A Pivotal Time for Developing Sales Training Standards

ASTD Sales Training Drivers Advisory CommitteeThis week, I was selected to chair the ASTD’s 2012 Sales Training Advisory Committee, which advises the world’s leading association of workplace learning and performance professionals on new trends, practices, and techniques in learning and development. ASTD – the American Society for Training & Development – is the world’s largest professional association dedicated to this field, and its activities are broad, ranging from conferences and social networking to publishing books, whitepapers, and magazines.

For the past year, I’ve served as a committee member with ASTD’s Sales Training Advisory Committee, chaired by Brian Lambert of Forrester Research. This ongoing experience as well as the time I’ve spent working with Fortune 500 companies at 3g Selling, will help guide me in our primary committee goal, which is to set worldwide standards of excellence for sales training and development.

Most organizations have developed criteria for evaluating performance, particularly sales performance, but the same cannot be said for sales training and development. Compounding the issue are the hundreds of vendors in the marketplace for sales training solutions, each claiming that their method is superior to anyone else’s. How does an organization evaluate a sales training program? And who is setting standards for the myriad of sales training programs available today?

This is the charter of ASTD’s Sales Training Advisory Committee: to advise its thousands of members, world leaders in workplace learning and performance, on what to look for in evaluating sales training programs – including those they design themselves. As someone whose company has pioneered an innovative approach to sales training, an approach that took years to build and incurred much trial-and-error testing, I feel I can bring a deep knowledge of the criteria we need for evaluating sales training and development practices and techniques.

It is my belief that sales remains one of the last areas where we have not introduced a truly robust “method” that leads to repeatable, consistent, and optimal sales performance.  We need standards to ensure that sales training is not adding to the myth of sales being some individual craft that you are either born with or not.  Sales must be viewed as both science and art and in that order.

The art can flourish when practiced on a sound foundation of science.  It is therefore time for companies to move from tactical sales training events to creating plans for true sales transformation and performance.  We have to stop reacting to, and addressing a few symptoms.  We have to get underneath, and discover what is really happening in the market’s we sell to, with our customers, and across our sales organizations and then turn our attention to providing the training and support that our sales forces need to do their increasingly difficult job.  The answer is not to go and hire more naturally born sales people – the answer lies in equipping our sales force with the skills, strategy, process, and tools that they need to do their job well.

My experience in the field – with hundreds of clients as well as the myriad of opportunities I have to interact with sales enablement leaders and other training executives – continues to provide me the insight to help guide our ASTD committee to formulate worldwide standards for effective sales training and development. I’ll keep you posted.

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