Does this scenario sound familiar? Your first round of budget planning for next year included all the items you know are necessary to grow your business: payroll, benefits, facilities, maintenance, production, supplies, and investments in technology, training, and tools. Unfortunately, they’ve come back to you with a note saying you have to trim. Now the battle begins, how do you decide what goes first?

Sadly, too often, one of the first cuts is training. After all, your people already know what they should be doing and training is a luxury, right?

That thinking, however, is exactly what will keep your team producing at the same level they are now. It will also give your competition the opportunity to move you out; reduce your profitability; make recruiting more challenging because new employees want to know you will help them succeed; and may even increase turnover.

Sales training is an invaluable tool needed to help keep your key resource, your sales reps, performing at top levels. That is why it’s important to know how to justify your investment in sales training and keep that line item!

How much should you spend on training?

The right amount of spend depends on your situation:

  • How many new hires need to be ramped up for success?
  • Are there new products to launch next year?
  • How well is your team currently performing?
  • What skill sets are necessary to smash the competition in the next year?
  • Are you adding new software and tools that they need to effectively put into practice?
  • Do you have a dedicated training department or does this rest solely on you?
  • What do you need for travel? Can you combine training in geographic areas with other events like a company meeting, trade shows, etc.?
  • How much time, energy, and expertise do you have to facilitate the training? Would an outside partner show better results?
  • With the skills you want strengthened or honed, do you need on-site or virtual options?
  • How much can you personally leverage the training sessions? Do you, or your sales managers/team leads, have the capacity to coach as much as is needed (Per the Bridge Group, ideal coaching is 4 hours per rep per month).

It is estimated companies, on average, spend $2-5,000 a year per sales rep for sales training. Depending on your situation, you may need even more.

How Do You Justify This “Expense?”

First, stop thinking of training as an expense because sales training is an investment. Sales training done correctly returns more than you spend giving you a positive ROI.

For example, one of our clients found a 123% return on their training investment from 2015. Another client found 106.8%. That’s better than a bank can do.

How then do you justify sales training? With data…subjective and objective.

  • The “smile test.” The easiest measurement. Do your reps feel good about their time spent in the training? You may think this isn’t necessary because the only return that matters is hard results. Not true. You need both financial results and “feel good” impact. Training that drives hard results but makes cranky sales reps is not a good payoff and will backfire eventually. Great training also incorporates activities that strengthen teamwork. More sales are made with a team these days.
  • Assessment of skills and mindset. Ensure your training has pre- and post-training measurement. Self-assessment of the reps identifies a baseline and allows them to see where they have strengthened specific skills and mental attributes. It’s a good measure of increased confidence, if nothing else.
  • Assessment of observable behaviors. Your managers, or others who “see the rep in action”, should also assess the reps on the same skills and mindsets. Their assessment is typically more true of any behavior change because they can see what is being put into practice. For example, we have managers assess their reps on the same skills and mindset as the rep does. They also complete the “post” assessment 6 weeks after the course ends. This allows time for observation and is a more true measurement of impact.
  • Track the “numbers” or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Good data measurement is more than closed sales. Closed sales are a lagging indicator of all the hard work prior to the closed sale. They are results that are realized because of the lead-in activities –the leading indicators.

Identify your leading indicators to measure:

  • Pipeline increases at the top of the funnel
  • Time in each stage of your sales process
  • Dollar size of deals
  • More proposals at the right time
  • Sale Process stage progression (more deals in later stages)
  • Gross margin on closed deals
  • Time spent on actual selling
  • Participation in the training sessions
  • Use of the tools introduced (software, planners, etc.)

Identify your lagging indicators:

  • Win rates
  • Sales increases
  • Market share
  • Increased wallet share from existing accounts

10 Tips for Sales Training that Sticks

Justifying the budget for training is key to the approval of your budget. But how do you then ensure the training will “stick” and provide a positive ROI?

Ensure your training includes these components:

  1. Clear goals are established at the front with baseline metrics
  2. Leader’s commitment to expectations and individual coaching
  3. Hands-on application, either in the sessions or post-sessions, with observation and report-backs
  4. Reinforcement sessions with the group and facilitator to discuss what is working and what is not along with time for questions
  5. Enough Time in and outside the “classroom”–good training builds skills and habits–plan for repeat exposure spaced in intervals to allow habit-building of the skills
  6. Applicability to the type of sales for your team (inside, field, strategic, consumer, team)
  7. Tools and job aids to reinforce application
  8. Self-assessment with goal setting and commitment
  9. Accountability
  10. Celebration – opportunities to pause, reflect, and celebrate “wins” to encourage ongoing use

The sales manager who can justify their training budget and is prepared to measure effectiveness also makes the time for their sales team to not only stay sharp, but to increase their productivity and effectiveness. Those increases are the winners in the short and long-term making good sales training a battle worth fighting for.

A Give Away!

One complaint I hear from sales teams over and over is that they are pushed for time, short on time, or/and time-starved.

My good friend, Jill Konrath, has just released her new book, More Sales, Less Time.

I’m giving away two free copies!

How can you enter? Comment on this blog post or on our Facebook page and tell me why you need more time! I’ll draw two lucky winners on Thursday.

If you don’t want to wait, head over to Amazon and get your own copy. I found many valuable tips in it and would like to hear yours!

4 Success Drivers You Need to Know...and Grow


How do you strengthen this "Will" among your sales associates? How does the lack of drive impact your daily life? I discussed this and so much more on a recent virtual training event you can access below. It's valuable information for any business leader who needs to maximize performance of their people to grow their company.

Click here to access the replay.