Understanding the Business Impact of Training and Onboarding
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Every sales organization needs effective training and onboarding programs to educate and empower reps to succeed. Onboarding is necessary to create employee buy-in from day one and to introduce new team members to the goals and values of the business, while training is necessary to equip reps with the content, skills, and knowledge to achieve sales success.
While it is clear why these are important elements of a sales organization, it can be difficult to understand their impact on the sales cycle, especially since they cannot be measured with the same metrics as other sales activities. In order to make improvements and optimize sales training and onboarding programs, enablement teams must be strategic about how to measure and demonstrate their effectiveness within a sales organization.
Here is a look at how sales training and onboarding drive impact, and how to measure and demonstrate their effectiveness.
How Sales Training Drives Business Impact
It is important to understand what effective sales training looks like, since it is not the same all across the board, and looks different based on the circumstances. First, effective sales training means getting reps the right training at the right time, which is not always necessarily “now.” Second, effective sales training means getting training to reps based on how they need it. Since different reps take in different bits of information, training them should adapt to the best method to get them the information they need in the most digestible way.
Onboarding and training programs should be focused on delivering to the highest priority needs of the business to drive a positive impact. Engaging with reps early on can build the confidence to continually and consistently meet monthly or quarterly goals. Using role-play activities based on realistic scenarios is one way to build the confidence of sales reps to make sure they are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills.
Training is not just about preparing reps for the future; it should instead be seen as an ongoing need. As businesses undergo change, whether through product innovations, changing markets, or evolving conversations with buyers, reps should have the knowledge and confidence to be able to think on their feet in changing sales environments.
Challenges When Understanding the Impact of Sales Training
In assessing how sales training drives business impact, a common challenge practitioners face is understanding what comes after the training. In the short term, teams can examine whether newly trained reps are using the information consistently over time or if they are only utilizing it immediately after. For instance, if a sales organization adopts a new messaging change, the enablement team can look at whether or not reps are using the new language in the field. For the long term, they can look to revenue outcomes, such as if new messaging is being used to close deals.
Another issue that some organizations face is a lack of understanding of what sales enablement does across different stakeholder groups. Because enablement is such a broad term, it is critical for practitioners to clearly define their responsibilities when it comes to training and onboarding, including how it aims to influence sales goals as a result of these programs.
“Either a lot or a little can be placed in sales enablement,” said Ian Tolond, director of sales coaching at Akamai. “At the end of the day, there is a requirement to understand what the outcome of sales enablement training is going to be and have agreement across the board. Now that’s easier said than done, but without that, it becomes very fickle about whether sales enablement training has been effective and what the impact of that was over a short or long term. The way to overcome that is to deal with the root cause. You have to go back to your audiences, you have to work out what that outcome is going to be, and whose bucket does it fall into.”
Evolving Training and Onboarding
Like the business landscape as a whole, the overall structure of sales training is changing with the transition from in-person to virtual work. While there are many challenges around virtual learning, this pivot has shown sales enablement teams how to optimize their programs for a virtual audience.
One important lesson here is to keep presentations short and based on activities to keep the audience engaged. By being more proactive about what goes into live training programs conducted virtually, sales enablement teams can better deliver the information that is needed at the moment. It also helps acquaint them with the technology being used and allows them to build knowledge through different methods to reach different learners.
This pivot has also led sales enablement teams to optimize what is being taught in their training programs by aligning more closely with managers and stakeholders. Whether that means training a specific behavior the organization is trying to drive or clarifying a call to action, this ensures that reps are given the right knowledge at the right time. This alignment also offers vital feedback and communication through the organization, so that training is evolving to keep up with the needs of the business.
Another way that sales training is evolving is through scaling global teams. Since training courses for global teams need to be designed for different time zones, global training programs can utilize tactics like asynchronous learning and flipped classrooms, where participants complete readings or watch videos on their own time first and then engage in the material together.
After their training, it is also important that reps have something easily accessible to come back to. If reps have to sift through too much content, or if the answer they are looking for is too cumbersome or offers no incentive, then it will not land.
“Give thought to not only what you’re developing and the content that’s included in it, but also how it’s being delivered, where it lives, and how you get to it going forward,” said Tara Sheshka, sales training and incentives at Independence Blue Cross. “It doesn’t have to be a lot from a technology perspective. Sometimes, it’s just as simple as understanding where does your sales team live in their day to day, and is it somewhere that they can access it quickly?”
Demonstrating the Impact of Sales Training and Onboarding
In measuring the impact of training and onboarding, it is important to balance quantitative metrics with qualitative insights to derive a clear picture of enablement’s influence on sales performance.
Since the quantity of training and onboarding activities does not necessarily correlate with quality, sales enablement teams can dig deeper into activity metrics by pairing it with qualitative feedback examining how effective their programs are in contributing to defined outcomes.
“Focus on the metrics and the measures that resonate with the audience,” said Tolond. “We have these traditional training metrics associated with enablement and I think their day has come and passed, particularly with current circumstances. Drive your program based on that outcome. Start your programs based on the deficiency that you’ve all agreed on and finish the program based on them achieving it.”
In communicating and demonstrating this impact against core outcomes, sales enablement teams can create an “enablement scorecard” to drive team accountability, alignment, and transparency. This scorecard can include information like skill assessments, course completion rates, quiz scores, data on training attendance, customer satisfaction scores, annual contract values, and pipeline metrics.
On a monthly or quarterly basis, practitioners can update results against the defined goals for training and onboarding programs and send them out to stakeholders. Not only can this help stakeholders understand enablement’s impact with a visual representation, but it can also help practitioners identify opportunities for further refinement.
While sales training and onboarding play a major role in driving business impact, it is not always clear what their impact looks like. By balancing qualitative and quantitative metrics to measure and demonstrate the impact of training and onboarding programs, sales enablement teams can better emphasize the value they bring to their business and play a greater role in the sales organization’s success.