In addition, more companies—27 percent of those surveyed, up from 7 percent two years ago—are looking to demonstrate that
training can have an impact on sales force retention. Again we consider B. Braun Medical. Exit interviews in 2003 revealed
that two of the top-three complaints among salespeople were learning related: Reps said they didn't get enough training and
didn't have defined career paths. The organization's board of directors decided to resolve these issues by investing heavily
in training. While other departments were asked to maintain or reduce existing expense levels year over year, the training
department received increased headcount and discretionary budget in 2004, 2005, and 2006. At the end of 2006, turnover was
7 percent, down from 16 percent in 2003.
Trend 3: Trainers Cope with "Senior-itis"
When a new rep comes on board, companies dedicate an average of 62 days to training during the first year. After the first
12 months, training significantly drops off—to about two days a year. However, some companies are taking a new look at their
training for tenured salespeople.
Trend in Learners per Trainer
One example is Allergan, with a sales force that has increased in recent years due to product launches and new indications.
"Senior reps influence so many people and shape the culture of a company," says Jim Trunick, senior director, corporate training
and development. "The question is, How much advanced training should we do?" Trunick and his team, like those at other organizations,
are still trying to answer that question. Currently, Allergan is revamping its leadership-skills-development programs so that
tenured representatives can better lead in district team scenarios. Allergan also offers a one-week, in-house training program
for senior salespeople that includes role-playing and other exercises designed to improve skills around negotiations, presentations,
It seems counterintuitive, training directors say—but the more that representatives learn on the job, the more likely it is
that they might stay. That's been shown in other industries. For example, technology and learning giant IBM has conducted
studies linking learning and employee retention. Employees involved in learning programs are 79 percent less likely to leave
the company after three years.
Carol Wells, Genentech
Other companies are looking at expanding their training for tenured sales staff—beyond the classic, corporate-university format.
One midsize company is considering introducing pharmaceutical-education credits—similar to a doctor's required CME credits—that
all tenured reps would need to earn each year. Completion of credits would be tied to bonuses or end-of-year increases.
While training directors express a desire to do more training of tenured salespeople, they recognize reality. These advanced
programs are often the first to go when upper management asks for a budget cut.
Trend 4: Experimenting with Technology
Technology is also helping trainers follow through on classroom training. For example, a training department may distribute
a Web-based training program to field sales teams 30, 60, or 90 days after a representative completes a course. But L&D departments
are also moving to new offline options: Companies like Genentech and B. Braun are piloting programs using or have equipped
their sales forces with iPods, allowing trainers to efficiently distribute video or audio podcast courses with relative ease.
Another technology that many training organizations rely upon is a learning management system, or LMS. These systems can help
track course completion, enroll learners in classes, and, in some cases, analyze training effectiveness. Three-quarters of
the companies surveyed use an LMS or plan to implement one in the next year.