Sales Coaching Blog

2013 Sales Planning: Training Versus Learning and Development

Posted by Bill Eckstrom

December 27, 2012

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Let’s assume that you, as a sales leader, are going to make some investment in helping your team improve.  Then let’s also assume those who are reading this are wise enough to make that investment in their sales leadership team as opposed to only investing in “sales training”. 

So, given the above, in order to improve the way you and your team manage, lead and coach sales…  Do you provide training or do you create/search for a program that provides learning and development?

The debate over training versus learning and development is generally one of “transfer to action”.  The myth is that only 10% of training is transferred to the work place, which research shows is false (read Learning and Training:  Statistics and Myths).  The research in the link below shows a 62% immediate transfer, but also shows it does decrease over time (I have seen various studies ranging as high as a 92% loss after 30 days).

http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/trainsta.html#transfermyth

While those that support training (especially those that provide it) argue for its effectiveness, nobody argues against the longer term impact of effective, on-going learning and development

First, let’s straighten out what we mean between training versus learning and development:

Training is more “beginner” oriented.  It focuses on utilizing best practices or working on creating new skills—disciplines around tools and processes. 

Learning and development is what I consider more advanced work, improving the intellectual capital of those on your teams—increasingly dynamic, forward looking, mentor or coach based, and more catered to the needs of the organization and the individual.

Second, let’s put to bed any thought that learning doesn’t have tangible benefits.  Organizations like The ASTD, Geolearning and others report quantifiable ROI’s that range as high as a whopping 800%!  The simple basics of training and development provide the following benefits:

  • Lower associate turnover

  • A more engaged workforce

  • Higher client satisfaction scores

  • More net profits

Third, if you are curious as to whether you should invest in sales manager training and/or development versus sales producer training, Laurie Bassie reported in a study that good managers determine if people stay or go, and this is also influenced by training and development.  The education and training variable is the most significant predictor of an organization's success as compared to price-to-earning ratios, price-to-book statistics, and measures of risk and volatility.  Likewise, look no further than the work published by Curt Coffman and Marcus Buckingham in their business bestseller First Break All the Rules:  What the World Greatest Managers Do Differently (Mr Coffman will be presenting at the next EcSELL Sales Coaching Summit April 9th in Tucson, AZ).  In this book you can read the results of research done on over 80,000 managers from throughout the world and what they do that drives more engagement from their teams.

Now, back to the question of training versus development.  As part of a company that does deliver both, we understand and see the value in both.  However, there are way too many resources committed to training and not nearly enough dedicated to learning and developmentTraining is necessary for new associates or those new to a role, which generally reflects about 10-20% of an organization’s work force.  So, common sense would dictate that about the same percentage of an overall training and development budget should be dedicated to training.  Since most of your workforce is not new to the company or the job, learning and development programs should encompass the majority of the resources. 

By the way, we love our training programs and receive very high marks from those that attend, but we consistently see the same outcomes—so much is lost when those we trained go back to their hyper-busy schedules.  However, with consistent learning and development follow up, promoting individual application on what was trained, we see sustainable results.  We are not alone in thought regarding this outcome, for what spurred this writing was an article recently released by Forbes, The #1 Reason Leadership Development Fails.    In this piece, Mike Myatt provides 20 differences between training versus development, and given our experiences I tend to agree with most of what he states.

Sales leaders need to think beyond traditional training methods and provide resources for their management team that allows them to continually learn and developnew ways to coach for performance.  Consider the following resources:

  • Self directed learning resources-allows managers to learn at their own pace

  • Annual assessments that measure sales manager coaching acumen and growth (how will you know where to focus or what is improving without objective measurements?)

  • Mentoring or coaching resources for you and your management team

  • Networking with other sales leaders from outside your market

I will close with what is becoming my favorite quote from a recently released CCL whitepaper that succinctly outlines a need for continual development:

“…an individual’s current skill-set is of secondary importance to their ability to learn new knowledge, skills and behaviors that will equip them to respond to future challenges.  As a result, our focus must shift to finding and developing individuals who are continually able to give up skills, perspectives, and ideas that are no longer relevant, and learn new ones that are.”

Topics: sales leadership, sales manager coaching, sales manager development, sales coaching

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