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8 Tips For Saving Money On Sales Training

Sales training is more important now than during any time I can remember.  I’ve written again and again about the right approach to training.  So long as you are following those guidelines, here are some tips to reduce the typical cost of sales training:

  1. Employ a blended-learning or distance-learning-only approach. Not every situation requires classroom training.  In fact, the trend among leading training companies is to move away from the standard instructor-led classroom training model.   Webinars, podcasts and conference calls, if part of a training strategy, can help keep costs down.  Some of the leading companies have very innovative and proven non-classroom sales training solutions.

  2. Consider weekend training.  If classroom training is called for, weekend training can help reduce airfare, the cost of conference rooms in hotels, and the “lost opportunity” cost of salespeople being out of their territories.

  3. Negotiate Fees.  If you’re serious about a strategic approach to training, vendors will appreciate that.  Some may be willing to work with you on fees for a long term commitment.  Note:  A number of vendors are having financial problems right now.  A number have scaled way back.  We expect several others to follow suit.  Make sure you understand the vendor’s financial viability to the extent that they will share it with you.

  4. Consider Train-the-Trainer. This approach works well for some companies but is absolutely the wrong thing for others.  If you have a trustworthy training partner, ask them to share the strengths and weaknesses of this approach for your situation.

  5. Don’t be cheap. Don’t go for the lowest cost company.  You get what you pay for.  And don’t negotiate a deal to the point the training company doesn’t make a fair profit.  You’ll both lose in the end.

  6. Don’t invest in training your company doesn’t need. Every training intervention should be preceded by a needs analysis.  What are your precise requirements?  Work with vendor in designing a curriculum to meet those and only those needs.

  7. Don’t skimp on learning reinforcement. Learning reinforcement is a critical component of your training investment, as is requirements definition.  Make sure you understand how your salespeople will be supported and coached so that real, measurable, and sustainable behavioral change will take place.  You won’t save money here, but you will increase your return on your investment if you take reinforcement seriously.

  8. Don’t assume bigger means better. Each of the big training companies is a perfect fit for some situations.  None of them are perfect for all situations.  Sometimes they are just to big to handle smaller, focused training interventions.  Or, if you run sales in a smaller company, a large vendor may not be appropriate.  ESR has found many smaller firms that deliver real value to their clients.  And they often come at a lower investment level.

(This list originated from an interview I did about buying sales training in Sales and Marketing Management magazine.)

Photo credit: © tasssd – Fotolia.com

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7 Responses

  1. These are really good suggestions.

    For me, the most important is the reinforcement of the learning. A lot of training budget is wasted on courses and solutions that do not support the sales person back in the workplace and after all, that’s where the real work starts!

    The sales person needs to be supported as they try out new methods and strategies.

    So make sure that whatever training provider you go with, that they offer this facility. The course/training is just the start of the process it’s not the end and if they just take your money and run and offer no ongoing support then you need to question their motives for doing so!

    Sean McPheat
    “The Sales Jedi – Master Of The Sales Force!”

  2. Sean and Dave, you have hit the nail on the head with your comments about supporting the sales people as they learn new stuff. This goes for “soft” skills as well as “hard” product training.

    Dave, I’d like to put exclamation points behind your points 4, 5, and 7!! The sales leader, in my opinion, is the key (and often missing) element to reinforcement. They often “send” the sales force to training, but don’t really appreciate the new behaviors because they have not learned them. Therefore have no abilities to reinforce the new behaviors.

    Thanks.

    J. Mark Walker, Integrity Solutions, LLC

  3. I also strongly agree with all of your comments about supporting the sales people as they go through the learning process. It is all well and good to provide people with training, but reinforcing what is learned leads to maintenance and sustainability of these skills. When an individual is trained properly, not only does the company benefit, but that individual has the skills and knowledge, both of which leads to feelings of competence. This, in turn, can act as a huge motivator, which leads to increased productivity. Thanks for sharing this information!

  4. Dave…great insight and perspective as always…here is my question…we are are a company with 12 locations across the U.S…with a sales force of 20 people…we want to start working with an outside/professional training firm sometime this year. There are obviously some great companies in the marketplace. How do we go about developing a scope of work/RFQ that would help us get to a to reasonable sized group of candidates that we could have further detailed conversations with. Understanding this is not a price issue, it is important that we find a partner that is able to grow and develop with us and help drive results. Any insight would be welcome.

  5. I agree with the previous points that reinforcement is the key. Too often the feeling is to send sales people to training to be “fixed”, but then they go back to the same old environment or they are not given a chance to practice, develop and grow skills. At best all the training itself will do is to develop the capability to perform in the partcipants. Actual performance and results occur when skills are executed on the job and management, along with your culture and infrastructure, must support reinforcement. No training works unless it’s used.

    Point 4 on Train the Trainer is a great way to put reinforcement options into your business. Not only can the trainer address the participant requirements, but can serve as a post session coach for participants AND managers to ensure the investment is used without added consulting costs. Internal resources, if available and properly used can reduce the cost to deploy and significantly impact the adoption and results desired.

    I also want to comment on point 6. Make sure you do the needs assessment (and include your customers if possible) and focus on building skills that will be used and will make a difference. Just because the brochure sounds great or you know someone that had great success with a specific program does not mean it will work for you. Training time and funds are too valuable to be used where the impact may be minimal. For example, many businesses know or have a finite set of customer (prospects) and improving general prospecting skills won’t impact the business, but focusing on how to deepen existing relationships would have far greater results.

    Finally one thing not mentioned is the idea many companies have that they can and must create their own training because they “are different”. They believe that can do it for less money than buying a methodology. The cost and time to build great training is a lot more that having a top sales person create some slides, and training design is probably not your core competency. Tools, role plays, learning design, tested methodologies, etc. are all part of the investment. Why reinvent the wheel, find a company that will help you address the specifics of your situation, and build your deployment on a proven process that fits your culture and your customers. Investing with the right partner is more cost effective (and usually lot faster) than building your own.

  6. I just stopped by your blog and thought I would say hello. I like your site design. Looking forward to reading more down the road.

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