May 15th, 2015

Do You Know What Ensures the Greatest Payoff from Sales Training Program Investments?

sales training program

Do You Know What Ensures the Greatest Payoff from Sales Training Investments? (The Answer Will Most Likely Surprise You.)

In a comprehensive survey of research and literature conducted more than 25 years ago, it was determined that there was a growing recognition of a “transfer problem” in corporate training and development. Specifically, in 1990, research analysts estimated that while companies around the world spent approximately $50 billion on training and development, no more than 10% of those expenditures actually result in transfer to the job.

Fast forward 25 years later, and the emerging trends of research on training transfer continue to reflect similar evidence that is just as sobering. Even though global spend to improve corporate performance has doubled over the past 25 years to more than $100 billion, analysts now estimate that, on average , less than 50% of program content is transferred to the work environment immediately after training, less than about 20% is being used at the end of 30 days, and only 10% of expenditures for training ever result in observable behavior change on the job.

So what haven’t we learned… yet?

Given how important skilled salespeople must be for an organization to continually achieve desired business results, we need to understand how to resolve the 25+-year-old transfer problem and ensure the greatest payoff from our organization’s sales training program investment.

Researchers determined that there were three key roles acting to make training effective during three key time frames (creating nine combinations) which ultimately influence the transfer of training. Look at the poll below, and please select an answer which represents the role and time frame that you think would have the greatest positive impact on the transfer of training. Keep in mind that all roles and time frames are important, it’s just that there is one role acting at a specific time that can make the biggest difference.

Make your selection by clicking on an  answer below.

    Select only one answer. Results will be displayed after you click submit.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

So, how did your answer compare to how others have responded? Was your gut feeling in alignment with what the best practice is for maximizing training transfer?

According to the research, organizations that achieve the greatest payoff from their sales training dollar are the ones whereby the trainee’s manager focuses on creating a receptive mind-set for the training event before it happens.

In fact, researchers determined that the priority of influence in the transfer of training is as follows in the matrix below:

Before Training EventDuring Training EventAfter Training Event
Trainee’s Manager183

1 – Greatest Impact       9 – Least Impact

If you did not select ‘Trainee’s Manager Before the Training Event” you are not alone. In accordance to the research findings, a majority of respondents made a different choice, as well. That’s because, for the last 25+ years, a majority of companies tend to focus most of their efforts on the sales training content itself or post-training sustainment with minimal attention to what the salesperson’s manager and supporting leadership should be doing before the training. It is during this pre-training time frame that well conceived, meaningful, and leadership-sponsored communication and meeting plans are vital to get everyone onboard, aligned, and personally involved with the goals of the training.

Before salespeople step into a classroom, join a training webinar, or launch an e-learning course, they must genuinely welcome the training opportunity and be convinced that the training will directly improve their performance in a way that is relevant to both themselves and the larger organization. For maximum training transfer to occur, no one is in a better position to help salespeople want to learn, understand the value of the training, and uncover detrimental mindsets and other barriers before the training than the salesperson’s manager.

While the impact that a manager can have on a salesperson’s mindset prior to training is of paramount importance, it is only one of several key priorities that can contribute to the effective transfer and full performance back on the job. In fact, the training company and the salesperson are also accountable in distinct ways and at critical times for helping to ensure that the training investment generates the greatest possible value.

To learn more about how today’s best companies have dramatically improved training transfer and its positive impact on sales performance, stay tuned to a three-part series devoted to focusing on what must happen and by whom before, during and after a sales training program.


Click here or on the link below to learn more about Richardson’s Consultative Selling Sales Training Programs


About The Author: Mark Huber

Mark is a Senior Learning Consultant for Richardson with a proven 15+ year track record in delivering award-winning learning and performance development solutions for Fortune 1,000 organizations. Committed to achieving business objectives, Mark helps organizations improve their performance capability and grow profitably by executing proven sales training strategies. Known for developing collaborative relationships with clients at all levels, Mark creatively leverages best-practices in needs assessment, training design, and learning transfer to identify learning opportunities, close performance gaps, and ensure comprehensive end-to-end program success.

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2 Responses to “Do You Know What Ensures the Greatest Payoff from Sales Training Program Investments?”

  1. May 15, 2015 at 10:45 am, Mike Kunkle (@Mike_Kunkle) said:


    Great topic and glad to see the focus here on transfer.

    Assuming that the content will make a difference if used, knowledge sustainment, skill transfer, and coaching to mastery are critical elements of any effective learning system.

    Discerning the value of stakeholder involvement based on where it occurs is interesting, but without knowing anything about the research and how it was conducted, fades in value for me personally. (Still, no surprise that of the top 3, managers hold 2. Certainly in line with my experience.)

    Would be great to see you cite sources for the analyst data you mention and the research.

    Stay the course – I look forward to the remaining posts in the series.



  2. Mark Huber

    May 18, 2015 at 3:34 pm, Mark Huber said:

    Mike, thank you for your positive feedback in support of the spirit and focus of learning transfer in my article. With regard to the value of stakeholder involvement and the priority of influence in the transfer of training, the initial research was originally performed in the late-1980’s and ultimately published in 1992 by Mary L. Broad and John W. Newstrom in their groundbreaking book, “Transfer of Training: Action-Packed Strategies to Ensure High Payoff From Training Investments.” Mary continued their research, which later resulted in two additional books that further supported their initial claims. The two books were titled “Transferring Learning to the Workplace: Seventeen Case Studies for the Real World of Training” (1997) and “Beyond Transfer of Training: Engaging Systems to Improve Performance” (2005). As for recent years, a carefully vetted web search can uncover a host of articles and white papers from some of the most respected global management consulting companies that further reinforce Broad and Newstrom’s findings of more than 20 years ago, which assert how stakeholders must focus on what happens in the workplace before and after employees go to training. A stellar example of such an article was published in 2010 by Aaron DeSmet, Monica McGurk, and Elizabeth Schwartz of McKinsey & Company entitled “Getting More From Your Training.”


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