High Sales Team Turnover is Probably Your Fault, and Totally Fixable

“Hooray! A sales training session!” said no one, ever.

Most sales training sessions are a complete snoozefest. Worse, they’re often ineffective: they are not teaching your sales team what it needs to know, and they are not engaging your employees. As a result, the reps are not hitting quota, and they’re leaving your company in droves. (Or you’re giving them the boot for sub-par performance.)

That sales team turnover is costing your company real money: according to projections from VC and entrepreneur David Skok, in the SaaS industry, it can take 21 months before a company will break even on hiring a sales team–throw in the unexpected departure of multiple sales reps, and that break-even point may be a pure fantasy. And it costs even more than that in unintended consequences across the board: from the work that’s not getting done by the person who left and those who are managing the hiring process, to the costs of the candidate search itself.

In order to keep your sales reps happy and committed to your organization, invest in their training as a long-term venture that doesn’t stop at the end of their orientation period. By adapting your sales training programs to the way your employees learn most effectively, you’ll help them retain more information and close more sales.

Here’s why “just-in-time” training can mitigate turnover and create more knowledgeable, engaged, and productive sales teams:

Long, boring sessions make everyone tune out: Sometimes the most interaction you get in a training is an instructor checking to see if everyone is on the same page. (Bueller? Bueller?)  It’s almost impossible to engage employees in this setting, and time after time, we are discovering that interactive learning is how people learn best. No matter how creative you think your training materials are, no one is going to pay rapt attention to another PowerPoint or another static PDF, nor will they absorb its information.

We can only remember so much: Ah, how quickly we forget. And that is not just an expression: There’s a scientific basis for it and it has a cool name, The Forgetting Curve. Way back in 1885, Hermann Ebbinghaus started plotting his ability to remember random syllables. He found he remembered 100 percent of the information at the time of acquisition. After that, he started forgetting information very quickly. In a mere 20 minutes, 42 percent of what he’d learned was lost. Within 24 hours, 67 percent was gone. Finally, a month later, he only remembered 21 percent of what he’d originally memorized. Picture your employees only remembering 21 percent of your sales training, and you’ll see why that’s a problem.

Today’s employees expect answers at their fingertips (literally!): This is the “Google first, ask questions later” generation. We no longer have to sit around and wonder who hosted the Emmys last year, because we can check, and modern employees are used to accessing the information they need, when they need it, on their mobile devices. Smart companies will fulfill that need, and make finding product-specific technology specs and case studies as simple as a Google search.

Outdated information is worse than no information: Ever had an employee spotlight a promotion that had already expired or a product feature you’ve eliminated on the newest release? Now you have a puzzled customer or prospect – and one who is questioning your salesperson’s savvy. Relying on memorized information can lead to either missed recall, or just plain outdated information about your products or procedures. Or, if your salesperson quotes an outdated price to a customer for an order, your company may be forced to eat thousands in lost profits (and the sales rep will be looking at a pink slip).

By shifting your sales training program away from classroom lectures and paper binders, and into a mobile-based solution with content that can be updated at any time and customized for specific employees, job functions, or departments, your company can enable your sales team to gain a better understanding of what they’re actually selling–which means they’ll be more engaged with the process, and make more sales. By treating your sales reps like adults and giving them access to the information they need on their own terms, you’ll earn their respect and loyalty. That means shrinking turnover rates, less time training, and more time selling.