“Big data” is not a term you hear in connection with sales training. The sales-training industry has never had a convincing, validated, data-driven methodology to evaluate the claims that suppliers make for their programs. Truth be told, sales training almost always has been a matter of rolling the dice and hoping for the best.

But no more. “Big data” now has come to the sales training party.

In 1995, my company, The Sales Board, formed a development team of software engineers and psychometricians to create a validated instrument that would reliably measure factors including these: How much knowledge a salesperson has about the selling skills that are critical to success; how much that knowledge level improves after training; and how well the person is able to use the knowledge on the job. That last piece—measuring the application of knowledge and skill on the job—provides the crucial evidentiary link between a training program and any subsequent improvement in critical business indicators, such as revenue gains.

For 20 years and counting, we have used this validated instrument to evaluate the impact of Action Selling ® training. We have collected data on 400,000 salespeople from more than 3,500 companies in a broad range of industries. Our SQL relational database contains about 78 million data points with a two-decade time span. In other words, we now have access to “big data” on the impact of sales training. And we have begun to mine that data.

Critical Skills Produce Business Results

Action Selling ® is built upon the research-proven fact that success in sales is most influenced by the degree to which salespeople master and use five Critical Selling Skills. Those skills are:

  • Buyer/Seller Relationship
  • Sales Call Planning
  • Questioning/Listening
  • Presentation Skills
  • Gaining Commitment

The data we have amassed over two decades allows us to look at each of those skills (and at all five together) and determine the average starting point for students, prior to training, in both knowledge and ability to apply the knowledge. We also can determine the levels that students reached upon certification in each skill. We then can calculate (in percentage terms) the skill gain that occurred, in both knowledge and application, as a direct result of sales training.

In previous editions of eCoach, we showed what those calculations look like for the first three Critical Selling Skills. The chart below shows results for the fourth, Presentation Skills…