As a sales pro, have you ever sat through a training program and felt like you didn’t learn anything? I’ve been there! In the past, I’ve been in training sessions where the entire sales team was in a boardroom-style setting for two to three days in a row, being lectured to by an instructor who went through the information point after point after point.
These training sessions used traditional styles of training, such as lecturing or individual reading. But these can be grueling! They’re also ineffective in terms of students retaining the information.
Traditional styles of training are ineffective because:
It’s very difficult to retain information. When there’s so much information being thrown at you, your brain reaches saturation point.
While the training is happening, your sales team is out of the market. Some of these training sessions take an entire business week and your sales team is not out in the market reaching out to clients or even practising any of these techniques during the two- to five-day training programs.
So you’ve got a style of learning that’s very ineffective and have the disadvantage of not keeping your sales engine moving during training. By not adding more opportunities to the pipeline, it becomes stagnant.
What’s the solution?
As you can see in the cone of learning image, as more activity and interaction takes place, there is more and more retention of information. So an effective training program uses a blended learning approach.
What is blended learning?
We use the blended learning approach for Sales for Life’s Social Selling Mastery program. It incorporates both synchronous and asynchronous learning.
Synchronous learning is where individuals participate in live instruction by way of webinar or a one-hour class. Rather than a lecture, where the professor is speaking for an hour without reiteration or activity, it is instead, a live, interactive session that focuses on examples and exercises, related cases, and Q & A.
So it’s a dynamic, live training session that’s hands-on and allows individuals to retain much more information. As you see in the cone of learning, when you have audio/visual, demonstration, discussion, and practice by doing, and ultimately teaching others, your retention goes up exponentially.
Asynchronous learning is where participants are provided resources such as e-books, blog posts, videos, practice quizzes, and small assignments to test retention and help adoption of these practices in a sales professional’s day-to-day life.
It’s one thing to learn something, but it’s another to use it, and when you use it, it’s more likely to stick and become routine.
Evaluating training programs
Now that you know the challenges of traditional learning and the benefits of blended learning, how do you evaluate a training program effectively so you can determine if your investment is worthwhile?
The Kirkpatrick Model breaks down four levels of evaluation. Somewhat controversially, a fifth level has been added.
Level 1: Satisfaction. The first level is all about satisfaction. Did the participants like the program? Did they have a good learning experience? Reaction can be measured by an end of course survey. This makes it easy to gauge if someone liked the program and had a good experience.
Level 2: Learning. The second level is all about the learning aspect of the training. Did they learn the information and retain the information? Learning can be assessed by practice quizzes, assignments, and a final test such as a certification or final assessment to test the retention of the information by participants of the program.
The first two levels are nice to have, but ultimately won’t drive real change. The last two to three levels are where you can really understand if a program was worthwhile.
Level 3: Impact. The third level is about application and behavioral change. It’s great if participants liked the program, but are they actually using it in their day-to-day activities? Are the participants now using social selling strategies and tactics in their day-to-day activities?
You can measure behavioral change through leading indicators such as:
LinkedIn SSI scores,
Number of connections on LinkedIn, Twitter, or other social sharing networks,
How much they were sharing before and after the training.
Level 4: Results. The fourth level is about results. Did the program have a positive impact? Again, this can be measured by the indicators. Take a look at the difference between meetings booked by sales pros before and after the program. Look at whether pipeline growth has increased in value. Look at the return on investment of marketing assets. Evaluate the number of qualified leads that have come into the pipeline as a result of marketing content before and after the training. Now, is the average piece of content generating more leads into the pipeline? By getting the team to share content, it’s increasing the visibility of the post and creating more opportunities for leads to be driven into the pipeline.
Level 5: Return on Investment. The fifth level is about ROI. This level is controversial. Some people want to combine this with Level 4, and others think it’s important enough to be its own level of evaluation. In either case, this it boils down to revenue generated. What were the deal sizes prior to training, what were the earnings in a quarter, and have these numbers increased within a reasonable timeline?
You may not see immediate results—it may take 6 to 12 months, depending on the length of the sales cycle and how long the average deal takes to close. But over 6 to 12 months, you should find out if a program has a positive impact on revenue. This is typically done in a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system.
In summary, blended learning is the most effective learning model. And through Kirkpatrick Model, you’ll be able to evaluate the effectiveness of a sales training program.