TRAINING: How Much Does It Really Cost?

“How much does sales training cost?”

We hear that question ALL of the time in the auto industry. Especially from management, the decision makers on whether to purchase…or not. How much is the real cost, not just the dollars?

To answer that question, I’m going to pose another question to you, that you have to answer as part of that.

Is training an asset, or is it an expense (liability)? On a balance sheet, both assets and liabilities have a cost associated with them, but they are viewed significantly differently. Let me share a few definitions with you.

The Cost is the price. It’s the amount exchanged for something. This can be dollars, or it could be something like your time.
An Asset is something that is useful or valuable. Could be a product or service, or something less tangible like knowledge, confidence, and growth.
A Liability in this case is just the expense. Time, money, energy, which is often viewed as just the expense and not an investment.

Often people only see the expense part. It’s ALL about the money. And they get cost and liability confused. Cost is that they are exchanging their time or money FOR SOMETHING ELSE. So I would argue, at least for this article and for the moment, most sales training, is an asset. You exchange your money for something valuable. Knowledge, mechanics, scripting, and someone or something with the expertise to present these things.

For ANY training to be successful, every training, it must be a part of the business culture. Training has to be totally integrated into how your company’s employees, and management, interact with each other, and customers, the outside environment, and community. Culture in most companies is an implied thing. The torch is carried by the key managers in a company, and a few vision seekers that may work for you. Which means, these people have to believe in, learn, and execute on any training that takes place; if they don’t then, you guessed it, that’s when it becomes a liability and only an expense, in dollars.

If the people at the top are insisting that sales training is only for salespeople, you have a broken culture. Management is normally the quickest to criticize or ridicule training programs. Why? Because they haven’t attended sessions themselves, so they don’t know, or they don’t understand the processes themselves. The value you get is going to be determined based on many things. The ability of the person presenting. The quality of the content you are receiving, and how it’s presented. It will also be based on how it’s adopted and applied within the business. The application of training has a bunch of moving parts.

There are numerous studies where 10-12% of employees left their employer because of pay. HOWEVER, 85-90% of employers THINK that “the money” is the reason why the employee left. It’s totally inverse. The primary reasons cited by employees that they left companies: opportunities to enhance or use their skills, (that is investing in their training and skill development) relationship with their supervisor, unchallenged in their environment, poor corporate culture, and relationships with co-workers ALL beat out personal pay – and look back at that again… “NO TRAINING” is #1.

For YOU to keep TRAINING in the asset column on the balance sheet of your business. Here are five tips that I use in evaluating and bringing training programs into our business:

  1. Do the research ahead of time. A crummy training program will turn out crummy results. To produce excellent results, before you invest: check out the person, the program, and what is their retention and prior results for others. Does their methodology fit your style and culture? 
  2. Participate and train yourself. The only way in the long run you can effectively train others is if you know the material that you expect your people to know, yourself; and to stay ahead of the curve to continue learning new things. If you have moved into management and you are thinking to yourself, “I’m not on the front line anymore – I’m a powerhouse on the desk,” for example. Remember, a good manager is also a good coach. And you can’t coach someone if you don’t know the plays that they are practicing. Buzz word here: accountability. 
  3. Train your staff. EVERYONE that the training system is relevant to (i.e. departmentally, etc.), has to attend. If you are going, you can insist that they do too. You can have engaging conversations on the content of the training process or system, and you can keep each other sharp, and so can the rest of your staff. Even when training may sometimes be a repeat, it’s good to remind long term people of things that they may have forgotten.
  4. Be consistent. Training cannot just be a management whim or a once-in-a-while thing; you have to train and train consistently. Set a schedule, have requirements, have testing. When you invest the time inconsistently and planning, your actions tell others that training is important. 
  5. Connect with people and give and take feedback. People are social creatures, they want to connect with you and feel important and feel that what they are doing is important. Allow your people in that one on one environment to give honest feedback on the quality of the training program. Take notes, make adjustments either with your outside or inside training systems and source accordingly. Then start back over from step one.

If you want sales training to be a success, and you want a return on investment…YOU must first invest. The amount you invest is first of yourself into a training culture; this will directly correlate to the return you get. You’ll have the return in a smart, confident sales team that will produce results and will create explosive growth in your business. And, when growth, profits, and retention of quality people is your result, this keeps training as an asset in your organization.