Businesses spend more than $70 billion each year on sales training. That averages out to $1,459 per salesperson annually, which is 20 percent more than companies spend training any other kind of employee. However, studies also show that sales reps forget more than 80 percent of what they learn in training within 90 days. Does that mean training is a waste of time and money? Absolutely not! After you have left the training, there are a number of strategies you can use to keep those new skills top of mind.
One thing you should consider both during training and afterwards is the return on investment (ROI); how do you and your company stand to gain from this? Of course increasing sales volume and associated revenues is important to everyone involved. However, there is a lot more value than that to be gained through training. ROI comes from other benefits, such as reducing corporate risk—sales training should cover concerns such as regulatory compliance and liability as part of the sales process. ROI also comes in the form of happier, more productive salespeople who want to perform better and are less likely to seek another job. The goal of this type of training is to improve the overall performance of the sales machine. If you are a vital gear in that machine, you should continually assess where you can make a contribution and how you can turn what you have learned into the attainment of real-world sales objectives.
Here are several strategies that will help keep your sales training fresh and impactful:
Use what you’ve learned
This may seem obvious, but make a conscious effort to incorporate specific components of your training into your job as soon as possible. Make a list of some of the most useful lessons from your training and identify ways to apply them to improve your sales performance. Ideally, make specific action-oriented notes during the training that will remind you to apply what you are learning to specific prospects, customers, and projects. They say what you write down today is what you’re most likely to use tomorrow and beyond, so don’t sit passively through the training. Take notes and think about how the concepts you are learning can change your sales results immediately.
Create meaningful sales metrics
There is no reason that management should be the only ones to set sales goals. Set your own personal sales performance metrics, such as number of calls per day or meetings per month. Create personal goals that support your key performance indicators (KPIs). Also, develop your own analytics so you can track your progress over time and see where you can improve your performance. And by the way, sharing your pre- and post-training performance metrics with the managers who authorized the sales training will give them the confidence to continue offering these career development opportunities.
There’s nothing like healthy competition to serve as a motivator. Talk to your peers and see if you can get an internal competition going. Try making a friendly bet on specific sales goals with some of your coworkers.
Collaborate with your peers
Even when there is intra-departmental competition, you still work together as a sales team. Work with your teammates to hone your sales skills. For example, try role playing to address common objectives to improve your sales closing skills.
Don’t underrate the value of technology in increasing sales effectiveness. Make it a point to master the technological sales tools at your disposal, such as the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) system. Also, consider going mobile. Adding remote email and database access to your smartphone or tablet will help you stay in touch with customers. Make remote interactions part of your daily routine. Consider moving from paper-based meeting notes to the electronic variety, which are easier to archive, search and retrieve. There are also “hybrid” note-taking techniques with products like the Livescribe pen, which electronically records what you’re writing as you are writing it, and even converts it via Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to ease searches in the future.
Find a mentor
Approach a member of the senior management team and ask for guidance on how to improve your sales performance. This is a great way to keep lessons learned fresh, work with management to understand their thinking, and adjust your sales tactics at the same time.
Find a sales coach
Mentoring and coaching are two different functions, but if you can find a good sales coach, then your performance will improve. Research shows that the middle 60 percent of sales staff—the average performers—can improve their sales performance by as much as 19 percent with the help of sales coaching. Coaching doesn’t have to take a lot of time. There are many services, including ours, that offer coaching calls and online coaching sessions.
Enroll in sales classes
Training doesn’t have to just come from within your company. There are a number of independent services that offer their own sales training courses that are open to all professionals. See if your company is willing to pay for some personalized training.
Rather than waiting for an annual course, you should be embracing these and other strategies to keep the lessons from your training top-of-mind. Learning is an ongoing process, and embracing the right tools and techniques can help accelerate your career growth. Keep challenging yourself and keep your sales training fresh.
Find and subscribe to “drip-irrigation” sales training
The internet makes a plethora of daily and weekly sales blogs available at no cost to anyone with a smartphone or other internet-connected device. Some of these resources provide generic sales wisdom, while others are industry-specific. Taking the time to subscribe to a half-dozen sales blogs and reading them regularly will provide a steady diet of impactful and field-tested sales strategies and tactics to supplement the sales training that your company provides. As mobile learning becomes more commonplace, sales reps will be able to keep their skills sharp with easy-to-view lessons. Adding e-learning to your “drip-irrigation” sales training would certainly supercharge your results over time.