Companies are only dedicating 10% of their training activities in improving sales. Should this number increase? A recent report says yes.
The Case for Sales Training
According to the 2019 Learning and Development (L&D) Report from findcourses.com, of the 70 plus L&D professionals surveyed, only 10% reported sales as a top training priority. A whopping 57% of respondents reported leadership and management development as their primary training focus, with customer service, sales and communication rated far lower. The report found links between learning and innovative business practices, diversity & inclusion training and financial growth, and current financial growth with increasing L&D investment.
L&D training is a key facet of running a successful and growing business. But with sales training being overlooked in companies’ L&D plans, businesses are missing out on fostering their growth in the long term. On top of revenue growth, sales teams impact brand recognition, brand reputation, and building long-term customer relationships. By strategically increasing investment in L&D, you can maximize your potential for revenue growth, while cementing the sales team at the center of your business’ success.
With only 13% of salespeople producing over 87% of total sales in a typical organization, what L&D strategies will help more sellers become more effective? If you’re a new or struggling seller, practicing L&D professionals have identified some key training insights to boost sales and encourage innovation.
Invest Upfront, Reap the Rewards
Cost-based functions can always be vulnerable to budget cuts and L&D is no exception. But, home assistance provider HomeServe has proven that keeping L&D a budget priority produces results. Awards for Best L&D Team, Learning & Organizational Development and Leadership Development all went to HomeServe at the 2018 HR Distinction Awards. For HomeServe’s Director of Learning & Development Rebecca Edwards, it was an upfront investment in L&D that illustrated its long term impact. In response to findcourses.co.uk’s 2019 L&D survey, Edwards explained that “When times are tough, it’s easy to forget about training and development, the more you invest in it upfront the longer-term benefits will be.”
Nonetheless, not everyone has access to the right sales training within their organization. Looking outside company walls for guidance and external sales training providers will further your opportunities for growth while fostering a culture of innovation. “You can influence innovation when you’re living it,” finds the head of U.S. Learning & Talent Development at Bayer Karen Bicking. Partnering with external training providers opens the doors to innovative practices that transform your conception of L&D.
The Future is Now: Innovation and Virtual Reality
Technology continues to form the baseline of innovative L&D practice. Companies with revenue growth are more than twice as likely to use innovative technologies such as game-based learning and augmented reality in their L&D offerings.
Business Insider forecasts that VR software and hardware revenue will jump 587% in the next five years, from $800 million in 2018 to $5.5 billion by 2023. The pioneering technology can already be found in offices nationwide, from companies like JetBlue to the NFL. By harnessing the power of this exciting new technology, L&D professionals have the opportunity to complement existing sales training with something relatively rare, practice-as-learning in a safe environment.
With beginnings at Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, VR coaching company STRIVR’s Chief Strategy Officer Danny Belch has seen the impact of VR on L&D in real-time. “With VR, because of the on-demand nature, the real-life experience can be fired up at the click of a button … it’s not role-playing. You have this beautifully free space to practice, to stumble upon your words,” Belch observes. He finds that putting the information presented in training into a real-life scenario gives you the repetition needed to get it right.
Technology doesn’t replace quality training however, and Belch explains that while tech innovations like VR can be useful, they should always be complementary to existing L&D materials. “The companies that have jumped in usually have one champion who really believes in it – the forward thinkers who jump in while everyone else is waiting,” finds Belch. Companies with growing revenue are three times more likely to predict an increase in their L&D budget. By taking the plunge into innovation in collaboration with L&D professionals, you can maximize growth potential through sales training, and ignite a culture of innovation across your organization.
Staying Agile to Avoid Complacency
Technology can be a direct way to encourage innovation, but it is by no means the only way. Keeping your L&D program agile and personalized to your sales division will help new and struggling sellers adapt faster to the lightning-fast shifts any business may require. Findcourses.com’s 2019 report found that 19% of L&D teams are challenged by employee’s lack of time. Techniques for tailoring training to the present and future needs of your employees and your business like training on optimizing your sales team’s territories helps trainees personalize their learning experience. Personalization can make the L&D process more efficient for all involved, leaving more time for selling!
While these insights can all function as key ways to boost sales and encourage innovation, consistent evaluation and recalibration are the best ways to keep exceeding expectations. Tiffany Poppa, Director of Employee Experience at Bonobos explains that “Focusing on what’s right with people makes for an inclusive environment where people can openly express themselves, their ideas and even their challenges.” Cultivating a working environment and an agile L&D culture that encourages openness is the first step to inviting innovation to your office, and to keep it there.
If you are a new or struggling seller or have a burgeoning sales team ready to hit your market, investment in sales training L&D will provide the tools to maximize your sales team’s success. Making that upfront investment in L&D, looking outside your organization for inspiration, researching the latest trends in technology and innovation and keeping your training agile and personalized are all techniques practicing L&D professionals have found successful. Boosting sales training is no small feat, but the research shows that investment in L&D is by far the best place to start.
Max Maccarone is a content editor for the higher education portal educations.com and professional development search engine findcourses.com. Originally from Canada, Max relocated to Stockholm after graduating from York University in Toronto. As an avid traveler, Max is dedicated to creating diverse and engaging learning and development content for a wide range of publications.