While daunting, the task is not impossible, as long as the training and educational targets are established and the appropriate measurement tools are in place.
Successful sales professionals use targets to guide their selling strategy and work to gain new sales in target accounts. Sales training must utilize that same approach in order to be successful.
Training targets are called educational objectives, and establishing objectives is an essential first step to any training strategy. Once established, objectives should be used to design and develop training and as a comparison point to measure the effectiveness of the training delivered.
Using a comprehensive framework like Benjamin Bloom’s taxonomy of learning objectives, sales training executives can map out a training program that guides the sales professional through higher levels of learning as they progress through the training program. Bloom’s taxonomy:
- Provides six cognitive-learning levels that build upon one another, with each progressive level representing more advanced performance
- Enables specific training objectives to be developed based upon the level of desired performance
- Ensures development of comprehensive training objectives and clear performance goals
Bloom’s taxonomy helps the salesperson to:
- Remember. Retrieve relevant knowledge from memory.
- Understand. Determine the meaning of instructional messages.
- Apply. Carry out or use a procedure.
- Analyze. Break material into its constituent parts and determine how they interrelate.
- Evaluate. Make judgments based on criteria and standards.
- Create. Put elements together to create an original product.
Targets for training design
Equally important to developing clear educational objectives is developing a training program that accomplishes the stated objective. Using Bloom’s taxonomy to guide the design of a training program ensures that the objectives are met by utilizing strategies that challenge the learner to perform to the desired level within the taxonomy.
An example of Bloom’s-based training design would be when sales professionals are asked to role-play a sales call, with a sales trainer acting as a prospective customer. In this situation, the sales professional demonstrates the ability to apply factual knowledge previously learned.
Targets to measure performance
Finally sales training executives should determine whether the training targets have been met. Donald L. Kirkpatrick has established a sequenced approach to measuring performance that accomplishes this goal. Training executives use Kirkpatrick’s four levels of evaluation model to measure:
- The learner’s reaction to the training delivered
- The actual learning that occurred in the training setting
- The performance that occurs back on the job
- The training program’s impact on the organization
An example of Kirkpatrick’s model to assess performance would be when sales professionals are required to take a pre- and post-training assessment that evaluates the progression of learning from the beginning to the end of the training program. This hard data measures actual learning in the training setting and can be used to demonstrate the success of the training program.
Kirkpatrick’s straightforward model provides the feedback and data needed to examine the success of the training program and to make any adjustments as necessary.
A targeted approach to training ensures that not only is the training successful, but the sales professionals who attend the training return to the field ready to perform.
Dan Scott is the senior director of sales training & development at Cephalon Inc. Scott has 15 years of experience training sales professionals, with his previous sales experience providing him considerable insight into the learning and development needs of this unique audience. Cephalon is a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and marketing products to treat neurological diseases, sleep disorders, cancer and pain. For more information visit Cephalon.com.