Can you prove that a sales training program actually delivers on its promise of improvements in skills and knowledge?

I can.

As I have explained in previous editions of eCoach, my company, The Sales Board, has been using a validated instrument to reliably measure factors pertaining to Action Selling training since 1995. Those factors include how much knowledge a salesperson has about each of the five Critical Selling Skills that Action Selling teaches; how much that knowledge level improves after training; and how well the person is able to use the knowledge on the job.

That last point—measuring the application of skills and knowledge on the job—has always been the missing link in proving a direct connection between sales training and a subsequent increase in sales revenue.

Today, 21 years later, we have compiled 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. We have so much “big data” on the impact of sales training that we can report results not only for the whole “universe” of salespeople, but for salespeople within particular industries.

Let’s look at the professional-services industry, for instance. “Professional services” includes fields such as architecture, accounting, engineering, medicine, law, IT services, management consulting, and others. How do salespeople in the professional services industry compare to the broader universe in terms of the tangible benefits they gain from sales training?

How do salespeople in professional services compare to those in other industries?

For the most part, professional services tracks the universe pretty closely. A significant difference appears, however, in the degree to which professional-services salespeople improve their ability to apply skills after training. Looking at post-training application scores for all five of the critical sales skills combined, the universe shows an 86 percent gain; professional services shows an 89% gain.

The difference is most pronounced when we isolate Critical Sales Skill #3, Questioning/Listening. The best salespeople don’t just ask questions; they ask the best questions. These are the questions that allow them to develop a better understanding of the client’s situation and demonstrate their sincere interest in the client. Salespeople who do this best succeed most often at “selling themselves” — which is one reason why questioning is such a critical skill.

Here is training data for salespeople in professional services, vs. the universe in general, when we isolate the skill of Questioning/Listening…

Duane Sparks

About Duane Sparks

Duane Sparks is founder and chairman of The Sales Board, the authoritative source of practical and leading-edge information about the art and science of selling.  He has created Action Selling sales training products and learning systems that transform sales organizations.  Duane is author of these best-selling books: Action Selling, Selling Your Price, Questions (the Answer to Sales), Masters of Loyalty (How to turn your sales force into a loyalty force), and Sales Strategy from the Inside Out (How complex selling really works).

Discover how the best sales training process can make spectacular improvements in sales skills. Action Selling: How to Sell Like a Professional (Even If You Think You are One).