In last week’s post, we looked at a study by CSO Insights that identified four levels of sales training:

  1. Random — The company provides no training. It’s every salesperson for him- or herself.
  2. Informal — a company makes training available but doesn’t monitor or measure anything.
  3. Formal — the company provides training and reinforcement of skills.
  4. Dynamic — the company monitors how salespeople apply the skills they’ve learned, provides continuous feedback, and proactively adjusts the training process as needed.

The results
Of these four levels, the study found that dynamic training was correlated with more salespeople meeting quota. Sixty percent met quota with Level 1 training. The numbers went up a little for Levels 2 and 3, and rose to 72% for Level 4.

So let’s take a closer look at what a Level 4 sales training program involves. The researchers identified five key characteristics:

  • Sales Goals/Training Alignment: Training is directly aligned to the company’s sales goals. For example, if the firm is focused on winning new business, salespeople get trained on prospecting.
  • Training Customization: The training is adapted to reflect these goals. Some commercial sales-training programs promote a soup-to-nuts “system” that must be followed. Level 4 programs don’t try to adapt the company to such a system. They pick and choose, and adapt courses to their own business objectives. As a result, salespeople are better able to see the value and relevance of the training.
  • Focus on Selling Skills: Level 4 programs don’t ignore product training, but they recognize that the salesperson’s traditional role as product-explainer is no longer primary, since customers have independent access to much more information these days. So they focus on sales skills to create a competitive edge.
  • Manager/Rep Coaching Commitment: While salesepople get trained on skills, sales managers get trained on training. They learn how to reinforce these newly acquired skills through effective coaching.
  • Virtual Reinforcement Support: Level 4 programs use technology (that is, online training) to cost-effectively provide virtual reinforcement to salespeople and managers.

Objectives first
The bottom line: A Level 4 sales training program works the way all good business initiatives should: It starts with the company’s objectives, designs activities and systems that move those objectives forward, and follows up to make sure the program stays aligned and produces results.

If all of this sounds like more work for mother (i.e., the sales manager), it is. That’s why most companies don’t do it — only the ones who want to increase sales results by 20%.

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