Every year, businesses spend billions of pounds on training and employee development, correctly recognising that skills shortages are one of their biggest challenges. Yet, despite the vast expenditure, research from the National Federation of Independent Businesses shows that skills shortages are the worst they have been since 2006.

What this shows is that, while it is important to address staff skill shortages, simply throwing money at the problem will not necessarily help. In actual fact, with the right approach to sales training, you can simultaneously improve your results and cut some of the costs associated with developing your sales team.

Think About Methods

When it comes to limiting the costs associated with training your sales staff and maximising the benefits, one of the most important considerations is the actual methods of training. Depending on what you are hoping to get out of training, different training methods are likely to be the most beneficial.

For example, instructor-led workshops allow experts to relay knowledge, but can be expensive and relatively poor when it comes to developing soft skills like communication, which are better developed by ‘doing’. Similarly, web-based training can be more affordable and extremely useful for developing product knowledge, but overall knowledge retention is a problem, with the Peak Performance Center estimating only around 10-20 percent retention rates.

This means that training methods need to be considered carefully, based on what you are looking for. Simply sending staff on off-site training courses every time may not provide the best value for money in the long run, but at the same time, the extra expense will be worthwhile in certain situations such as team building for instance.

Establish Objectives

Prior to sending sales reps on any sort of training course, it is important to establish what you actually want to get out of it. In addition, it is crucial to discuss how any behaviours learned on the course will be put into effect in real-life work situations, otherwise the training could be a waste of time.

“Your leadership team spends three days at an off-site meeting doing ‘team building’ exercises to build trust and improve communication,” says Anne Dranitsaris, writing for TrainingIndustry.com. “Back at the office, team members go back to their respective departments and behave the same way they did before… because there was no discussion about how new behaviours would be implemented.”

Too many businesses blindly accept that all training has value, when this is simply not the case. By establishing objectives, you can help trainers to know exactly what to aim for and help staff to know what they should be getting out of it. Once objectives are set, you must also discuss how lessons can be applied to the workplace.

Follow Up Coaching

Finally, research from Neil Rackham shows that, without adequate reinforcement activity, 87 percent of sales training content is forgotten by sales reps within 30 days. What this means is that only around 13 percent of the training being provided actually has any long term benefit for the employees undergoing the training. Worryingly, this means that 87p of every pound spent on training could have no long-term benefit whatsoever.

It is important to stress that this statistic does not mean that training your sales team is a waste of time; it means that training without reinforcement is. However, what makes the statistic more problematic is the fact that reinforcement activity is often over-looked. In fact, sales coaching is one of the single most frequently over-looked activities from sales leaders, who instead prioritise ‘managerial’ activities like compiling reports and forecasting.

Therefore, one of the best ways to ensure you get value for money is to prioritise sales coaching, insisting that sales leaders set aside time to regularly meet with reps and help them to put newly learned information into practice. By ensuring this reinforcement activity is carried out, you can save costs associated with repeating training.

To conclude, a long term, planned approach to sales training will help, not only to sae your business momey, but it will also help retian the best sales talents.The ‘2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study’ carried out by Miller Heiman’s research division, CSO Insights, showed that training services are the most important enablement service for salespeople (69.0%), followed by sales tools (60.8%), sales process improvements (51.9%), and sales onboarding services (51.3%).

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