Only One in Five Companies Believe They Train the Right Number of Salespeople on the Skills They Need Each Year

Corporate Visions finds resistance among sales managers to taking reps out of the field responsible for limited training reach

PLEASANTON, Calif., Oct. 17, 2016 — Just 21 percent of companies believe they train their salespeople on the skills they need each year, according to a new report conducted by Corporate Visions, Inc., the leading marketing and sales messaging, content and skills training company, and Sales & Marketing Management Magazine.

Corporate Visions’ State of the Conversation Report, “Beyond the Classroom: Trends in B2B Sales Training,” surveyed nearly 300 companies and found that the highest percentage of respondents (45 percent) believe that in-person, instructor-led training is the most effective training format. But many companies struggle to train as many reps as they want on the skills they think they need. Among the companies unable to train the amount of reps they want, 56 percent say time out of the field is the biggest training limitation. Meanwhile, 37 percent cite budget restraints as the biggest obstacle to training access.

This explains why 65 percent of respondents expect their investment in virtual training to increase “significantly” or “slightly” in the coming years – the biggest gain of any form of training. Meanwhile, instructor-led, in-person training investments were reported to remain flat, despite being rated in the survey as the “most effective” form of training in terms of creating behavior changes.

“In-person training is still considered the best form for teaching ‘soft’ selling skills that improve pipeline growth, proposal success, as well as negotiations, but there are real pressures forcing companies to explore other alternatives,” said Tim Riesterer, chief strategy officer of Corporate Visions. “The growth anticipated around virtual training modalities shows that companies need more flexible, competency-based training formats that give reps skills training when and where they need it, without removing them from the field.”

The survey also revealed that companies most often rely on sales managers to determine what training and development plan to follow for individual salespeople each year, despite just 19 percent of respondents reporting it as the most effective method for developing training plans. In contrast, the highest percentage of respondents (30 percent) believe that assigning reps to training based on specific key performance indicators—such as struggles with pipeline building or stalled proposals or margin erosion—is more effective for developing individual training plans.

“Arbitrary learning paths based on manager opinions or feelings about where a salesperson is underperforming need to be replaced with more data-driven learning paths based on key performance indicators and behavioral outcome studies,” Riesterer said. “The real opportunity created by flexible, modular online training is that you can ‘push’ appropriate training content when needed, based on exactly where a salesperson is struggling. Custom learning paths based on identified performance gaps versus arbitrary learning paths based on people’s opinions or generic role or responsibility training plans.”

To access Corporate Visions’ State of the Conversation Report, “Beyond the Classroom: Trends in B2B Sales Training,” click here.

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