Forward on Reverse: Buy a Home in Reverse
Measuring sales trainingMichael J. Galanteassessment tools, sales, training, employees Lately, there has been a buzz in many training circles around what some people refer to as assessment tools. The premise behind this idea is that, in the short-term, such tools can help identify the specific skills in need of improvement; in the long-term, they can measure the overall effectiveness of your training program. Ultimately, the goal would be to determine the return on your training investment. Even though most quality sales organizations still believe in training their employees, many are trying to figure out how to justify the increasing costs and, at the same time, increase the value of their training programs without adding expense. I recognize the need for a good return on a training investment, and I believe that training programs will improve once my concept takes shape. However, as you will see, there are no current standards for these types of plans, and virtually no accurate means of measurement. My observation is that the term "assessment tools" means different things to different people. Any of the ones in use are defined quite loosely. Subsequently, the quality of and need for assessment tools will be primarily based upon the sophistication level of your existing training program. Questions to ponder At this point, it makes sense to pose a few questions that should also be considered: 1. What is a reasonable rate of return on my training investment (ROI)? 2. Can an assessment tool measure my ROI? 3. Can an assessment tool improve my ROI? 4. If I cannot or do not get the ROI I am looking for, should I still invest in training? Understanding assessment tools While no one can answer questions one and four for you-those are specific to you and need to be handled as such-I feel that an understanding of the concept of assessment tools, along with a working definition is key to figuring out your ROI. I have heard everything-from a simple list of required skills, to a full-blown measurement of pre- and post-training performance. Your definition will probably lie somewhere in the middle, depending on where your training program is right now. Personally, I believe that a true assessment tool, as it relates to sales training, is one that quantifies learning and provides a clear picture of where the employee is, both prior to and after training-an ongoing assessment of given criteria. How to measure? Let me first talk about the ultimate goal of any training seminar: A positive change in behavior. Trainees should conduct their business in an improved way after each session. The pyramid below demonstrates the steps necessary when evaluating the return on a training investment. It is one method for achieving a stronger ROI. ROI Measurable results Desired changes in behavior Specific skills and competencies Job description and responsibilities An illustration Suppose for a moment that you are the national sales manager of a 100-person sales force, and you suspect that your reps are not as effective at closing as you would like. After holding a closing skills workshop, you ask yourself, "Will my reps be any better?" This is a very valid question, and the way to evaluate the training would be to list the exact changes in behavior that you expect to see after the training takes place. For example, a suitable change in behavior would be a next-step item or a commitment to move the sale forward, at the conclusion of the meeting. Also, if you want to actually see results, examine the proposal-to-sales ratios, and the number of tests and trials. Based upon these quantified performance improvements and the changes in their behavior, you can determine if the ROI received matched the one you expected. What to measure? As previously stated, assessment tools will measure an employee's knowledge, skill set or performance, based upon set criteria. To me, the significant difference in the quality of the assessment tool is in the actual standards used for measurement. To be truly effective, I suggest using assessment tools that are completely objective. This means that you use concrete evidence in your assessment. Objective vs. subjective measurements Given the example above, let us say that, prior to the training, you decide to assess a particular rep's closing skills. First, you should evaluate their skills based upon both your observations and his sales performance. (Currently, the most common form of skill measurement is a simple discussion between employer and employee, based upon the topic at hand.) These are usually done in an informal manner, and are built on each person's perception of how proficient the employee is. A second, more meaningful way to measure the rep's ability would be to give them a written test on closing skills, and monitor his proposal-to-contract ratio for the next 90 days. A well-crafted test is an excellent way to measure an employee's ability. Job-based tests are similar to those in high school and college, and, though somewhat subjective, provide an unbiased method of measurement. The exact content of each test would be based upon the core competencies and skills required. In the work place, averages score of 85 percent or better seems to be the benchmark. A more objective measurement would be to quantify any changes in performance. I am sure that you already know which critical aspects of your sales arena to measure, but here are a few examples: *Sales revenue; *Profit margin; *Number of contracts sold; *Number of customer appointments; *Number of new customers; *Number of quotes/proposals; *Presentations to proposals ratio; and *Proposals to sales ratio. The bottom line In my estimation, assessment tools have tremendous value in the training arena and are quite applicable in the sales/training continuum. The trick to using them effectively is to choose the right one. The following are my suggestions for implementation: *Create formal job descriptions. *Completely define the necessary skills and competencies based on that description. *Determine how you will measure the changes in behavior you expect. *Have a clear understanding of your training goals and objectives. *Create each assessment tool based upon the specific skills and tangible outcomes you anticipate. *Be ready to commit the required resources. A quality assessment tool can identify weak skills and quantify learning. What you are striving for are obvious changes in behavior. These behavioral changes will undoubtedly produce a measurable result, improving the return on your training investment. Michael J. Galante is an internationally recognized expert on sales and sales management, and is a published author, speaker, training and results-oriented sales coach. For more information, call (631) 776-7690 or visit www.thesalescoach.com.