Sales Management 3 Comments

Why Training is More Important Than Any Other Employee Benefit

Jake Dunlap

September 11th, 2015

Sales Training is More Important than Any Employee Benefit

Why should we invest more in training than any other employee benefit?

After reading a report from SHRM a few weeks back on employee retention and engagement, the empirical evidence supports the trends that every VP has been witnessing over the last few years. The typical perks such as spiffs, catered lunches, stock incentives, office location, retention bonuses… aren’t actually helping to keep our people engaged and ultimately retained and happy.

However, there are two levers that have been effective in moving this needle: training and promotions. Although we only have so many promotions available, training is the most neglected lever that you can pull to maximize retention and increase their desire to stay with your company in years to come.

Why has training fallen by the wayside?

As a training organization ourselves and from our work with the leading B2B online training platform, Grovo, we have noticed several emerging trends.

1) Business Unit Involvement & Support: Nice to have or a waste of time when my people could be selling?

When we interact and work with large sales organizations, one of the most critical components to actual change and execution post training is executive buy-in and hands-on support from senior management to pull through key initiatives.  

This is extremely difficult to obtain as many old school leaders feel sales training is ineffective in particular because you have to “know our space”. While this is true to some extent because there are definitely nuances to every business that must be taken into account to increase effectiveness, there are also many techniques/processes/best practices that once adopted, are fairly universal.

If you are a VP of Sales at large sales organization who does consistently invest in training for your leaders and team, you are missing out on one of the key levers you can pull to keep your people happy and engaged.  

Most great senior leaders know this is the case but it’s easy to overlook as time spent away from selling is difficult to justify without quantifiable returns. It’s also difficult because training is broken even with the best implementation plan and buy-in. If the format or content are off too, the effectiveness dramatically decreases.

2) Format

With the average human attention span decreasing to 8 seconds, less than a goldfish, training has not kept up.

With the rise of smart phones and notifications even popping up on our watches, we know attention spans are decreasing. So why aren’t we modifying training programs accordingly? One reason is the perceived value in length of training with the mindset that more is better.

The huge format issue with longer programs is that we simply can’t absorb that much information in one sitting. This is fairly simple and easy to solve as we can break lessons down into smaller, bite-sized pieces similar to the micro-learning approach that Grovo promotes.

The other format issue is medium. People retain video/live information at a higher rate than text but a majority of training is PowerPoint or some other static format. Providing your team with not just training but a portal that can answer questions and keep them fresh on best practices, in video format, will greatly increase the success of implementation and the return on your investment.

3. Quality/Content

Even if we have the right format and plan for implementation, bad content is bad content… and boring content is still boring content.

We believe in training that is developed from leading practitioners, not trainers, and then adapted and delivered by experts in training. This ensures the content is on point and the delivery method is built for maximum retention. In order to develop the type of content that is high quality and relevant, it’s imperative that the content comes from the real world and not just theory.

How do we develop practitioner lead content for training to then adapt?

  1. Enlist the help of training to record key aspects of a process you want to train for.  Your people are performing their jobs everyday and if you aren’t capturing their output, you are missing out on valuable insights that the rest of the department could benefit from.
  1. Network. Find outsiders who are experts at these pieces of the puzzle who can codevelop trainings and best practices with you.  We invest heavily in outside experts to train our people on functional disciplines.  We have invested over 15% of an annual salary in one key employee who wanted to learn key digital skills to advance her career outside of her day to day. Why?  She’s worth it! Its a small price to pay to keep good people. An extra 5k is good but an investment in people is worth that and then some.

About the author

Jake Dunlap

Jake Dunlap is the CEO of Skaled (www.skaled.com), a company that works with early and growth stage startups to help them understand how to create a scalable sales strategy. Prior to Skaled, Jake was the VP of Sales for Glassdoor and saw them through incredible growth. He also led Sales and Customer Success at Chartbeat and grew them 300% year over year.

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