Purpose The purpose of this paper is to decipher the possibility of ensuring the effectiveness of sales training by focusing on selected organization-related variables and thereafter aims at making recommendations for enhancing the overall sales training effectiveness. Variables that are under organizations’ control, like training transfer climate, training evaluation and degree of choice (mandatory or by choice) were selected for this study. The study also attempted to understand how these variables influence at pre-training stage and post-training stage. Design/methodology/approach This cross-sectional research involved both exploratory and conclusive phases. To test the postulated hypotheses, data were collected in two phases from sales executives of a large oil and gas petrochemical company having the presence across India. A total of 370 sales executives, who were the part of a sales training program, were approached twice, one before the training and once after the eight weeks of training. Data from the respondents who completed both pre- and post-training survey (255) were used for analyses. Findings The results indicate that all the three predictor variables – training awareness, perceived transfer climate and the presence of an appropriate training evaluation mechanism, influence trainees’ motivation to learn. The results depict that motivation to learn mediates the association between the predictor variables and the resultant variable. Also, degree of choice was found to moderate the association between motivation to learn and sales training effectiveness. The research reinforces the significance of pre-training factors in designing sales training programs to ensure its better effectiveness. Research limitations/implications The present study captures organizational-level variables as they are under the control of the organization and can be managed. The study included both motivation to learn and training effectiveness in the hypothesized model to understand the motivational issues in a holistic perspective. The outcomes of this research strengthen the role of trainees’ motivation to learn as a connecting variable between organizational-level variables and sales training effectiveness. Thus, the outcome of this study contributes to the literature on training motivation as well as training effectiveness. Practical implications The findings of this study are significant for sales organizations or the organizations offering sales training aiming to enhance overall training effectiveness. Training managers must focus on these factors and ensure that all the pre-training organizational-level variables are very well-taken care of. This implies that the trainees need to be well informed about the training calendar, training policies, training content, expectations from them and how the program will be evaluated after training, along with appropriate positive transfer climate. Organizations should also include proper training evaluation mechanism to measure training at different levels. Originality/value This study is an attempt to decipher the possibility of ensuring the effectiveness of sales training by focusing on select organization-related variables, and thereafter aims at making recommendations for enhancing the overall sales training effectiveness. The study’s uniqueness lies in simultaneous examination of influence of various variables, and that too at two different points of time (before and after the training). These two perspectives are apparently missing in the existing sales training literature.