Evaluation of the Training Programs

The evaluation step focuses upon measuring program effectiveness. A sales training program represents investments of time, money, and effort—sales management expects returns commensurate with the investment. However, measuring sales training effectiveness is not easy, but it is possible to gauge, somewhat roughly, program effectiveness. The starting point is to com­pare the program’s aims with the results, but the core of the measurement difficulty is in determining training results. Results, such as improved selling performance, for instance, may not show up until months later. Management approaches the measuring problem by making certain comparisons, such as the length of time new sales personnel (who have completed initial sales training) taken to attain the productivity level of the experienced salesperson, the performance against standards of trained and untrained sales personnel, and the respective training histories of the best and worst performers. Some companies plot each salesperson’s sales records on a before-and-after train­ing basis, generally converting them to market share percentages.

However, any evaluation of training effectiveness based on sales records is an approximation. Territorial sales volumes are influenced not only by personal selling but by advertising, competitors’ activities, eco­nomic fluctuations, and similar factors. No known analytical technique exists for precise isolation of the influence of these factors.

Other approaches to measuring program effectiveness are in use. Some companies use written tests (on a before-and-after training basis) to determine how much trainees have learned. This is appropriate for measuring improvements in amount and depth of product knowledge, for instance, but reveals little about the trainee’s ability to apply this in the field. Other firms send observers to work with sales personnel who have completed training programs and to report the extent to which trainees are applying what was taught in programs. Still other companies solicit customers for their reactions to a salesperson’s performance after training. None of these approaches produces precise evaluative data. They provide indications as to whether results are positive or not.

Management measures the effectiveness of training programs while they are in progress and upon completion. The purpose is to obtain insight for improving the effectiveness of future programs. Tests and examinations measure trainee retention of materials presented, most appropriately when trainees are to memorize certain information, as product specifications and applications. There is little value in using tests and examinations for evalu­ating training in sales techniques; performance in role-playing assignments is a better approach. Trainers in some companies rate each trainee’s per­formance in role plays, demonstrations, and other discussions. Necessarily, these are subjective ratings, but they provide learning incentives. Similarly, the practice of requiring trainees to rate each trainer’s performance, either in each session or in the total program, is spreading. This may stimulate trainers to improve their effectiveness. Many sales executives, however, argue that trainees are in no position to judge the trainers’ effectiveness until they gain additional field experience. Many companies also ask train­ees to evaluate training programs after they return to their territories.

Source: Richard R. Still, Edward W. Cundliff, Normal A. P Govoni, Sandeep Puri (2017), Sales and Distribution Management: Decisions, Strategies, and Cases, Pearson; Sixth edition.

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