Want impact from your sales training initiatives? Then don’t rely on just what happens in the classroom with your sales people. Leaders who invest in sales skills training and then don’t require all levels of sales management to attend the same training as their sales people always confound me. How can this be? As a leader, I would fear two things. First, the training could be teaching something contrary to what I believed my people should do. If that happens, not only has the money been wasted but I also have to undo the damage and re-train them. Second, I would fear not being able to support and reinforce what they had learned, again potentially wasting that investment. In spite of these very real risks, everyday, sales people sit in classrooms while their managers are basking in the belief that they are above it all – that they already know everything they need to know about selling. After all, they’ve paid their dues. Only sales people need sales training. Right?
The bottom line here is that if we really want to change selling behavior in any meaningful way, classroom training simply isn’t enough. If we are launching a game-changing new sales methodology, we can’t teach people everything they need to know in a few days or even a couple weeks in the classroom. What happens AFTER class in the field provides the most critical learning opportunities and greatest potential benefit. Not that a few people won’t change as a result of the training, with little or no management intervention they absolutely will. However, significant ROI won’t be generated by a handful of people changing their behavior. Big returns occur when the majority, if not all, commit to, are held accountable for, and ultimately execute the targeted selling behaviors more effectively. This INCLUDES managers. Each level of management has a responsibility for driving the adoption of new behaviors and the development of new skills. If true behavioral change is going to take place, everyone has to be held responsible and accountable for his or her role. Remember, Sales Transformation is about changing the very culture of the organization. The culture won’t change unless managers are deeply and inextricably involved.
That being said, Sales Transformation isn’t for the weak of heart. It takes strong senior leaders who are committed to driving change and even changing themselves. Accountability for well-defined behaviors at all levels of the organization is essential and lack of this accountability is arguably the single greatest obstacle to meaningful Sales Transformation. Just to be clear, even our view of accountability may need to change. Accountability is defined as “responsibility to someone for some activity.” Notice, the definition does not say “some result”, rather “some activity.” Results don’t happen unless the activities required to produce them happen first. Many sales organizations fail to “transform” because managers are unable or unwilling to drive the behaviors or day-to-day activities that will deliver the desired results. When all conversations center on results rather than the behaviors that produce them, real accountability simply doesn’t exist.
Therefore, management must consistently engage in the following coaching behaviors at each level of the sales organization:
- Set goals for activity (number of proposals, contacts, etc.) and proficiency (closing ratios, average sale value, proposal ratio, etc.) with every member of their team that are mutually agreed upon and continually reviewed/updated.
- Regularly and consistently seek to uncover gaps in performance relative to those goals.
- Identify the root causes for failure to perform (environment, commitment, capacity, skills, knowledge).
- Determine corrective actions/activities required to address the root causes for failure.
- Evaluate each report’s performance to make certain incremental improvement is taking place.
Here are five questions that will help you determine where you are relative to overcoming this obstacle:
- Are all managers fully committed to your formal sales process?
- Have you and your managers clearly defined activity and proficiency metrics for every individual on your sales team?
- Do your managers consistently review those metrics to uncover gaps in performance?
- Do your managers hold everyone on their team accountable for their commitment to your formal/dynamic sales process?
- Have you identified ways to inspect the selling and coaching behaviors by which your sales results are produced and are you reporting on and inspecting these behaviors consistently?