Corporate profits are now at an all-time high, so it’s not as common to see companies trimming sales training budgets as it was between 2009-2011.
But it is still happening as the economic recovery meanders along in it’s fifth year, and companies face real peril when sales training goes on the chopping block. Before that sales training budget gets trimmed, take into consideration the top three reasons why it may not be the wisest move:
1. Customers notice and will go elsewhere.
Customers sense when a salesperson is not armed with the right knowledge and skills. Think about the last time you walked into a Best Buy and went looking for a specific flat-screen TV. If your experience was anything like mine, the sales associate began reaching for answers to questions about the features of model X over model Y, and then started making up answers entirely.
As a customer, we notice these lapses in knowledge (and training!) and often take our business elsewhere. Cutting a sales training budget is the fastest way to make your sales rep standout negatively against the competition.
2. Employee retention suffers.
We know that the #1 reason people leave their job is a poor relationship with a first-line manager. Of course, there are other oft-cited reasons, including a lack of career progression, lack of understanding of the company’s mission, and the failure to connect daily duties with company goals, just to name a few.
Many of the reasons employees leave a company can be solved through training, with compensation being the notable exception. Sales manager training has been shown to improve relationships between managers and salespeople. Similarly, the completion of various levels of sales training can be easily incorporated into career progression plans. And a well thought-out sales on-boarding process can both engrain a company mission and define a salesperson’s connection to company goals. Clearly, cutting a sales training budget robs a company of it’s primary tools for bolstering employee retention.
3. Employee engagement declines.
According to Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace Report, only 30% of US workers are engaged in their jobs. It is important to note that employee engagement is not happiness, or satisfaction, but rather a productivity that goes far beyond what is typically expected on the job.
A quick Google search for “how to boost employee engagement” yields a range of answers, but the prevailing theme–and certainly something I know to be true from over 20 years of sales training experience–is improving the key relationship between managers and their direct reports. One of the best ways to improve that relationship, and consequently one of the first training sessions to get canned under budgetary constraints, is sales manager training.
If you have budget authority, think twice before trimming sales training. And if you are subject to a budget authority, use the arguments above to fight for that budget. Your company’s ability to get customers, retain employees, and keep those employees engaged depends on it.