Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Bold Move In Measuring The Impact Of Sales Training

Tim Riesterer isn't shy and doesn't hold back.  A lot of people are like that, but when you consider Tim's intellect and his knowledge of what his clients need, you'd better sit up and take notice.

As  Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer for Corporate Visions, Inc., he's been driving an exciting new initiative, and driving it hard.  CVI recently announced that it will integrate a 3rd-party ROI measurement with its popular sales conversation skills training solution. The 90-day post-training assessment will track adoption, behavior change and business impact. The new solution will incorporate a custom survey developed and delivered by BeyondROI, a leading training performance measurement company. It's a bold step and it places CVI among the elite with respect to measuring the impact of sales training.

I've wanted to interview Tim for a while. This new announcement provided us both with an opportunity.  Here's the interview:

Dave Stein: What prompted you to so aggressively go after the issue of training ROI?

Tim Riesterer: The question always comes up… "How will you measure ROI?" Then after a bunch of go-rounds trying to determine the best way to do that, everyone starts to question whether training can get any of that credit… so, everyone reverts back to training event smile sheets. That is, until the end of a project and everyone wants to know what you got. We decided enough is enough. Every person who goes through the Power Messaging conversation skills training will be evaluated by a third-party company 90 days after the event to determine the impact.

DS: Why has it been so hard to get ROI?

TR: The challenge is, how much credit should you give the training program for changes in sales performance? You want to know how it impacts real KPI's like closed business, cycle times, margin improvement, etc. However, when performance improves, everyone wants to tell you why it couldn't be the training and lists all the other factors. But, if performance doesn't improve, these same people want to tell you why the training didn't work. This bob-and-weave, rope-a-dope technique keeps the players on all sides off balance just enough that they give up in frustration.

DS: What are the most important ROI elements to measure?

TR: The key for us is working with a third-party expert. Someone who has proven skills and processes for capturing the business impact of something as difficult to quantify as sales training. Scott Watson at BeyondROI has identified three elements that need to be measured and correlated that sales performance and training impact. The first is behavior change… are salespeople really adopting and using the techniques, and if so when, where, how? The second is "definite difference"… does high or low usage of the new techniques correlate with better or worse performance against important metrics such as closed business or pipeline size, including citing specific deals and the relative impact the new techniques had on the deal? The third is feedback for coaching… making the techniques sticky and long-lasting requires knowing what areas are working, what areas are not. What players are succeeding, who isn't, and what the most successful people are doing differently. This information on individual rep performance can be used for coaching and refreshing.

DS: What kind of results are you seeing and what's the reaction of your clients?

TR: In some of the earliest results we are seeing from companies like Philips and Dell, we've been able to track that salespeople with high usage (70+%) of the techniques are closing 3 times the business that reps with low usage numbers. Also, salespeople are identifying millions of dollars worth of deals where Power Messaging made "all" or "a significant" difference in 60-70% of the wins. We're also seeing overall adoption and usage rates at over 90% where people admit to using the techniques regularly after 90 days. The clients are thrilled with the results and the quality of the insights gained from assessment. They know how it's working and they know what areas they need to shore up. So, it provides a business case and a roadmap for ongoing coaching and improvement.

Disclosure: CVI subscribes to ESR's products and services for sales training providers.

Tim Riesterer is a recognized thought leader and practitioner in sales messaging. He leads the strategy, marketing and products initiatives for Corporate Visions. His is the co-author of two books: Customer Message Management and Conversations that Win the Complex Sale. 

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