Is Sales Training Really Impacting (Business Outcomes) Behavior Change?

There is a simple concept in corporate learning that tends to get overlooked. And, it might be the biggest reason sales training fails to have an impact on business outcomes!

If we think about why businesses train their individuals in a sales organization, it’s simple. They want to equip them with knowledge and skills that help them do their job in a way that leads to desired business results.

But, here’s where things appear to break down.

Sales Leaders want the business results. So, they will monitor and measure the pipeline of deals to ensure sales activities are contributing to the intended results. Good learning initiatives provide sales professionals with the required knowledge. Knowledge acquisition is tested and reinforced. That knowledge is also put into the application during the learning process through casework, exercises, role plays, etc. And, more importantly, application happens back in the real world where key learning and supporting tools help the seller perform in their everyday job.

However, these ‘training initiatives’ often fail to ensure that critical behavior change around the required knowledge and skills has occurred.


ES Research indicated that while most organizations measure knowledge and business results. However, they found that less than 10% of organizations measured behavior change.

While the concept of ‘behavior change’ can sound rather ‘learning academics’ (my made up word) those in sales leadership roles should care, because it clearly is the lynchpin on the path from learning to business results.


Why does this ‘behavior change’ gap occur and what can organizations do about it?

One of the reasons that this gap occurs is that it isn’t generally appreciated as being a key step in the learning results spectrum. Ironically enough, to further answer ‘why’ it happens, you need to look at ‘what’ organizations can do about it.

If we exclude the topics of compensation and other motivating factors, let’s answer the ‘what’ in a logical manner.

Once learning objectives have been defined (and this may often happen as part of activities found within the ‘knowledge’ and ‘application’ circles) related observable behaviors need to be defined. Then, learning plans (curriculum, activities, timeline, frequency, etc.) need to be created that will drive observable behavior change. These activities are usually the role of L&D. However, the next set of activities are the role of sales managers and leadership (often activities that L&D cannot mandate).

First line sales managers have new knowledge to acquire and apply. They need to be equipped if they are to inspect and observe whether or not their sellers are applying new learning and if it’s resulting in desired behavior change.

If the change occurs, it should be reflected in how deals progress in the sales pipeline and ultimately, business results, which are usually the role of Sales Leaders.

The first challenge is to recognize that behavior change is important. Second is having both L&D and Sales play a joint role in ensuring behavior change can and will occur.

I would encourage anyone in an L&D or sales leadership role to assess whether this situation is occurring in their organization, and whether or not they are positioned to implement these behavior change initiatives, in order to provide the missing link in the learning-results spectrum.

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