What Did We Learn from 25,000 Sales Managers? (Part 3 of 3)
This is the final blog of our three-part series that shares results of a two-year, 25,000 sales manager research study done in conjunction with the Sales Management Association. In the firstblog, we demonstrated that when a company allocates more than 50 percent of its sales force training budget to sales managers, it generates 15 percent more revenue. In the second, we showed that training managers how to assess sales performance produces roughly 4X the return on investment that sales methodology training produces. In this blog, we’ll look at how to evaluate training programs and their topics for effectiveness, and then we’ll conclude with a summary of key takeaways from all three blogs.
Is that a Sales Rep or a Sales Management Topic?
To build a training program that will bring about our desired outcome (to help sales managersget more of their reps to quota), the first question to consider is whether the training topic relates to the sales manager’s or the salesperson’s role. In many instances, companies erroneously train their sales managers using repurposed sales rep content. A quote by the VP of Sales at a client of ours was both amusing and illuminating. He said:
“I’m sick and tired of seeing training companies masquerading salesperson training as sales management training.”
We agree with him. Buyer beware.
Does this Training Integrate with Existing Tools?
The next consideration is whether the training can connect to the sales processes, methodologies, and tools you already have in place. Will it integrate to further reinforce prior investments, or is it a replacement for something already deployed? This is a critically important question. Sales managers hate to learn something new, commit to using it fully, and then have it replaced by something else, over and over again. This is expensive, disruptive, and demotivating for sales managers.
Does Topic Content Link to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)?
There must be a demonstrable, direct link between training content and the metricsthat need to improve. In other words, there should be a link between training content and sales performance outcomes. It behooves companies to set aside the time to examine the data and make the correct linkages.
Is the Topic Too Complex?
Finally, what is the level of complexity of the training topic under consideration? Are the materials and tools overengineered? Will complexity be a barrier to implementation and execution on the job? Sales managers have limited time and tolerance for integrating new content into their jobs. If they have to wrestle too hard, they will revert to the status quo.
Many well-intentioned leaders have launched new initiatives with much fanfare only to have the initiative die a quick death. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking something has to be complex in order to be good. It is quite the opposite.
Here are the key takeaways from our research as reported in all three blogs:
- Sales managersare in the best position to reverse the trend of declining quota attainment. Yet, research findings show a disturbing disconnect between the training sales managers are most likely to receive and the impact of that training on sales performance.
- The most prevalent training topics taught have the lowest return on training investment, because they’re not relevant to the sales manager’s real job.
- Sales coachingwas deemed the most important topic for sales manager training; however, it ranked eighth in order of prevalence.
- Sales methodology training had the lowest return on investment of any outsourced training topic.
- Training on assessing sales performance, pipeline management, forecasting, planning and analysis, and technology had the highest impact on sales performance. These relevant topics generated between three and four times the performance gain compared to training on sales methodology.
- Measurement matters, and firms that measure the effectiveness of their training programs outperform those that don’t.
Sales manager training is an important part of the sales enablement picture. Sales managers are on the front lines every day, working to get their reps to quota to achieve revenue targets. Sales leaders with foresight will make sure their budgets include relevant, trackable sales manager training to push their companies to greater heights.
Michelle Vazzana is the CEO and a founding partner at Vantage Point Performance, a leading global sales management training and development firm. She is co-author of “Cracking the Sales Management Code: The Secrets to Measuringand Managing Sales Performance.” Vazzana is also author of the just released “Crushing Quota: Proven Sales Coaching Tactics for Breakthrough Performance.” Vazzana is a prolific researcher and speaker on the topic of sales management and leadership, having conducted extensive research on the topic of sales coaching practices.She has more than 32 years of successful sales and management experience.