One of the smartest things any learning and development professional can do is to study the leading training organizations.

Why? Because it took time and elbow grease to make those tactics work.

When you pair hard-won insights with tried-and-true sales training activities, you increase your odds of success.

So let’s explore what three successful training programs can teach us about sales training ideas.

I can’t promise these tips will make your training program turn out record-breaking salespeople. But they do represent a lot of sound business thinking on how to design a training program.

2 Things Your Sales Reps Want You to Know

If they could, your sales reps would ask you a favor.

If they felt comfortable enough, they would say: “Help me improve my selling skills, please!

After all, they’re interested in getting better results, just like you are. As a rule, salespeople love to sharpen the saw. And what better way to boost performance than improving selling skills?

That’s why your reps want you to know:

  1. We really like our sales manager.” In fact, because we know our sales manager can help us reach our goals, we want our sales managers to spend time with us on coaching activities, pipeline discussions, and 1:1’s.
  2. We love to take advantage of training and development opportunities.” But we need you to understand that all training is not created equally. Over the years, we’ve been to every kind of training event. We want training, but we want training that works.

But what’s wrong with the sales training your reps get now?

  • Many sales training initiatives are event-based. Typically, attendees receive loads of information in a short time. Not surprisingly, participants forget much of what  they’ve learned shortly after the training event.
  • Many training activities don’t actively include the frontline  sales managers. For best results, sales managers should be closely involved in training, reinforcement and measurement activities.

According to the American Society of Training and Development, US-based companies spend approximately $20 billion a year on sales training. Isn’t it reasonable to expect some return on that investment?

It’s not only reasonable, it’s expected at top-performing training organizations.

Want proof?

These 3 Companies Have the Training Programs We're All Dreaming About

Read carefully. Learn. Then apply what these 3 companies can teach you about how to sell better.

Company 1: Yum! Brands, Inc

Besides being one of the world’s largest restaurant companies and parent of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell,  Yum Brands Inc. delivers training technology and learning programs to thousands of employees around the world. To put that into context, the company has more than 1.5 million employees working in 40,000+ restaurants in over 120 countries.

In 2007, their training challenges included:

  • Figuring out how to step change learning and development to create engaging programs that deliver consistency and have “pull”
  • Ensuring that training efforts help the business grow
  • Leveraging technology to improve efficiency and reach
  • Making sharing of knowledge more easily accessible to everyone
  • Driving greater accountability and visibility for the execution of training programs.

Additionally, Yum’s training efforts were inconsistently delivered and difficult to measure. They wanted to simplify the administrative side of accessing learning and enable learning to be delivered into restaurants globally with greater consistency, speed, and efficiency.

So Yum made some changes.

They instituted a system-wide/single-source learning content repository. They also started using video streaming tools and virtual classrooms.

The result? Yum Brands now has 30,000 restaurants connected to one LMS. Since 2010, employees have completed 23.5 million courses. They average more than 1 million course completions each month. How’s that for learning engagement? And Chief Learning Officer magazine named Yum as  one of the Top 20 learning and development organizations in the 2015 LearningElite program.

Company 2: Best Buy

In 2011, the world’s largest consumer-electronics retailer committed to developing a world-class learning and development culture for its 167,000 employees. The company wanted to improve the quality of its training as well as find ways to reward employees for learning.

The following year, after an uneven performance among stores led to sales declines, new CEO  Hubert Joly decided to focus even more resources on training employees. Best Buy’s “Path to Excellence” links employees’ learning paths with their career paths.

According to the company,

“Employees earn pins they can wear to showcase their achievements, points they exchange for products and customized rewards, and pennants for a given department or store to display on their walls as a source of pride. Employees also are rewarded for applying what they’ve learned when their leaders observe them displaying the appropriate skills and behaviors taught in the training.”

Best Buy also has a rewards program called Learning Passport where employees take courses, earn points and exchange the points for gifts.

How did these training efforts affect Best Buy?

The company claims to have discovered a correlation between stores with the highest number of highly-trained employees and sales performance. Stores with the highest number of highly-trained employees have out-sold other stores’ employees by a 3:1 ratio. Perhaps more impressively, since the program has launched, Best Buy has seen exceptional overall company performance improvement in three key metrics. The close rate improved 129 basis points; revenue per transaction increased $3.31; and services and connections sales increased 37 basis points.

In 2012, Training magazine ranked Best Buy's employee training among the best in nation. In fiscal 2014, Best Buy was named to the list of Top 125 companies as compiled by Training Magazine.

Company 3: The Walt Disney Company

Disney is the world's second largest broadcasting and cable company as well as a mass media and entertainment conglomerate. In 1955 as the company was hiring employees for Disneyland’s opening in Anaheim, California, efforts began to formalize employee training. The training program that launched that year eventually became “Disney University.” Today, it’s offered to 166,000 employees and cast members in more than 40 countries.

In February 1996, the company began sharing the insights and training expertise of Disney University with external organizations through the Disney Institute in Florida, the professional development arm of The Walt Disney Company.

In 2010, Disney University had 1,466,394 participants complete 3,254,596 hours of training. The mix included instructor-led courses, online self-paced courses, virtual classroom training, on-the-job training, and assessments. That same year, more than 1,000 cast members and employees took more than 4,000 classes, with Disney covering more than $8 million in expenses.

Revenue from the Disney Institute has exploded, according to Disney. From 2010 to 2012 alone, 300 US school systems have sought its advice.

A quick-service restaurant company, a retailer, and a media company. On the surface they may not seem to have much in common. So why are these three organizations leaders in the L & D space?

They all found a way to consistently drive behavior change through their learning and development efforts and they get measurable business results from their training.

Modeling their success can help you improve your organization’s sales training program.

Let’s have a look at...

How To Achieve Your Business Objectives When You’re Not An Award Winning Training Program

You don’t have to be an award-winning training organization to ramp up your sales training efforts. Take a page from these three remarkable training programs.

  • Excel with custom content: Yum! Brands used their learning and development platform, Yum! University, to deliver customized and highly interactive learning content to employees worldwide. How can you find ways to give your sales reps access to top-notch content?
  • Be consistent: Make sure training is consistently delivered by using standardized training and virtual learning tools. One way to be more consistent is to incorporate “pull” learning modules.
  • Leverage technology: Make training more accessible by using technology. For example, Disney uses best in class development and delivery solutions to provide online and classroom based learning solutions to cast members. How can your organization use mobile and other technologies to make training more effective?
  • Reward and recognize learning achievement: World-class training organizations find ways to promote a culture of learning by recognizing employees learning achievements. A side benefit is these efforts bring positive attention to learning and development initiatives.
  • Focus on behavior change and skill development: Disney Institute uses storyboarding as a tool to help training participants visualize the actions and behaviors they need to succeed. According to the company blog, “It is far more powerful to enable your employees to see the result of what you are asking them to do, especially since 65 percent of us are visual learners, according the Social Science Research Network.”

Modeling top training organizations will help your salespeople be successful. At the end of the day, your human capital will always be your biggest needle-mover in sales.

Are you struggling with your sales training? Leave a comment and let us know, or join the conversation by tweeting to @HireVueSales

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(image credit: Anthony Sills)


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