How Do You Measure Successful VDP Sales Training?

By | June 14, 2010

I recently completed a sales training program and have been debating and trying to set some reasonable expectations to evaluate Successful Variable Data Printing Sales Training. This has been a hot topic on the Print CEO site. It began as a story that discussed specific subjects and exercises that should be included in Variable Data Printing Sales Training and has evolved into larger questions about what else is required for successful training. Different people have different opinions, which we will summarize (the original story is called Selling VDP Requires Sales Training). Below are some comments, which lead to the very important question, “How do you Measure the Success of VDP Sales Training?”

Linda Bishop said: Even though I’m a big advocate of training, it’s not the only piece you need to solve this puzzle. You have to consider money issues and compensating the sales team for the behavior that gets results.

Linda – You are 100% right! And as you may know this is the same issue that has plagued our industry for years. Often the salesperson is compensated the same for a 20,000 piece job and a 1,000 piece job and it requires the same hard work for both. Without changing the compensation structure, where is the motivation to sell shorter runs or variable data printing?

Michael Josefowicz wrote: “ask the salespeople to make a list of their present or wanna-be clients. Then combine the list into types that cover most of the cases. For example: SMB, non-profits, global marketing or purchasing, designers and their clients.”

Michael – Good point about looking at specific applications, markets or verticals. For this assignment I specified about 14 verticals. I am sure that everyone knows that many organizations such as PODI and the manufacturers have identified specific vertical markets that appreciate the value of VDP more than others.

Jack said: “Before focusing on training, there should be a talent assessment done.”

Jack – Wow, I honestly had not considered a talent assessment as you describe it or a gap analysis as I would call it. But you’re spot on. A gap analysis would help identify and quantify the needs or as you say identify who may not be interested or motivated to learn transactional sales.

But Michael Josefowicz had a different point of view than Jack. He wrote: “Jack I have to disagree with, “If you try to train these people, you won’t be successful.” It’s really not that hard. But it needs a clear process, and most important, incentives of consultative sales.”

Michael – This is a very interesting conversation. It really boils down to how successfully can you motivate and train new sales techniques. You and Linda hit the nail on the head with the importance of changing the compensation program. So let’s assume that the compensation program has incentives for selling shorter runs and VDP.

The next question is how successfully can you train or change sales techniques or habits?

I have tried for years to motivate and help educate sales people on the value of VDP, case histories of successful programs, applications and vertical markets and the consultative sales approach.  And there are many other sales training programs. Different trainers bring different expertise and experiences to this process; mine includes knowledge of 100’s of world-class VDP ad campaigns, as well as vertical markets and applications.

I am going to go way out on a limb here but I think it’s important to discuss typical success rates from VDP training programs. My experience is that each training effort is effective in motivating change in 10-20% of the time or people. In other words, after a one day training effort I find that maybe 1-2 salespersons out of 10 will start to get it and start to show success with the new approach in about 4-6 months. Ongoing monthly sales coaching on the phone helps to reinforce and accelerate the process. Therefore, it may take 2-3 phone calls over 2-3 months to achieve the next success.

Now different people and companies have different opinions about the cost and benefits of sales training. In other words, given these same exact results two companies could respond differently.  Some companies may rave about those results and others complain.

So two important questions are: “how do you measure the success of sales training” and “what would you consider a successful training program?”

Howard Fenton is a Senior Consultant at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers, in-plants, and manufacturers on workflow management, operations, digital services, and customer research.

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