What we measure matters

What we measure matters

How to assess Return on Investment

Published in Customer Experience Magazine

For anyone involved in learning programmes, how to assess Return on Investment (ROI) is a constant question and correctly so. If we can’t prove that what we are doing is having a quantifiable benefit then perhaps we shouldn’t be doing it!

But what is the quantifiable benefit? In our experience at Huthwaite International, wherever there are multiple stakeholders and a lengthy decision making process you have a degree of complexity which can make determining what to measure difficult.

We specialise in sales training and development and it is often thought of as a relatively simple matter. You implement a sales training programme and either the volume of sales goes up, the value of orders increases or lead times reduce. It is a commercial discipline in which numbers are everywhere and measuring impact should be pretty straightforward.

But it’s not. What about the new product range which often accompanies the organisation’s desire to upskill their sales force? What about that new marketing campaign? What about the economic conditions or a competitor taking their eye off the ball? Simple numbers may seem enticing but may not bear much relation to the actual skills and behaviours of individual sellers. They might have got lucky, the timing of a massive deal might simply have coincided with the course or any one of a thousand other reasons may lay behind their apparent success.

As trainers and developers of commercial skills we need to concentrate on the things which:

a) We can influence most
b) We can measure, and
c) Have a validated impact on performance

What should we measure?

One trap which many training businesses fall into is to accord importance to those things which can easily be measured rather than measuring the things which are really important– ‘importance’ being equal to having a direct and proven link to doing things better. That’s why we help our clients to focus on the behaviours which we know differentiate excellent sales people from those who perform at an average level. Over decades of continual research into what good people do more frequently and differently from those who are simply OK, we’ve boiled down the behaviours that we help people to adopt, into measurable components.

Measurable components which make a difference

There are two factors at work here. First, it focuses precisely on what sellers (and negotiators and customer service people) actually do. This is not vague but concrete and observable.

Second, the process of measuring implementation of these skills and behaviours is integral to the learning process for those who participate in our programmes. By experiencing what really good looks like, in minute detail and in real life, participants gain clarity and understanding of what they can do to improve. In this way, the measurement process is not some box-ticking exercise or self-report survey. It looks precisely at those behaviours which are being used, could be used better and plans for incremental change. Hopefully, it goes without saying that this change happens not in a classroom or at the end of an online module, but in the real world with real customers in real meetings.

Supporting individuals to achieve their best

Central to this process are conversations between sellers and a coach or champion. Sometimes this is the sales manager, but increasingly frequently the person supporting the participant is not part of the traditional hierarchy. This seems to deliver some benefits. We are still looking into what is going on here, but our current hypothesis is that the separation of coaching conversation from day to day operational discussions is beneficial. However disciplined a team leader may be about their time with each team member, the temptation to spend part of the time devoted to performance improvement on discussing operational issues might just be too great. Whenever this happens, it’s bound to reduce the airtime given to the very important changes in behaviour in which the organisation has invested.

By defining which behaviours make a real difference, by measuring the change in those behaviours over time, by supporting individuals as they make those changes, and monitoring impact on business results, real ROI can be measured. What’s more, our learning interventions can focus on what really matters – people doing things differently and doing different things.

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SPIN® Selling – an ROI evidence study

Seven companies share their ROI stories and how they improved performance, changed behaviour and transformed fortunes. This report is important reading for anyone evaluating their company’s sales performance and / or considering a skills improvement programme.

Download Report

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