Tristam Brown, Chairman and CEO of LSA Global
Many obstacles hinder the successful transfer of sales training and the improvement of on-the-job performance. But if you carefully consider 3 strategies, you’ll be much more likely to achieve the results you seek.
Let’s start with one very important caveat. This post assumes you have already performed the sales training basics in the areas of success metrics, money-making skills, skill gaps and reinforcement. If you have not already done so, it’s probably too early to design sales training rollout strategies. You’re putting the cart before the horse. When it comes to sales training rollout strategies, form follows function.
You will know you are ready to discuss training rollout options when you and key stakeholders can answer the following questions:
- Success Metrics: What one or two sales metrics are you trying to improve? Examples include revenue, margin, win rate, portfolio mix, deal size and sales cycle.
- Money-Making Skills: What are the critical few skills and behaviors that matter most vis-à-vis your desired success metrics, sales strategy and sales culture? Examples include calling high, qualifying, prospecting, solution selling, business acumen, presenting, pipeline management, account planning and negotiating.
- Skill Gaps: What are the specific strengths and limiters of your target audience for those money making skills?
- Reinforcement: How will you reinforce, coach and measure behavior and performance change?
Once it is time to design your training rollout strategies, I recommend reviewing 3 main options: participation, rollout and participant mix. Depending upon your sales strategy, culture, budget, desired outcomes and where you are on the learning maturity continuum, each option has advantages and disadvantages.
Mandatory: “Everyone Must Attend”
- Ensures that the “right” sales people get the “right” sales training.
- Sends a clear message from the top regarding importance, accountability and culture.
- Easier and often less expensive to plan, register, measure and roll out.
- Helps ensure compliance when needed.
- Effective for foundational, sales-wide programs or programs linked to targeted career transition points, such as moving from sales rep to sales manager.
- People may not get the most out of a session that they are “forced” to attend.
- May not match cultural or employee engagement strategies.
Suggested: “Recommend People Attend Who Meet Specific Criteria”
- Allows each decision point to determine that the “right” sales people receive the “right” sales training.
- Increases accountability and responsibility.
- Sends a clear message regarding importance, accountability and culture from within each group.
- Helps align the sales force to overall company goals.
- Effective for targeted sales teams and accounts that do not apply to the majority of the organization.
- A process and criteria must be created and communicated to effectively sell and implement the solution.
- Decision makers must have the capability to make the “right” decisions at the “right” time.
- Sales managers must spend time being part of the process.
- People may not support or be in alignment with overall goals.
- May cause inequity.
- May take more time to implement and cost more to execute per person.
Selected: “Only a Select, Privileged Few Get to Attend”
- Allows the company to target and reward specific individuals and groups.
- Often creates a “buzz” and desire to become part of an elite sales training program.
- Effective for succession planning, special projects or account teams.
- Create a “pull” strategy with sales training and enablement.
- Unclear selection criteria and biased processes can de-motivate non-selected sales personnel.
- Time required to do it right.
Optional: “Attend If You Want”
- Allows each sales person/manager to determine what makes sense for them.
- Increases accountability and responsibility of individuals.
- Works well for foundational-level sales training for individual sales contributors.
- People might not have the capability to determine what makes sense at an individual, team and organizational level.
- Random participation may not achieve stated organizational objectives.
- Requires more logistical support and often costs more in the long run.
Pilot: “Test It on a Targeted Group and Learn and Improve”
- Invest a little before you invest a lot.
- Helps increase buy-in and focus the design and implementation plan.
- Easier to manage expectations and succeed in initial and follow-up programs.
- Often speeds up the design process and decreases costs.
- Must be willing to learn and adjust from Pilot accordingly.
Top Down: “Start with Leadership and Move Through Their Direct Reports”
- Increases executive support, buy-in and sales coaching opportunities.
- Sends a clear message regarding importance.
- Provides ability to incorporate executive feedback into future sessions.
- May not want to wait for executives to have time to participate.
- Sales leaders need to have the skills to communicate, coach and model the content.
As Available: “Sign Up People Based Upon Desire and Availability”
- Works with people’s schedules.
- Meets just-in-time needs.
- Supports individual development plans.
- Focuses first on the most motivated.
May promote cross-functional relationships.
- May not focus on areas of highest need from a company or sales team perspective.
- Registration, scheduling and tracking may be cumbersome if a registration or learning management system is not used.
By Location: “Sign Up and Deliver at One Location at a Time”
- Creates momentum and support systems in a location.
- May save expenses by running programs back-to-back.
- Provides ability to focus on unique attributes of a location.
- May not focus on areas of highest need.
- Decreased cross-fertilization of ideas and perspectives.
By Account/Group/Team/Sales Initiative
- Focuses on specific issues important to the business.
- Increases business and on-the-job relevancy.
- Easier to tie to ROI.
- Ability to work on real issues, clients and problems.
- May be difficult to identify and break down appropriate groups.
- Does not support cross-fertilization of ideas and perspectives outside of the team or group if cross-selling is important.
Participant Mix Options
Cross Functional/Cross Level
- Allows for a good sharing of perspectives, issues and needs.
- Promotes teambuilding and helps to break down structural and positional silos.
- Creates opportunities to solve problems, concerns and barriers in a safe setting.
- Provides opportunity for more experienced, skilled or knowledgeable participants to coach others and provide reinforcement.
- More design and facilitation skill required to ensure that examples, case studies, discussions and role plays remain relevant and engaging to entire audience.
- Open and honest discussion may not be appropriate for all issues.
Intact Sales Teams
- Naturally promotes teambuilding.
- Ability to focus on client and account specific issues.
- Increases business and on-the-job relevancy.
- Easier to tie to client and account revenue and margin.
- Difficult for some participants to break out of their natural role/position to enhance learning.
- Team issues and dynamics may limit focus on learning.
Putting It to Work
Many clients puzzle over these various options. They risk making the mistake of trying to determine rollout options before knowing where they are headed and the key obstacles that they face.
Begin with clear desired outcomes from a business and learning perspective. These clear outcomes will lead you to the metrics and resources required to achieve your sales training goals. Once these are clear, it should not be very difficult to select the combination of sales training rollout options that will work best for your initiative.