While companies worry about attrition across all functions, they worry about it the most in sales teams. CSO Insights puts average sales team attrition levels at around 16% – twice as high as any other function. This means sales trainers are training a third of their audience from scratch every year, without accounting for growth in the team.
Attrition in a sales team can have a strong effect on turnover and affect client relationships as well. Especially when that attrition is of high performers, any organization can go a while before finding replacements and getting these new hires to perform effectively. Therefore, the cost of attrition is not only in actual lost revenues but the time value and return on investment on every subsequent hire.
In high-attrition environments, these costs can pile up significantly. With the amount that companies spend to train these teams every year, ROI for these spends can steadily decline unless managed carefully and through effective sales training programs.
Sales trainers have just one job in high-attrition environments – make new people productive in the shortest time possible. Good onboarding programs can help make sales people productive 2 months faster than less effective programs. With such clarity of purpose, this seems like an easy problem to solve. But its not. 71% of companies take six months or more to onboard people effectively according to CSO Insights.
So, what does it take to build an effective sales training program in such high attrition environments? In one word, “standardization”. Here are some critical ingredients that can help you cook up the right recipe to standardize and increase velocity of your sales training program.
In today’s mobile world, the tendency and receptiveness to consume digital content has gone up tremendously. A 70:20:10 approach – with 70% on-the-job, 20% mentoring and only 10% structured or eLearning – may be outdated, and more expensive than you think. In high attrition environments, placing the burden of on-the-job training on sales managers can mean a further slowdown in productivity. Since millennials are prone to consume a lot more digital content today, given the ease and convenience of doing so, it could be more effective to increase the eLearning/mlearning component of onboarding programs to ~30% to play into your audience’s natural behaviour. Apart from standardizing what is taught to your audience, it also ensures sales managers can focus on productivity and retention among their sales team rather than constantly worrying about training.
Build a eLearning/mlearning repository for informational content
Most sales onboarding programs try and cram in as much information into the first few interactions that a sales person has with the program. Retention typically takes a hit because of this. A more natural way for your audience to consume is to give them online courses with all the information to be imparted that they can explore at their own pace. This will serve as a go-to destination for all sales people to refer to on a regular basis. In some cases, this can also be used as a sales aid in the field, for quick reference before meeting with customers or networks.
Of course, onboarding programs must give critical information to the sales person before they can get started such as product information, company history, sales processes and systems etc. However, including microlearning highlights with references to your online courses repository will ensure they don’t get deluged with a lot of information they ultimately cannot remember. In a high-attrition environment, having this repository will help you send out your sales people into the field faster with a safety net of the reference repository.
Build a culture of contribution in your audience
When performing sales people leave, a lot of institutional learning leaves with them. Whether this is in the form of insights or anecdotes, effective sales trainers aim to capture and build an organizational knowledge repository to draw upon for their programs. To institutionalize this, sales trainers must push for a ‘culture of contribution’ among their sales teams. Having KPIs around knowledge sharing that require all sales people to contribute to a ‘knowledge repository’ can help build such a culture and keep your program current and relevant.
In today’s digital world, generating this content is far easier than you imagine, especially using modern mobile learning products. Instead of asking your experts for PowerPoint presentations – which you will probably never get – ask them to record and post a short video or audio clip with some sales insights, to the social section of your mobile learning app. Most modern eLearning and mlearning platforms will ease this process. Crowd-sourcing such content can help ease your time and budget constraints and promote ownership of the program among your audience. Such content can be drawn upon by your new sales people for sales tips and tricks they would otherwise take many years to learn.
If the holy grail is getting your new folks onboarded faster, then bringing your onboarding program into the new-age may be a great place to start!
Continue to watch this space for our upcoming series on how to drive sales training adoption