No matter how hard you try and how much investment you make in learning capabilities, comments from the sales team always seems to be the same:


“I don’t remember anything from last month’s training!”


This can be particularly frustrating for a Sales Enablement leader. Yet even longstanding learning professionals and training practitioners suffer from this retention challenge.


This post will help ensure that your Training Program does not suffer from any critical defects around retention.


The key steps to retention

The below chart reflects SBI’s experience with our clients in rolling out improvement programs that require behavior change. The insight is simple – mere training only is not sufficient to ensure that your target population (reps, managers, etc..) will adopt the new skill, competency, or process.




So is it that simple?


Is it just as easy as making sure that you “add” demonstration and practice application to your training regimen and tacking on coaching at the end? Is that all there is to it? Not so fast.


How to Ensure Retention of your Training Program

Here are some suggestions for you to use in building, delivering, and managing your training programs. If followed, they will improve the take-up of your training as well as its adoption in the field.


Measure it.  Though companies continue to invest heavily in sales training and sales development programs, the return is often times undocumented and unprovable.  How do you know that learning has occurred after training program question?  You know it not when attendees score well on a test, but instead when the behavior of the attendees in their job changes. If behavior doesn’t change then why conduct the training at all?


Emphasize the micro. Too many training efforts try to boil the ocean as they attempt to cover vast processes or programs. This rapidly overwhelms the learner’s ability to assimilate new concepts and apply them in the context of their current role. Instead develop training that is “bite-sized” and is twinned with micro-quizzes (no more than 5 questions)


  • Call-to-action: chop up your training challenge into many small modules, each of which has a very limited application. This makes it easier for the learners to understand the new behaviors and adopt them. But management needs to realize that this approach will take longer to address an entire program.


Separate the training from the testing.  So often training events have a test bolted on the end of the content. But this does not capture retention. Instead it only captures short term memory — in one ear and out the other. That is why the drop off for “training only” programs is so steep – no adoption.  One technique to use is to separate the training quiz from the training event – by days or even weeks. This at least captures longer term memory


  • Call-to-action: separate your training and testing; that should expose the depth of the retention gap.


Build a course catalog.  A best practice is to break up your training into different levels, similar to college courseware. By separating a topic into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels you are able to treat it more intimately and ensure that your learner goes from ground level understanding to complete mastery.

  • Call-to-action: Take your current training courses and break them up as follows:
    • 100 series: basic concepts
    • 200 series: advanced concepts
    • 300 series: concepts with case study application custom to selling situations
    • 400 series: guided interactions with subject matter experts leading to certification



Institute a Martial arts approach.  Actuate your training with “black belt “practitioners who are known to be excellent.  Training is often times conducted by those without internal subject matter expertise. Sometimes that is necessary to achieve scalability. However to ensure that the training sticks, you should connect learners who have completed training with those who are known to be masters.

  • Call-to-action: for the most important training content, establish a black belt like certification. This is best delivered via a 1-on-1 interaction, an apprenticeship, a job trial, or a proctored assessment. With that level of intimacy between learner and expert the training content and objectives will be met.


If you are trying to improve sales effectiveness or suffer from poor training program retention, consider these other insights:



For Sales Enablement leaders who think these suggestions have merit, give us a ring.  Here is how to contact us:   


It is also helpful it to hear how your peers are tackling their sales and marketing challenges. Our SBI Podcast features leaders from top organizations. We dig deep to find the insights and tactics that get results. Go ahead and subscribe to the podcast here.


Mike Drapeau

Makes data and analysis come alive so clients can understand the “what” and “why” and design solutions that fit the environment.
Mike has led every function at SBI – Delivery, Sales, Talent, and Technology. Now he is a leader for Account Management, Private Equity Partnership, and long-term business development at SBI.


He has personally led over 100 projects for SBI over his decade+ time since its founding in 2006.


This starts by earning trust – of clients, of PE firms, of prospects. Mike obtains this by leveraging deep domain expertise, with more than 25 years in sales, competitive intelligence, sales management, marketing enablement, product management, pre-sales and sales operations. Mike relishes the idea of living in the field. So he does.


As a founding partner, Mike built out SBI’s library of emerging best practices for sales and marketing, which leads to evidence-based solutions, custom-fit to each client. Mike built himself many of the solutions now part of the Revenue Growth Methodology. And whatever he touches gets adopted. This is part of his commitment to making it happen in the field.
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