Enable Your Growth Strategy
Senior executives know that, beyond mergers and acquisitions, a company’s growth is driven one deal at a time through the effective sales and negotiations of their direct and indirect salespeople.
That’s why American corporations spend $7.2 billion (1) every year on sales processes, account management skills, negotiation, and opportunity management training. That’s an average of $347,000 per company, according to Selling Power. But beyond proprietary (and perhaps biased) consulting reports and high-level academic papers on change, there’s little information available on whether those that invest money are achieving a return on their investment that’s at least equal to—if not better than—their cost of capital.
WHY IS ROI ALLUSIVE?
When we started researching the ROI challenge, we found others were asking the same question. What follows begins to paint the picture...
Inconsistent usage: “...more than half of firms report investing $1500 to $7500 annually per sales rep in training...only a quarter of reps consistently use their company’s accepted methodology more than half the time, only 10% resolutely (greater than 90% of the time).” (2)
Minimal Adoption: “Eighty-seven percent of training is lost within one month.” (3)
Missing connection to value drivers: “Financial and human resources are precious and constrained assets. We frequently see companies with a slew of goals that have no clear connection to real value drivers, and that diffuse or dilute those assets. Organizations use up valuable resources with only modest connection to the highest impact execution priorities.” (4)
HOW DO WE FIX IMPLEMENTATION & ADOPTION?
Do any of these challenges ring true? Have you been wondering or been frustrated with the ability to implement sales training programs and get them to “stick?" We were too, so we underwent an exhaustive search to determine: what drives implementation and adoption?
In partnership with Selling Power Magazine, The Professional Society for Sales and Marketing Training, and The Standard Register Corporation we reached out to 30,000 executives to get this question answered. We found 150 companies who felt they had “deeply embedded sales training into the DNA of their organization.” Of those responses, the ratio of end user to sales training consultants was about 2-1. Once we had survey results tabulated, we executed one-on-one interviews and focus groups with respondents to get a better sense of the data.
What emerged from this work was the top three drivers of implementation and adoption:
(1) Sales Training as Enabler of Corporate Growth Strategies
Rather than executing sales training simply for the sake of training, they recognized that sales training can and should be used to strengthen core sales competencies that directly enable key aspects of growth strategy.
(2) Strong Executive Sponsorship
Senior executives in sales as well as other functions sponsored and got directly involved not only in funding the initiatives, but in attending workshops and using the methodologies.
(3) Coaches Who Measure and Are Measured
Field sales management not only formally measured those who reported to them but were, in turn, formally measured by those to whom they reported.
Clearly the lead issue was #1, linking a training initiative to execution of corporate strategy. If #1 is achieved, numbers 2 and 3 follow. Here are some quotes from the focus groups to better defined what #1 looks like:
When asked how to determine if training is being tied to their company’s growth strategies, some respondents said it occurs when it’s:
“integral to the success of the organization”
“part of a larger initiative to remediate certain issues/challenges that the company is facing”
“meant to achieve a business objective”
Other executives said it’s when there is:
“specific pressure to achieve business objectives and specific metrics are set”
“a compelling problem senior sales and marketing management is committed to solving, and the sales training initiative solves it”
For the complete and detailed report, click here.
CHANGING THE CONVERSATION FROM TRAINING AND METHODOLOGY TO STRATEGY EXECUTION AND ROI
For us, the next logical step of this work was a bit harder. In it we had to ask, how does one connect a corporate strategy to a training initiative? The short answer is:
Those who matter need to define their own needs and make the decision on the best way to execute… prior to a decision.
While this takes a little more work, it ultimately leads to a much higher probability of adoption and ROI. We’ve spent the last few years adding rigor to this upfront work to understand the needs of stakeholders and then help them make the highest value decision on a sales enablement initiative that drives growth.
The steps are:
1.Identify those who matter
Cross functional thought leaders (those that touch or influence sales – marketing, finance, legal, operations, etc.)
Front line sales leaders
2. Ask and Report
Interview or survey those that matter and report out the cumulative findings
From Cross-Functional Leaders:
Current and desired state across Strategic, Initiative and Operational Processes
Leading and lagging success metrics
From Sales and Leaders:
Value management benchmarking
Market shifts (why change) – never hurts to supplement what you hear from those that matter with market research
Present options for available alternatives to help improve on reported desired outcomes
Pro Tip: Look for highest probability of success at lowest risk
Measure leading and lagging
Implement operational cadence/coaching
Report, report, report! (celebrate)
When you are ready for a more in depth look at a sales enablement diagnostic, click here.
In our interview with Dave Stein (CEO if ES Research Group) on this subject, Dave states:
"In many companies, the sales team is last in line with respect to the adoption and institutionalization of not only effective measurement mechanisms, but basic process as well. Standards and methods are employed by every other department within a company. Manufacturing has Just-in-time, Lean and the Toyota Production Systems (TPS), Finance has GAAP, and the list goes on. Sales has a lot of catching up to do to be depended upon as a critical enabler of corporate growth strategies."
We are aware there are many levers management pulls to execute a multi-pronged corporate growth strategy. Our world class benchmarking process is designed to assist those who choose to use sales training as one of those levers to enable a specific aspect of growth strategy. The summary of lessons learned from those best in class companies is below.
Sales training, because of its potential use as a growth engine, must be thought about— and measured—differently than other types of training.
All sales training is not created equal, and given the demands on managers and salespeople, only those training initiatives that can be directly tied to a corporate growth strategy should be chosen for complete implementation.
For those initiatives chosen for world class implementation, there are three imperatives:
a direct connection to the company’s growth strategies
commitment and direct involvement of management
field sales management formally measures those who report to them and are, in turn, measured by those to whom they report
Finally, because neither aggregating sales stories nor measuring lagging indicators alone provide meaningful data, key leading and lagging indicators must be agreed upon before, and measured after, implementation of the initiative in order to determine both its success as an enabler of corporate growth and its real ROI.
If you would like to discuss getting more ROI from your sales training initiatives, send me an email to schedule a time to connect: firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) Journal of Personal Selling
(2) CSO Insights “Sales 2.0 Whitepaper"
(3) Sales Executive Council of the Corporate Executive Board
(4) Axiom Consulting Partners, Winning Axiom #2