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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
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