In this post on learning and development for sales teams, our CEO Debbie Lawley offers insights from her experience in helping global companies to increase both efficiency and revenues.
Supporting excellence in sales competence
Sales teams do not sit still and are at the sharpest end of business. Frequently led by challenging targets, development of the sales team and management capability can be low down the list of priorities. And yet results in this area of team development can have the most rapid impact on company results.
The question is how do learning and development approaches make a difference – and make a difference that is timely, impactful and sustainable. The reality of sales performance is that it is actually a combination of multiple competences. Capability in selling techniques is one, product knowledge is another, competitor knowledge and capability in using the organisation’s platforms and systems are yet more.
Sustainable and effective development programmes address all these and ensure the key knowledge is available at the point of need. The reach of the L&D team has to be broad enough to cover all these areas and is unlikely to be addressed in face-to-face training alone. Blended learning programmes bringing together experts, stories, competitor knowledge as well as systems and sales support are key to impactful outcomes.
In our observation of client sales academies over an extended period, we have noticed that many do well on the training and talent area, but are weak in the other three areas. Common pitfalls include:
- The sales methodology is too vague or generic and therefore not actually used by any sales people in practice.
- The sales methodology is “inside-out”: It was designed from the supplier’s viewpoint about how it wanted to sell rather than how clients actually buy.
- New hires are not brought into the business effectively meaning time to competence is slow and worse still, there is a higher than necessary drop out rate.
- The early years of the learning journey work well, but organisations struggle to develop their best sales people who’ve completed the basics.
- The jump from sales person to sales manager is precarious and badly managed.
- Sales enablement is non-existent: sales and marketing fight because there is no well thought out collaboration mechanism in place.
- It’s very difficult to discover where best practice resides during changes in sales strategy or product / service focus, meaning sales are slow to grow.
The right blend can make the difference.
Direct impact on performance, time to competence of new hires and reductions in churn rates are all achievable. Excellence in sales development is achieved by bringing sales skills together with access to market knowledge, by involving sales managers as mentors and setting on the job assessments.
This provides Sales people with realistic and context-based learning tools to hone their skills.
For more information on our approach to supporting sales development through online and blended learning, please feel free to contact us here at WillowDNA.