Assess Yourself Online

As anyone in the business of selling knows, sales training requires a big investment. To curb this investment in these tough economic times, many organizations are turning to online training. Online training is an excellent tool for shortening the training process and eliminating travel time. But, online or not, it still costs money and takes salespeople off the sales floor -- and away from prospective new business.

In a perfect world, this investment would pay big dividends, arming your sales staff with the knowledge and tools they need to smash quotas and grow business. But, sadly, all too often, sales training fails to produce its intended outcome. Behaviors don't change, resources get wasted, and, worse, everyone grows cynical about the value of training.

In truth, these failures are usually less a result of poor training and more a result of improper diagnosis. The reason: No matter how seemingly well-designed an online training solution is, it will end up being completely ineffective if it fails to address the user's key knowledge and skill gaps.

The Assessment Solution
Although the problem is complicated and endlessly frustrating for sales and training managers alike, the solution is actually quite simple: comprehensive online assessments. I say "comprehensive" because most assessments used in the sales performance industry today are anything but, focusing too much on subjective benchmarks such as self-rating and manager evaluations. A truly worthwhile, effective assessment casts a much wider net by taking into account behavioral tendencies and core competencies.

One leading business and sales performance improvement company offers an assessment of this kind, developed from the company's years of behavioral analysis study. Users get a set of statistically valid, empirically verifiable diagnostic instruments that measure the full range of skills that sellers and their managers need to maximize performance on the job. Delivered online, it diagnoses participants on 60 finite learning/performance objectives in seven core competencies and helps managers pinpoint individual as well as team strengths and weaknesses.

Benefiting the Organization
Assessment products of that depth provide sales and training managers with the hard, indisputable data they need to tailor a sales training program to employee needs. It's this attention to the individual seller that will separate a training program from general, off-the-shelf training and elevate it to something with the power to affect an organizations bottom line.

Benefiting the Individual User
As effective as assessments are for an organization's efforts, they're equally as valuable to the individual user. Research within the training industry has shown that pre-course assessments are an excellent tool for preparing someone to learn. With a preview of the material and the subject matter, the individual starts thinking about the eventual training itself, making that individual more responsive once training has begun. (Think of it as hitting a bucket of balls at the driving range before a round of golf.)

In addition to pre-course assessments, many performance-improvement organizations also offer post-course assessments as part of an online training package. These assessments are delivered online, but are taken once training is complete as a way of measuring retention and identifying remaining skill gaps. This activity is particularly important -- it's widely accepted in the training industry that as much as 70 percent of material covered in an adult-learning class is lost upon course completion if it's not reinforced. Post-course assessments identify remaining weaknesses, giving the user and the sales manager the chance to follow up training with the necessary targeted review content to successfully close that knowledge gap.

Secure Your Training Investment
In today's turbulent economy, it's absolutely essential that your organization is able to maximize its online training investment and that your sales team has the most up-to-date knowledge and skills available. Comprehensive online assessments, if used properly, can help you achieve both of these goals -- and more.

About the author
J. LeRoy Ward, executive vice president, ESI International (www.esi-intl.com), heads ESI's worldwide training programs and international partnerships. He is the author of Project Management Terms: A Working Glossary and PMP Exam Challenge!.

Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors. If you would like to submit a Viewpoint for consideration, please email viewpoints@destinationCRM.com.

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