What’s the Half-Life of Sales Training?

© Paul Fleet - Fotolia.comAt one point during one of the workshops I facilitated in Ireland two weeks ago, a CEO said, matter-of-factly, “… and you know what the half-life of sales training is…” He was discussing how his company took a more formal approach to sales effectiveness than just sales training, and the benefits that structure and process was delivering to his company. I had never heard the term “half-life” applied to sales training. Brilliant!

Just the other day I finally got around to googling, “half-life of sales training.” Most of the hits I got back were related to an original article in the January 2004 issue of American Salesman.

The subject of the article was a study commissioned by SPI (Sales Performance International) which found, among other things, that the half-life of sales training is just 5.1 weeks without post-program reinforcement. For 44% of the participants in the study the half-life is less than a month.

In the article, SPI Senior Consultant Bob McGarrah said, “According to our findings, without immediate reinforcement the greatest loss in the training investment occurs almost as soon as the training is over.”

Although this research was done more than four years ago, I couldn’t agree more. ESR has found that post-program reinforcement is the single factor with the most impact on long-term value of a sales training intervention. There are certainly others, such as management support and matching training to an accurate assessment of needs. But it’s post-program reinforcement—coaching, follow-up materials, tools, refreshers, etc.—that extends the value of training.

There is a vicious cycle taking place here:

  1. A sales training “event” is held, but it isn’t part of a strategic sales performance improvement approach.
  2. Since there is no post-program reinforcement, most of what is learned is forgotten or not used.
  3. No measurable improvement is the result.
  4. That investment in the sales training event is seen as a waste of money by senior executives.
  5. Due to a failure to deliver any benefits, investment for sales training for the next year is again severely curtailed. No funds are allocated for requirements definition, process improvement and post-program “extras” like management training, coaching, refresher programs, technology support, etc.
  6. Go to #1

The solution to this challenge isn’t a secret. We’ve certainly written extensively about it and so have the training companies we cover. What will it take for business leaders and senior executives to break this cycle?

About the author:
Dave Stein is an internationally recognized thought-leader in the area of sales effectiveness, especially sales training. He wrote the Amazon best-selling How Winners Sell and currently serves as Visiting Professor of Sales and Sales Management at the Dublin (Ireland) Institute of Technology.
My website is at: http://davesteinsblog.esresearch.com


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