Companies in the United States invest $20 billion a year on sales training programs. Yet many believe they are not getting an acceptable ROI. Expenses include travel, meeting production, meals and activities, not to mention time out of the field for all employees involved. That is a big commitment of a company’s resources. Considering that only 50% of the learning content is retained after 5 weeks and as little as 16% is retained after 90 days, you may ask “Why do it at all?”
Maybe the issue lies in that the expectations for these training programs are off target? Of course most managers will tell you that sales training should lead to higher and more profitable sales. And, yes, that is true. But there is something different that can be gained from live training programs that will ultimately payoff in improved results. Let me take you back a few weeks to explain.
Recently, Dade Paper hosted a training program for a group of our new sales consultants. We brought them in from various regions of the country and spent 4 days presenting a great deal of information. The agenda was aggressive. But while we had them as a captive audience, we wanted to cover as much subject matter as possible. All of the information was important from company history to standard operating procedures, to sales programs, etc. It would have been hard to edit the agenda and leave material out.
By the third day, I started to feel like we had pushed the limit of what could be absorbed in a one week. The attendees were looking a little shell-shocked and our team of presenters was drinking a lot of coffee. Those aforementioned learning retention statistics were looming in my brain. We loaded up USB drives with all of the material presented including slide decks, PDFs, templates, and even a glossary of Dade Paper-isms. If the attendees could refer back to the material as needed, that would help mitigate the information overload.
On the last day we surveyed the attendees for their feedback. It was while reading their comments that the true ROI became apparent. What this group took home was not just information gleaned from series of presentations and a UBS drive in their pocket. It was a sense of belonging and the understanding that our company is invested in their personal success and professional development. In the days that followed, we received additional emails and hand-written notes thanking us for the experience. The value was in the human connections made, the motivation sparked, the engagement with our company’s culture and the expansion of our dedicated team.
The attendees may not remember all of the company statistics, processes or sales materials we presented. But I am fairly certain they will remember how they felt about having a place in our family and being a valued member of our team.