Five Steps to Sales-Training Sustainment

sales training 5 steps

By Gregg Kober

Companies spend a lot of money on corporate training and talent development, so it’s critical that learning be sustained over time.

A recent survey from Training Industry, however, showed that only 32 percent of respondents believe their organizations are good at sustaining behavior change after training. To help individuals embed newly learned behaviors into daily operations, we recommend the following five-step process.

Step 1: Set expectations.

Most organizations have strong and competing interests for people’s time and attention. These competing forces can make it very difficult for new behaviors to gain traction, especially since there will be a dip in post-training performance as individuals transition from old modes of behavior to new ones.

At every level of the sales organization, managers need to help people focus their time and attention on applying the new knowledge and skills. Officially, management should set expectations for what should (and should not) occur as individuals work to master their new skills on the job.

Step 2: Retain knowledge.

New knowledge is quickly lost without consistent reinforcement; however, you can diminish the likelihood that all will be forgotten by using bite-size activities that help salespeople recall critical information quickly and consistently.

Step 3: Apply skills.

This sustainment step is at the heart of helping people retain knowledge and apply their skills to everyday situations and challenges. Successful application includes

1) identifying when to use the new knowledge and skills,

2) using the new knowledge and skills,

3) receiving constructive feedback on how well the new knowledge and skills were applied,

4) persisting in the use of the new knowledge and skills in appropriate situations.

The emphasis should be on incremental change, individual persistence, and continuous improvement.

Step 4: Align systems.

This sustainment step is to assure the team that the required behavior changes are real and necessary and not a “flavor of the month.” If people go through sales training but their work environment and group norms have not noticeably changed to support the new behaviors, people will think that the new behaviors are optional or, worse, that management is not serious about behavior change.

Conversely, if people go through sales training and return to a work environment that is significantly different and better aligned to support the new behaviors, people will know that management is serious about the change.

Step 5: Prevent relapse.

Change takes time, and most of us are impatient. If people don’t feel like they are making progress with the new behaviors, they are much more likely to return to their pretraining behaviors.

It is important to break behavior change into incremental steps so that people feel they are making progress. In addition, success, even partial success, is important so that people feel the benefit of putting in the effort to master the new knowledge and skills.

Finally, holding people accountable for their behavior change through verification dialogue helps them take personal ownership of the need to continue using the new knowledge and skills, rather than stick to the old way of doing things.

Too many companies put their talented salespeople and sales managers through training programs and simply hope for the best. This is an unsophisticated and ultimately harmful approach because it does not create behavior change and wastes precious resources.

Training is necessary but not sufficient for behavior change. If you are going to do sales training right, invest in behavior change by leveraging these five steps to sustainment and dedicating approximately 20 percent of your total project budget to driving the post-training employee experience.

Interested in learning more? Join Richardson in San Francisco at the Sales 2.0 Conference, April 27-28.

GreggKober_300Gregg Kober is a change management consultant with a decade of experience designing and delivering global workplace learning and performance-improvement programs for Fortune 1,000 firms.

Sales 2.0 Conference Philadelphia

[Image via Flickr / Dricker94]

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