Online Sales Training Program Worth It? Look At The Data!

Determining Whether An Online Sales Training Program Is A Financially Sound Decision 

For organizations with a large sales force, online sales training can save time and money. Through an online sales training program, using videos and other materials served through an eLearning platform, you can present an overview of the sales process. These kinds of learning platforms make it easy to create assessments to test an employee’s knowledge of key processes and procedures. Finally, course management systems can serve as file systems, so additional documentation of the sales process can be provided with almost no extra effort.

Although there are many benefits to developing an online sales training program, an online solution may not be the best one for all organizations. Applying sound business analysis to your thought process –in combination with statistical principles– can help you make sense of the data and tease out which approach maximizes your efforts.

The eLearning ROI

eLearning is certainly the direction where a lot of sales training is headed. Even so, an organization shouldn’t ignore the traditional tools used in business analysis to determine whether an online platform is a good fit. In particular, if you’re going to perform an action that impacts the financial soundness of your company –something that costs money, in other words– then you need to be able to measure the results.

ROI, or Return On Investment, is one tool that you can you use in the decision-making process. To compute the ROI, you just divide your profit by the cost of your investment. As an example, if you made a $100 profit on an investment that initially cost you $500, then your ROI would be 20% (100/500 is equal to 0.2, which you can then convert to a percentage if you multiply by 100).

calculator with data

Since profit is equal to the revenue that you take in less any costs, to properly evaluate whether an online sales training program is a financially sound decision, you’ll need to understand the typical costs associated with eLearning.

First, there’s the cost of the platform. If your platform is SaaS, or Software As A Service, the vendor will typically host the content for you for a monthly or annual subscription fee. This fee will be higher or lower depending on the number of users that you have in the system. For most platforms, the cost per user per month is approximately one to two dollars.

The other cost associated with an eLearning platform is hiring an Instructional Designer to develop the online training course. Although the training content might remain the same across traditional and eLearning formats, it’s helpful to have an instructional designer who really understands how to design training courses that make the most of the online platform. For larger organizations, you may have someone with the necessary expertise in-house. If you don’t have a full-time staff member, you can always hire a freelance instructional designer.

With these costs in hand and your projected increases in revenue, you’ll have the tools to evaluate the online sales training.

Compare Your eLearning Solution To A Traditional Approach

The process above describes a way to compute an ROI for your online sales training program. Let’s say that your organization, like most, isn’t interested in having an ROI that’s merely “good enough”. Instead, your goal is to maximize your profit.

One way to really understand if online learning will help your bottom line is to do a side-by-side comparison of eLearning and traditional approaches to training your sales force. In the process, you’ll need to pay close attention to some subtle statistical ideas lurking in the background.

To illustrate, let’s look first at an imprecise way to compare eLearning methods and traditional training approaches.

Suppose for example, you’re a car company with many different car dealerships. eLearning seems like a great way to train your sales force since the dealerships are all very far apart - you can save thousands of dollars a year if you go the online training route. So you implement the new training and within six months, sales have doubled. Therefore, you conclude that eLearning is the better method both in terms of cost savings and generating revenue.

Not so fast…

The word Statistics with a graph

What if during that same period, oil prices dropped dramatically or the median income of potential car buyers rose by 4%? Either of these could have been the actual cause for the increase in sales. In statistical jargon, we would say that there is an association or correlation between increased sales and the new training. However, we couldn’t say that the training program was the cause of the increase in sales. And if we’re maximizing profit, we really want to know what’s driving the increase, not just what’s associated with increased revenue.

A better approach would be to randomly select half of your sales force and provide them with the training through an eLearning platform, and simultaneously provide traditional training to the other half of your sales force. After six months, compare the two groups, taking into consideration the ROI of both training methods. By performing an experiment, you’re limiting the influence of lurking variables.

After your experiment has concluded, you’ll need to see whether the eLearning benefits are “statistically significant”. If they are, switch to the newer method: otherwise, stick with the traditional approach to training.

If the term “statistical significance” is a bit foreign to you, find someone in your organization with some familiarity with statistics to help you analyze the results. For the quantitatively inclined, the analysis is not difficult, but you want to be sure that the analysis is performed correctly.

Conclusion

As more and more companies jump on the eLearning bandwagon to train their sales force, it’s tempting to dive in without analyzing whether the online training program is superior to a traditional program. However, by collecting some data and performing some basic statistical analysis, you’ll have the tools to determine whether an online sales training program is right for your company.

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