligned on the relative priority of these topics. For example, managers rated role playing with feedback as 38% higher in importance. Additionally, managers are more likely to consider a rep’s ability to communicate their company’s value proposition as important, while reps are more likely to prioritize tactical skills like presentation effectiveness.
Managers ranked their firm’s effectiveness in every training topic lower than their sales reps. This exemplifies the divide between reps and managers and suggests management takes a less favorable view of salesperson training effectiveness.
The survey results also revealed millennial sales reps value ongoing practice even more than the norm, their organizations don’t always provide it.
How Reps Want to Learn
Salespeople consider a greater portion of their overall learning to be self-directed, indicating managers may underestimate the degree to which salespeople seek out independent. In addition, reps and managers agree the most widely used training technique is salespeople sharing best practices among each other -- which was also rated the most effective.
Giving reps a way to share best practices and practice on their own time may make training more effective. Providing such a platform could also help reps and managers increase knowledge and skills development associated with self-directed and manager-directed learning objectives -- another key survey finding.
Because today’s workforce spends so much time on their phones, mobile sales learning platforms can unify traditional training approaches with modern learning preferences. However, only 10% of surveyed companies have fully implemented mobile-enabled training content. Without a process to that accommodates selling’s “on the go” nature, these valuable training practices aren’t feasible and don’t allow reps to learn independently.
The biggest takeaway from the survey: Both reps and managers want a way to share best practices and provide direct feedback on learning assignments. While 92% of respondents view best practice sharing as key to salesperson development, managers ranked best practice sharing as particularly important, with 73% citing high ROI from their peer learning investments. Technology, particularly in the form of mobile sales learning solutions, equips salespeople with instant access to situation-specific best practices right when reps need it. The result is accelerated onboarding, improved sales certification, and enhanced customer conversations.
A more in-depth look at the Salesperson Learning Preferences results can be found in the full survey report.