How Do You Know Your Sales Training Works? (Part 4) - Action Selling

How Do You Know Your Sales Training Works? (Part 4)

MAY 2016 – ISSUE 144

How Do You Know Your Sales Training Works? (Part 4)

web ecoach - How Do You Know Your Sales Training Works? (Part 4)


Dear Sales Executive:
How can you prove that a sales training program you delivered to your sales force is truly responsible for any performance improvements that show up later, back on the job? After all, increases in sales revenue or margins can be attributed to other factors that have nothing to do with sales training.

For that matter, what actually causes any given sales training program to succeed or fail in producing long-term performance improvement?

The sales-training industry has never been able to produce convincing data to answer such questions. But that is changing. This is the fourth in a series of eCoach editions that explain how “big data” has come to the sales training industry—and what that means for proving training’s value.

If you have a question about how to conduct sales training that can be evaluated in a genuinely meaningful way, click on “Ask The eCoach“.

We are committed to your professional success.

Duane Sparks
Author of Action Selling


“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:

  1. Buyer/Seller Relationship
  2. Sales Call Planning
  3. Questioning/Listening
  4. Presentation Skills
  5. 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:


  1. Blue bars indicate average assessment scores prior to training. Green bars indicate assessment scores upon certification.
  2. Two bars on the left indicate Knowledge measurement. Two bars on the right indicate Application measurement.
ps jpg 1024x576 - How Do You Know Your Sales Training Works? (Part 4)

Remarkable findings about this skill

  1. We expect salespeople to be great presenters. It was shocking to find that they apply only 37% of what they knew before training!
  2. This skill showed the biggest gap between Knowledge and Application (67 – 37 = 30 points).
  3. Training dramatically closed the gap to 8 points. That is a very good sign.
  4. At 111% Skill Gain, this was the most surprising skill-development opportunity turned up by our study.

Again, those are average results based on 400,000 salespeople from over 3,500 companies. With Action Selling training, skill gains by your own salespeople, in your individual company, can be measured with equal precision. That means you will never again have to guess about the degree to which training affected sales skills or business results. You will know. And you’ll be able to prove it.

In the next two eCoach editions in this series, I will show the average skill gains that our data demonstrates for the fifth critical skill, Gaining Commitment, and for all five Critical Sales Skills taken together.

For information about how to make sales training pay huge dividends, contact Action Selling at (800) 232-3485.

For a far more complete look at findings from The Sales Board’s 20-year sales-training evaluation project, see my current white paper, Big Data Reveals the Best Way to Develop Sales Talent.


If you’re looking for sales training, New Big Data reveals the right approach to designing sales training that produces maximum business results. Are you asking any of these Big Questions?

big data graphic 1 300x225 1 - How Do You Know Your Sales Training Works? (Part 4)