“Big data” is a hot topic in the business world these days, but it isn’t a term you hear in connection with sales training. If there is one thing the sales-training industry has always lacked, it is a solid, validated, data-driven methodology to evaluate the claims that suppliers make for their programs.

Indeed, the industry’s motto ought to be, “Sales training: Long on promises, short on proof.”
That is about to change. Let me explain.

Beginning 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—goes a giant step beyond merely measuring what salespeople know.

This remains the only validated instrument for measuring those factors, and for 20 years we have used it 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. Digging into that gold mine yields some extremely reliable—and therefore valuable—information.