Guest Blog Post by Gregory LaMothe, President of Action Systems Training

Greg Lamothe

 

Many years ago I worked for a sales training consulting firm, and like all such firms we had a number of “shelf” programs for Business, Commercial and Corporate Banking. At the end of every session, I dutifully asked the learners what they would commit to taking from the program to use on the job. I naively expected to hear some dedicated, serious commitments.

But without fail, the learners would say, “I liked the part where you talked about how important it is to send an agenda before a sales call,” or “I enjoyed the discussion about overcoming objections on the telephone.” No one ever said, “Starting tomorrow I’m going to ask the Six Killer Questions we practiced yesterday.” It was always, “Here’s what I liked,” and never “Here’s what I’m going to do.”

Try this yourself if you’re a trainer and you’ll see it always holds true. Does it surprise you that people don’t volunteer to change behavior following training?

Now let’s talk about your investment in training your team. It’s considerable and you should worry about it. Here’s why. If you hire a company to train your people, you’ll have to pay for their services and expenses, but that’s just part of it. There are other costs too, including the opportunity cost for taking salespeople off the line for a period of time to train them, as they could be out selling instead. So mostly for these two reasons, the training must result in improved sales performance. That’s your ROI.

What can you do as the sales manager to ensure you get the desired return? Let’s consult the great psychologist and educator, Robert M. Gagne, whose 1965 book, “The Conditions of Learning” included his set of 9 steps called the “Events of Instruction.” Gagne solidified the instructional design process to ensure that instruction would work. Of the 9 events, the last one may be the most significant: enhance retention and provide for transfer of learning to the job.

So as we saw above, the learners won’t commit to changing behavior, and the training consultant is headed for the airport. Whose job is it to ensure the transfer? Why, it’s yours! Consider the person who is out of shape or overweight and goes to the doctor about it, only to be told he will now have to diet and exercise. You’re the one responsible for ensuring that your people use the program skills when they get back to the job, and recouping your investment.

So here’s the question you must ask the training consultant: “How will you help me ensure that my team uses the content from your program when they return to work?” If the training firm doesn’t introduce the issue themselves, or has no ideas on learning transfer, don’t hire them. Period.

You will want to explore a number of proven transfer approaches, including at the least:

· Coaching before training—Discuss current performance, followed by overviewing the training content, and then agreeing on “What you expect to take away from the program in order to enhance performance”

· Coaching after training—“What did you learn and what can I expect to see you do differently

· Learning contracts—Formalized agreements on changed behavior. The manager has the sales team member make specific written commitments.

· Joint calling—Observe and coach the performer

· Tools and job aids to provide evidence the new methods were employed

· Reinforcement of the training through skill practice and review at sales meetings

You can triple the ROI from your sales training investment if you focus on the critical step of learning transfer. Never assume others will do it for you.

You can reach Gregory LaMothe by going to his website: www.actionsystemstraining.com

or visiting his blog at: www.actionsystems.wordpress.com