Developing Outcomes-Based Training

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Training looks a little different at every organization. But regardless of the subject matter, the overarching purpose of training for sales reps holds steady – improving proficiency to ultimately drive consistent high performance.

However, many traditional training programs struggle to effectively transfer information in the classroom to outcomes in the field. When training only focuses on providing content to reps, but does not help reps apply that within their workflows, training programs can potentially miss out on turning knowledge into action among reps.

“Our approach to learning is broken in the sense that instead of saying, ‘how do we get this outcome we need,’ we focus on ‘what training do I need to create,’” said Josh Penzell, senior director of product management at Skillsoft.

By shifting the focus of training from information to behaviors, enablement can develop outcomes-based training in alignment with the core competencies needed to achieve desired results. In doing so, sales enablement can ensure that they are instilling and reinforcing the right skills in their reps to lead to behavior change in the field.

“We have people who are natural learners, we have people who can get the information they need, and we should be focusing on outcomes,” said Penzell. “Learning is not the key…the key is doing something.”

Below, learn three ways that enablement can begin to develop outcome-based training programs.

Identify Learning Needs to Define Outcomes

Before enablement can know where to go, it must take inventory of where reps currently are. By assessing the behavioral competencies that are currently leading to success and how those competencies are showing up among reps in how they work on a day-to-day basis, enablement can identify gaps and define concrete outcomes to pursue through training.

“The job of [enablement] professionals is to get you as the employee or the learner to be able to do something effectively and honestly,” said Penzell. “We often think about the learning professionals as performers, but that’s not right…The performers are the employees.”

These insights can be gathered and tracked in a few ways, such as the below:

  • Administer Surveys: Gather sentiments and observations about the behaviors that lead to success or the gaps that reps experience by conducting surveys of the reps themselves as well as frontline managers. Adding in the layer of management can help reveal blindspots that reps might have based on trends they see across high, low, and middle-performing reps.
  • Analyze Metrics: Using technology, such as a sales enablement platform, CRM, or learning management system, enablement can consistently track training data and correlate it with performance metrics to understand how training impacts results.
  • Solicit Feedback: Invite reps to share more candid ideas and thoughts about the experiences they have in the field. This can help enablement to dig deeper into sentiments shared in surveys and ask follow-up questions to fully understand the current experiences and opportunities.

It is important for enablement professionals to understand where the behavioral gaps are in order to provide the most effective outcomes-based programs. It is also critical to observe skills and dive deeper into feedback in order to understand what types of training practices work to optimally train the team. By understanding these learning needs, enablement professionals can better scale these desired behaviors across the entire team.

“It’s great if you complete a module, curriculum, or assessment,” said Jenn Haskell, director of sales enablement and training at Nasuni. “But what I really want to know is, out of what you learned, can you put this into practice?”

Set Up Frontline Managers for Success

Frontline managers help lead the way for rep success through day-to-day performance management and coaching reps for optimal performance. To develop an effective outcomes-based training program, it is important for sales enablement to support frontline managers in reinforcing the behaviors that training instills through coaching.

“Make [managers] in charge of making sure these people are going to be successful,” said Penzell. “The key to everything we’re talking about is up-leveling your coaches and your managers to enable them to do the coaching and the training.”

Aligning with frontline managers on the behaviors that need to be reinforced in reps can help the managers better understand the purpose of training in leading to the performance outcomes that they want to see. For example, creating coaching playbooks can help guide managers through what great coaching looks like. By walking frontline managers through an outline of coaching techniques and scenarios to practice to drive specific outcomes, enablement can increase consistency in the quality of coaching that reps receive.

By enabling frontline managers to be effective coaches, sales enablement can foster the right skills and behaviors in reps to further reinforce desired training outcomes on an ongoing basis.

Utilize Metrics to Correlate Outcomes With Impact

To determine the effectiveness of outcomes-based training, it’s important to not only track whether those outcomes manifest but also if those outcomes impact overall sales performance. This requires enablement to begin with the end in mind.

By identifying a strategic business objective that executive leaders are prioritizing, and then working backward to define a metric that can influence that objective and designing training to move the needle against it, enablement can ensure that training is intrinsically tied to outcomes that matter to the business.

“By shifting the finish line, you’re already thinking about the metrics that you can inflate,” said Marcela Piñeros, head of sales enablement at Stripe. “You also want to be able to track the lead indicators that show that you’re trending in the right direction.”

Consistently tracking performance data to then compare against behavior change in reps shows if programs are actually driving the right behaviors that make a difference in the organization. At the same time, this can help enablement to solidify stakeholder support and buy-in for training programs.

By correlating training outcomes to the business initiatives that leaders care most about, enablement can more easily communicate value in language that leaders are already familiar with. This can help drive top-down support for training, helping to persuade frontline manager involvement and rep engagement in training initiatives.

Training just for the sake of training leads to diminished participant engagement and lackluster results. By instead focusing on purposeful training that is deliberately designed to influence specific outcomes, enablement can help improve performance against key initiatives that matter most to business leaders.

“I think we just really need to stop thinking about things as information,” said Penzell, “It’s just natural. No one learned how to ride a bike through a PowerPoint or a book. You got up on a bike and you started pedaling and you fell down.”

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