“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.