Sales training ROI: Don’t fall for these three myths

Don’t let these three myths become your sales training kryptonite, says Daniel Kuperman.

For the past 50 years, companies across the globe have used the same process of training for enhancing their employees’ knowledge and skills. Since then, the business world has undergone rapid transformations in business technology, operations and norms, yet corporate training remains the same.

While it’s comfortable to maintain consistency, it doesn’t help businesses and their employees achieve their short- and long-term goals—or revenue numbers.

Salespeople undergoing training experience this, too – with ‘traditional’ training leaving them over-trained yet underprepared, severely impacting their performance, close rates, and ultimately, your bottom line. For a salesforce to be truly effective and produce positive outcomes, the conversation must shift from sales training to sales enablement.

Consider a few common learning myths that prevent businesses from achieving a sustainable sales ROI.

Myth 1: People are bound to forget everything they learn, regardless of how they learn it

Developing a training strategy can be difficult, especially as information taught to sales reps during standard training sessions—such as lectures in classroom settings – doesn’t tend to ‘stick’ with employees. These types of trainings don’t engage learners in the room; people can’t retain information if they have no connection to it.

The science behind this phenomenon can be attributed to psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus’s forgetting curve theory. The problem is, it only scratches the surface of information retention. Specifically, the forgetting curve observes the rate of forgotten information meant to be memorised, like a series of letters in a random sequence. 

Linking learning with business outcomes is not easy and can only be done with the right approach and the right technology. 

These studies were not done with complex subjects meant to be truly learned, such as remembering best practices to sell a product or service, or handling objections.

Still, the forgetting curve is valid as a basic concept; adult learners are bound to forget any type of information over a certain amount of time—unless they are properly engaged and enabled.

Herein lies the opportunity for enabling sales teams; you cannot approach training with the intent of having reps memorise something like an Ebbinghaus experiment, but rather understand how they can apply it in their daily interactions with buyers.

Once you approach sales training in terms of completion rates and actual proficiency, it will change how you train and enable reps.

Technologies such as video role-play and other interactive exercises are great for this, as reps should be provided situations that reiterate to apply a certain knowledge and get feedback to help them improve. This is the type of learning experience that leaves the forgetting curve in the past.

If you expect them to memorise details in preparation for customer interactions, they will forget. However, if you restructure training content to be more perpetual and presented in an interactive way, then your chances of effective learning and information retention significantly increases.

Myth 2: Sales training cannot yield quantifiable results

In February 2018, LinkedIn published the results of their annual Workplace Learning & Development Report, which surveyed more than 4,000 professionals from around the world regarding the state of modern workplace learning.

Of particular note, the study found most training organisations use a combination of qualitative surveys, satisfaction scores and course completion as a way to measure training results.

The reason for this is simple – these results are easy to measure. The problem, however, is it continues to propagate the myth that training cannot be objectively quantified related to impact on business results, and in turn diminishes the reputation of training effectiveness in corporations.

As I’m sure many readers can attest, walking into a meeting with the sales leader and simply showing the high scores received on the latest training is not a strong justification of the need for additional training if the sales team is not achieving their quotas.


Linking learning with business outcomes is not easy and can only be done with the right approach and the right technology.

It starts with understanding how to connect the different learning activities with core competencies that need to be developed among the sales force, having a way to track employee engagement, certification and proficiency, as well as leveraging data from the CRM or sales system to tie back to the training programs.

This is already being done in organisations that have a forward-thinking mentality and are willing to collaborate with sales leaders in establishing a shared framework of competencies and definitions of sales performance metrics.

Myth 3: Adapt your sales training to different learning styles

Between the late 80s through 2014, the myth that there are different ‘learning styles’ – which states people are either auditory, reading, kinesthetic, visual learners – has snowballed… and been debunked multiple times. What has been proven is that people have certain preferences for how they like to learn, which changes with the types and context of subjects they are learning.

Trying to create a balanced training program doesn’t mean being able to cater to ‘visual learners’ or ‘auditory learners’ as some may have you believe, but rather involve a mix of content and activities that will engage and challenge learners.

Adult learning theory talks about how using experiential, transformational and self-directed learning can help tap into how adults absorb information the best. As such, the challenge lies in creating a learning environment that can immerse your learners and provide experiences that will help them learn better.

Some key questions to ask yourself as you begin to develop an enablement program for the sales team are:

  • What experiences is this group bringing with them that will impact the way they consume materials?
  • What are the preconceived notions we need to be aware of based on this group’s prior training sessions and their morale, performance and overall attitude to the topic?
  • What is the relevance of the training topic to their daily activities and personal and professional goals?

As simple as these questions may seem, they’re guaranteed to serve as a reality check and help re-imagine your strategy for how to engage your sales reps. Once you start aligning on the answers, more questions will surface related to next steps. That’s where the fun part truly starts.

Enabling a sales team to amplify their effectiveness is a daunting task, especially when considering the outdated approaches and ideologies to getting reps to truly absorb, retain and continuously utilise information pertinent to their success in sales.

With these myths and facts in mind, you’re on your way to creating an engaged culture of learning that can make a true impact on sales ROI.


About the author

Daniel Kuperman is director of product marketing at MindTickle




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