By Lisa Clark
The Holy Grail of training is to go beyond delivering information and assuring knowledge retention to realizing hard and fast business results. With sales training in particular, managers theoretically should be able to directly correlate training expenditures to added revenue per sales rep, district and region.
Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t happen that way. Business transformation leader Dr. Roy Pollock estimates that 80 percent of the link between training and active application on the job is lost.
In an era of mobile, social, gamification, simulation and the like, managers have wholly new ways to ensure learning transfer. The technology behind these approaches makes it possible to readily document what attendees know – and make that data available, discernible and actionable for sales managers.
Organizations can use this data to gauge how well participants are applying what they know to today’s more complex selling environment. Then, by applying predictive analytics, teams can connect the dots between metrics of sales rep capabilities – including engagement, performance and proficiency – to actual business results. This completes the circle from introducing information and new skills, to showing those skills are internalized and impacting desired business results.
Facilitating the three C’s with your training data – and directly involving sales management in the learning process allows you to close the loop to help manage the best possible outcomes for the business.
Especially in pharma, product managers are often promoted to the role of manager without direct sales supervisory experience. Coaching is the No. 1 most effective way to guide the sales rep, but often managers don’t know where to begin. Ride-alongs are time-consuming and can’t be readily performed everywhere. Data compiled from training initiatives at the individual level can be used to help sales managers identify highly targeted coaching opportunities, or reps who are excelling and therefore would require little if any of the manager’s time.
In the form of visual displays, it’s also possible to effectively provide the manager with a “dashboard” or “heat map” that highlights coaching opportunities by topic, district or regions. This can make knowledge gaps easy to spot and provide precision to the coaching and training process. Individual performances can be scored as strong, medium and weak, and managers can view this in addition to any other dimensions the organization wishes to tag along with post-training data – for example by product line, employee tenure, direct reporting relationship, even their previous employers. Managers can slice and dice this data for highly granular understanding of sales readiness, and proactive opportunities for improvement.
For example, such a view might alert the sales manager that instead of spending budget for the travel and expense to train the entire sales force, the manager might explore a more focused program for a specific region. Or, the sales manager might spot that all the hires from a particular referral source learn faster and are more proficient – information that’s invaluable to the hiring process.
Correlation to Sales Performance
The classic sales management challenge is that revenue performance is implicitly a rear-view assessment of the business, and the manager has little ability to peer into what might be the likelihood of future sales success. Yet when metrics of sales rep understanding are matched to revenue data, the power of post-training data becomes highly demonstrable. Imagine a sales manager who is can see at a glance that reps who are underperforming are also struggling to understand new indications of a particular drug. Managers can apply a fix in the form of coaching or suggested coursework – helping turn average sales reps into rock stars.
Conversely, managers can also explore the characteristics of their district or regional successes, and gain insight into other actions the management team can take to grow the business, such as combining teams to leverage strengths across territories.
It’s a fact. More confident sales reps sell better, but sales managers know that sometimes the most confident reps may not be those with the greatest subject domain mastery – and in a highly competitive and regulated industry, that’s a potential issue. Scoring sales rep confidence so that managers can identify sales reps who answer questions incorrectly with high confidence, versus a sales rep who truly knows their domain yet lacks confidence. Armed with a more precise understanding of what the sales rep knows, sales managers are better equipped to apply the appropriate remediation – either extra courses, or personal coaching.
If data is the new oil, predictive data analytics is the new oil well, and it’s time we tap it. Applying simple analytics to the data gathered from our training efforts can deliver proactive insights for sales management that not only involve them in the learning process, but positively impact the bottom line.
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Lisa Clark is Vice President of Marketing at Qstream. She has 20 years of experience building high-value software companies, brands and market share, including at Avid Technology and Centra Software. Email Lisa at email@example.com.