When it comes to training, businesses generally prefer to leave it to HR. And the same goes for training evaluation. So there’s a good opportunity for HR to increase their impact on business operations. This typically takes place in the form of evaluations, when determining training requirements.  And the other way around: evaluating if trainings are achieving their goals with employees performing better.

Pitfalls of conventional evaluation after training

Unfortunately, this latter form of evaluation is all too rare. Many HR professionals are happy to evaluate the training itself, usually by measuring participant satisfaction. Now the trainer and the content do – of course – still need to be evaluated by participants. But this isn’t the most important thing.

Real evaluation can only take place weeks and sometimes even months later. Have the salespeople permanently changed the way they work? Can they put newly-acquired competencies into practice? Are they actually performing better?

Get more from your training budget: measuring ROI

Not measuring the impact of training on the business puts training budgets under pressure. Businesses rightly need to question the usefulness of training. Especially when salespeople are taken out of the field and so have less time to actually make deals. But the benefit of training is sometimes limited to briefly boosting employee motivation, which then ebbs away again just as quickly. The impact of training isn’t just the responsibility of HR and the training course itself, however.

Turning training into a continuous learning process – integrated in the work environment – enables your people to learn skills and behaviour that they benefit from permanently. A number of techniques include:

  • The 70-20-10 rule, where only 10% of time invested is for training, with 20% specifically linked to coaching that accompanies the training, and 70% for support in the workplace
  • Allow direct managers to follow the training too. So they’re also familiar with all the content and can provide better coaching. Depending on the training content and corporate culture, they can either join the employee session or organise a separate one
  • Snackable learning – not to be confused with e-learning. This involves short, interactive sessions (nuggets) that are made available to salespeople via their smartphone or tablet. They can help reinforce and embed the training content. And they always remain available as a refresher when specific situations arise. Think of it as an interactive ‘How do I …?’ YouTube clip
  • Convert customer expectations and business objectives into specific behaviour and competencies that can form the basis personal development plans

A culture of continuous improvement

The above enables you to get a culture of continuous improvement on track, together with the business. Actively supporting direct managers in the 90% non-training time, means HR can help influence the impact. You can then implement any necessary changes depending on the progress made and any obstacles encountered. Research by CSO Insights shows that continuous learning can increase sales performance by 50%.

Customer expectations are changing fast as a result of digitisation. Customers today are better informed than ever before. So they don’t need salespeople to come and inform them about their company or products.


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Top 10 essential attitudes and skills that today’s better-informed customer expects from sales

In HR, it is your role to make sure your sales reps show the capabilities to meet customers’ expectations. But buyer needs are changing all the time, and today’s digitised customers are better informed than ever before. What Sales people traditionally learn in trainings, as well as the capabilities that got them on board years ago, might not be up to standard.

How can you be sure that Sales have what it takes and stay up-to-speed?

Here is a checklist of the top 10 crucial attitudes and capabilities your Sales need to meet the empowered customer’s expectations




Even before most customers go to a supplier, they have gathered information and seek an answer to specific questions. A traditional salesman who displays his excellent product knowledge in his sales pitch and who has mastered the conventional negotiating techniques does not meet his quotas anymore. An exceptional salesman, on the other hand, knows in which buying phase the customer contact has arrived, understands the situation and is able to give advice. It takes three things to turn any salesman into an exceptional salesman: content, technology and a continuous learning process.


To illustrate his words and continuously learn about the product range and its possibilities, the salesperson needs the right content, sufficiently flexible to be combined and supplemented at his own discretion. The content is created in a dynamic process so that other salespeople always have the most recent knowledge and documents at their disposal as well. Content creation becomes one of your principal sales support processes so that your salespeople constantly improve their knowledge and adapt to any customer situation.


Your seller needs software not just to be able to show the content in the right manner, but also to be able to consult the most recent information on the customer in advance. CRM should be more than an automated filing cabinet or tedious administrative work. It should support the seller in doing the right thing at the right moment with the right contact. Sellers should use the tools willingly and constantly so as to store and share knowledge as well as to review their own actions. This brings us to the third aspect of our topic.

Continuous learning

The learning process of each seller should also become part of the corporate culture. Your sales team needs permanent training and coaching. Everyone considers it normal that the best athletes have to train and are coached on a daily basis. This is also necessary for sellers whose environment changes continuously. Their own products develop, the market changes, the customers evolve and the competitors are not sitting back and doing nothing. A seller who acts as a talking catalogue is not much use in this context. To be a good adviser, they need to be able to count on your support. Training and particularly coaching are more important than ever. Empathy and commitment to the customer are capacities which require lifelong learning.

These three elements ensure better and deeper relations with customers and will make sales talks more relevant than ever for the customer.


I often hear that customers have changed drastically in recent years. What has actually changed is their way of interaction. Your sales, marketing and products have to adapt to this evolution, and a number of pitfalls may show up in the process.

1. You do not send the right message

Most websites I visit are continuously referring to ‘we’ and the benefits of working with ‘us’. This is of no concern to the consumer as he is looking for answers to his questions. Customers are obviously influenced by the information they find online, so you should take care that they actually get answers. Such content will make customers feel more connected and committed to your company. Step into your customer’s shoes and check whether you get answers to the questions that may occupy customers during their entire purchasing cycle.

Research has furthermore shown that prospecting costs (cold calling) have quadrupled over the last five years. You can counter this by fostering customer confidence online in accordance with their purchasing activities (buyer’s journey). How? By focusing on how the customer will be impacted if he decides to work with you. So do not talk about yourself too much, and preferably not all.

2. You focus on selling solutions

Solution selling used to take centre stage in the sales process. This is no longer the case in the current age of the customer, as the customer has already formed an idea of his solution before the seller is involved in his buyer’s journey. Customers get irritated when they are told things they have known for quite some time during a sales meeting.

The customer is therefore not waiting for a diagnosis or solution from your salesperson. Your sales department needs to have a thorough understanding of the customer and his situation. Based on this information, the salesperson can modify or enrich the customer’s view during the sales meeting. This furthermore needs to be done in line with the strengths of your company and product offer. In other words, the sales department needs other skills than in the past. Sales activation and support are indispensable in this regard.

3. The product never takes centre stage

The customer needs to see a clear reason to opt for you. However, if you focus too strongly on the product or service, the customer is not involved in the process and you do not support him in his buyer’s journey. It is important that you know your customer’s profile and develop an optimal solution on that basis.

Most salespeople have a better understanding of their product than of the customer’s situation and environment. Especially companies based in Europe have this problem. The fact that your product is better than the products of your competitors is not the message you want to send out.

4. You train your salespeople on the basis of product trainings

When asked how they train their salespeople, most companies answer: ‘with product trainings’. This is in fact not the right way. We already know that customers have formed an opinion before they come in contact with the seller. The risk is that your salesperson may try to convince the customer, or even worse, enter into a discussion with the customer.

This is the result of sales trainings which focus on what you are selling and why you are better than the rest. The more you lash out against the competition, the more you encourage customers to opt for the cheapest solution. So in the worst case you decrease your margins yourself. This is why you need to teach your staff how to explain the impact to the customer.

5. Your data are not of high quality and you do not segment sufficiently

Companies obtain the best results when they segment their market potential on the basis of common needs and challenges. Companies with a wide range of products and/or services can combine this strategy with a vertical market approach so as to make their message more clearly recognisable.

For example: you sell products that are ideal for companies with a large number of branch offices. Companies in the banking sector and the retail industry have a lot of branch offices and buy on the basis of common needs. There is only a difference in the terminology used (shop manager versus branch manager); the underlying message remains the same. A layered approach enables you to increase the reusability of marketing and sales support (cost reduction) and makes it easier for your salespeople to adapt during the meetings. This will also have a positive effect on your margin and win ratio.

Please note that a good segmentation does not suffice; you obviously need to have an excellent database as well. A reliable process to complement the segmented database on a continuous basis is indispensable in this respect.

We are living in a time where buyers can find information about your solution with a single click, and where peer recommendations are more valuable than any supplier’s advice. So it’s time for organisations to rethink their lead generation. You can start by sharing the responsibility of finding new customers across various departments. A sound, integrated approach will help your company keep costs under control, and the sales department stay focused on what it does best: closing deals.

Revenue performance development requires an update in tactics, especially as the profile of B2B sellers has changed dramatically over recent years. Sales people often used to be a sole source of information, but buyers have clearly taken huge leaps forward now because of the internet. They have taken control of the buying cycle for themselves.

Lead generation to fill the gap

This causes sales departments to panic and think they have to fill the gap with more leads, so lead generation often focuses solely on the numbers being found, and marketing departments often don’t have the resources required to take all the qualifying criteria into account. The consequence: sales people’s diaries are too full of unqualified leads, resulting in poor quality appointments. Sellers become demotivated and miss out on leads. Having more leads doesn’t necessarily mean generating more income.

Less is more

Research shows that less is more. Sales can achieve better results with fewer leads, as long as the quality of these leads is high and insights into the client’s readiness to buy are developed sufficiently. So what a sales team needs is qualified leads that have been developed in a consistent and intelligent way.

It’s the marketing department’s job to systematically influence its market sectors with relevant (i.e. non-commercial!) content tailored to their specific business challenges. Sales will only take over and do more business in shorter cycles when an individual’s readiness to buy has reached the required level. In short, marketing campaigns have to be moulded into a continuous process to promote dialogue with clients rather than push messages into the market one-way. Also important: many companies don’t give their marketing people short-term quotas.


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Companies are finally beginning to realize that recruitment based on job descriptions doesn’t necessarily result in hiring and retaining the best talents.

Take Carglass, for example. You’d expect them to look for ‘good windscreen fitters with experience’. But the car windscreen repair and replacement specialist doesn’t focus on technical skill in its recruitment; after all, you can always learn new techniques.

It focuses instead on customer satisfaction; part of the company’s DNA. So it looks for employees with good communication skills who are interested in people and curious to find out what customers need from its service centres; people who will thrive on providing perfect service to customers.

Five disadvantages of the traditional job description

Recruitment based on skills and experience is fatal for talent and diversity within a company. The five reasons for this are:

  1. Skills and experience remain important to a certain extent; engineers don’t necessarily have any useful potential to be accountants. But the most important thing is what someone does with his or her skills. People with little experience but the potential to learn fast can offer more to your company in the long run than professionals who are in rooted in their job profiles.
  2. Traditional job descriptions don’t leave any room for diversity, for example for young candidates with lots of potential or highly qualified candidates with a different background.
  3. Have you ever wondered why promising new employees perform below par or leave the company again quickly – even though they match the description perfectly? Job descriptions don’t take behaviour, culture, teamwork, dedication or compatibility with employees and the company into account.
  4. Top candidates are not usually looking for a sideways transfer from one company to another (apart from the odd one or two trying to get a higher salary). Job descriptions based solely on skills and experience make it very difficult for them to know if they’ll be able to put their talents to good use for the company, despite their great ambition.
  5. Employees who are recruited for their skills don’t necessarily feel a bond with your company.

Select DNA-compatible employees

Instead of recruiting employees on the basis of skills and experience, it’s much more important to look for people who match your company’s DNA; they’ll be more dedicated and motivated. Employees who are compatible with your corporate culture act in line with expectations so additional procedures and coordination meetings are unnecessary. And don’t forget: DNA is a fixed constant (you’re either compatible with the company values or you aren’t), but skills can be learned.

Shape roles to suit the people who fit in with your company

Role casting for employees who fit in with your company brings the best out of them. They have room to do what they’re good at and develop their skills further, so they don’t need so much management. This results in a win-win situation: employees work together to achieve your company’s strategic objectives in a consistent team.

Companies looking for top talents in order to have good mix of skills and experience should therefore experiment with alternatives to the traditional, outdated job description. You have to think differently in recruitment nowadays; fewer and fewer employees are allowing themselves to get stuck in the shackles of a job that doesn’t give them any room to be themselves.

Managers like it when instructions are followed correctly. This seems to be in the best interests of the proper functioning of your organization. There is a boss who details what has to happen when, and there are employees whose performance is measured against the instructions received, and who have to be accountable for any deviations. If this doesn’t produce the desired result, but employees can still easily demonstrate that they have followed their instructions properly, the only person this has consequences for, in principle, is the boss.

This is becoming less and less the norm. Employees want to work in freedom and decide for themselves when and how they tackle a specific task. They want to develop their talents, grab their opportunities, and have a full life outside of work. In the war for talent, employers who don’t fully understand this will be left behind, stranded without a team.

So it’s better to think in terms of responsibilities than in terms of tasks. Provide clear guidelines about the desired result, but leave the way that leads there more open.
This radical change in control is slowly sinking in with some managers, but the majority still struggle with it. They follow training courses and receive coaching, but have a fundamental difficulty with their authority no longer coming from their role. They need a new type of relationship with employees; a relationship built on trust and support, and the provision of opportunities and second chances. And all this has to happen without the quality of results being adversely affected, and even in such a way that the relational added value can be used to improve results.

We still have a long way to go. The Conference Board says internal satisfaction measurements historically show low figures. Companies that do succeed in switching tasks to responsibilities, however, outclass their industry peers in the medium term. This is backed up with hard figures.

Companies still think too much in terms of job descriptions with matching pay scales. This makes everything very convenient, and it’s easy to benchmark applicants’ salary expectations against information from HR consultants. Handy! But a big mistake.

Job descriptions give a false sense of security. More and more people are wanting to break out of their pigeon-holes to maximize their talents. They are fed up of always having to hear where their points of improvement are in every performance review while the things they do very well remain underexposed. Their focus is aimed at points for improvement rather than on excelling. This means we are forcing our employees to mediocrity.

Breaking free from traditional job descriptions is the solution. It’s better to look at what roles in the company need fulfilling. These roles need to be clustered in such a way that they can be combined logically, and fit in with employee skills available on the labour market. Their pay can then be structured to match the role’s importance for the company.

An example: technical experts end up in a management role because this is prioritised as a career path by the company, and not necessarily because they aspire to it themselves. Only to then realize later that the management aspect does not work. This is a shame, because it’s aprt of the job. This results in the best people becoming trapped in a role that doesn’t match their talents, which leads to frustration for the whole department. Working with roles means experts can continue to fully exploit their talents and guide their team through the technical aspects, while someone with good management skills can direct the team in terms of performance, assessment and coaching.

We are noticing that our clients have a much reduced employee rotation and satisfaction that even doubles, alongside the expected increase in turnover. Because employees no longer need to hear how and where they need to improve, so they can focus on doing what they do best. Good for them, and good for their company.