The Key Role of the Sales Manager in Salesforce Training

Think about it. A sales rep, fresh out of salesforce training, armed with all sorts of newly learned behaviors, but far from skilled at any of them, is sitting in a sales call with an important prospect, ready to close the deal. What do you think they’re going to do? Practice the new behaviors which will definitely still feel quite awkward, and likely be performed fairly clumsily, or revert back to old habits in an effort to maintain as much of their comfort level as they can in the face of already significant pressure to win over the prospect and meet their monthly budget?

The 4 Levels of Salesforce Training

Researchers have spent a lot of time focusing on linkage between the four levels of Training (Reaction > Knowledge > Behavior > Results). Here’s what they found.

There is a strong statistical correlation between Reaction and Knowledge. Meaning that if the sales people embrace the training, they fell engaged from the outset, they believe that their concerns have been heard and accounted for in the sessions, and that they enjoy the workshop, then there is very likely to be an increase in their awareness levels. In other words, they would have learned something about selling (be it selling skills or technical skills).

There is also a positive correlation between Behaviors (Activities) and Results. Studies show (and it stands to reason) that if the sales people adopt and perfect the new activities and behaviors then the desired results will follow.

However, there isn’t a strong correlation between, you guessed it, Knowledge and Behaviors. Just because people “know” what to do, rarely, without any other factors of influence, will they do it all on their own. Particularly the fairly difficult adoption of some fundamental selling skills, especially when those new skills feel particularly awkward or uncomfortable (which they will!)

So, Who’s Job Is It?

OK, so who’s job it to move the salesforce through each level. Well here’s our belief:

While the salesforce training company plays a hand in overseeing each aspect of the training design and ensuring that all four objectives are properly determined, different areas of the business are ultimately responsible for various components of the four levels for proper salesforce training.

Executive management is most involved in setting and communicating the desired results and ensuring that they are realistic and achieveable and that plans are put in place to hit the targets. With a collaborative input from senior to mid-level sales management the right activities and behaviors should be identified.

It lies with the salesforce training organization to impart on the sales team to the required knowledge by designing solid training programs that maximize learning.

And it is the responsibility of those entrusted with hiring (HR and/or Sales Managers) to ensure that the people they’ve put in place are positive about training and their own professional development, heightening the chances for positive reactions to any training program.

Now, as we stated, achieving positive reactions from participants to training generally leads to knowledge gains.  And, by reason, attainment of new activities and behaviors should lead to the desired results. But what about transferring knowledge into behavior. Well, that’s where our sales manager comes into play.

Coaching the Sales Manager

In very broad and general terms, the sustainability of any learning program (or behavior modification program) involves both individual and team coaching of sales and/or service managers and leaders so that become very effective at modelling/demonstrating the skills and tools that their teams learned, and secondly, coaching their team members at these same skills.

This is usually not at all easy to do as many managers and leaders as you know have never had any formal skills training in either of these two areas. This effort is not a “One and Done” event – competence and confidence requires ongoing touch points and the evolution of skills, including ensuring leaders are calibrated in the scoring/evaluating of reps’  skills.

Our aim is to start working with sales managers very early in the process. They should think of the salesforce training program as their own. In effect, they need to own the training, not the salesforce training company. Because one day, the sales training company does walk out the door, and then you’re on your own. Don’t engage in any salesforce training until you have a plan to make sure that your sales managers know what to do from that day forward.


SalesForce Training & Consulting is a professional coaching and training firm that specializes in helping companies navigate their way in a environment. SalesForce Training is based in Toronto, with trainers in Boston and Chicago, providing sales coaching, sales management consulting, training and Admin support, sales training and sales personnel assessments.