Sales Training: Investing in the Retention of Your Sales Staff

Employee RetentionCan you turn your training participants into learning magnets who can’t wait to attend their next training opportunity?  Absolutely.  Can you expect improved work performance as a result of the time, energy, and money you invest in training?  Absolutely.  What participants do during the training session makes all the difference.  Use these eleven ideas to address training performance.

Find a guide, not a sage

The ability to train others is one of the most important indicators of training retention.  Participants react more favorably to trainers who have experience in their field and can address the issues they experience in the workplace.  The more closely the instructor can link the training to participants’ real life experience, the better the application of the information on the job will be.

Provide a consistent message

Classes that build on each other and reinforce content learned in earlier sessions, will also draw on parallels and reinforce learning.  When there is no interconnection between training sessions and the information provided in the training sessions, organizations lose a great opportunity to reinforce basic shared skills, approaches, and values.

Get Management involvement

When participants see their manager partaking in training, they become more enthusiastic about trying out the ideas learned in training.  This is especially effective if participants see their manager trying out new skills as well.  This type of training reinforces the concept of team and working together as a team.

Provide training in “chunks”

People learn more when lessons are broken up into chunks, small amounts of content, based on a couple of well-defined objectives.  When you break up a four-hour training program into two sessions a few days apart, you give participants the opportunity to practice the concepts in between sessions.  Both the content of the training and the application of the concepts are reinforced.  It also allows people to discuss their successes and difficulties in applying the training in their actual job.

Train skills that are immediately applicable

“Use it or lose it,” is a true statement.  When training strategic skills, set up situations in which practice is immediate and frequent, to help participants retain the training.

Set expectations and objectives

Participants need to know what is expected of them during training.  Also keep your objectives realistic and well communicated.  Participants also want to know “what’s in it for me.”   Give the WIIFM to participants and you will gain their wholehearted participation.

Practice active learning with a variety of learning styles

Recognize that a range of activities and information applications will appeal to participants’ varied learning styles.  Use real life examples, analogies, case studies, small group discussion, presentation, and experiential exercises.  Provide visual support materials such as videos and infographics for people who learn visually.  For your hands-on crowd, ask participants to provide examples of the concept from their experience.  By keeping the training varied, exciting and stimulating, you help people retain the content.  By appealing to the variety of learning styles in your group, you enhance participant learning.  Examples and application exercises ensure people can connect new material to their current practice and what they already believe.  This, in turn, ensures transfer and application on the job.

Engage in action tasks

Provide easy ways for participants to take notes; periodically ask participants to jot down application ideas.  Ask them to share these ideas in a small group.  Ask people to underline the most important concept on a page; circle the ideas that most apply to their circumstances.  Request that participants identify how their supervisor can help them apply the training.  Make action planning an ongoing activity during the session.

Provide reference materials and job aids

Include participant input into the materials, making participants more likely to use the documents.  As follow-up to the training, give these collectively produced job aids to those who attended the training.  These documents can also be added to new employee handbooks, if appropriate.

Address real life scenarios and roadblocks

Too often, training professionals don’t prepare participants for the real world in which they will attempt to use what they learned.  Trainers should work on performance barriers in the domain they can control, their classrooms.  Trainers can also discuss with participants and management, possible objections and best practice responses.

Create accountability

Assign or self-select training partners.  Not only does having a training partner in the training session increase involvement, but once training is over they help to reinforce the training materials and skill sets presented.  Training partners should be encouraged to follow up with each other to compare notes and assist with application challenges.
The Manus Group Stephanie YoungAbout the Author

Stephanie Young is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for The Manus Group, where she is an active blogger, social media contributor and spokesperson for one of the nation’s leading automotive recruiting and training firms. Stephanie is a former Forestry Queen and still continues to promote her platform encouraging young woman to pursue their interests in STEM field careers.

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Copyright © 2015, Stephanie Young All rights reserved.

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