Steve Promisel is an experienced operations leader with a focus on the application of data analytics for process optimization, sales forecasting, compensation planning and capacity management. His disciplined and passionate approach to maximizing productivity has led to a significant impact in improving performance and reducing attrition within many companies.
There is an approach that can be implemented capable of having a tremendous impact on productivity and sales results. It naturally breaks into the three common parts: People, Process and Technology. In our experience, you will not be successful if only one of the three are working well and you will have some success (usually through heroic people) if two of the three are working well. Excellence is much more likely to occur if all three parts are running on all cylinders. Let’s review each part below.
Typically, companies rely on successful LMS implementations and sales enablement teams to manage the onboarding and ongoing learning process. The LMS implementation is often run by IT and supported by an L&D (Learning and Development) team. While they have all the right intentions, they are limited in understanding how sales reps consume, absorb and retain information.
World-class learning environments employ or consult with process experts that understand all the processes associated with bringing reps and FLMs up to speed and keeping the foot on the gas through their careers. They invest in content experts (internal or external) to provide the information needed to be successful across all aspects of the company. They have curators, people who ensure that content is available in the right form and is based on current information. They also constantly review and remove stale content from the various locations where content is available. Trainers are available to either teach live or web-based programs, or provide the face-to-video content. Perhaps the most valuable resource are the sales coaches. These people have experience in sales methodology, sales skills, sales analytics and how to get the most out of corporate systems like the CRM or forecasting tools. They also provide training, but really shine when giving 1:1 feedback to developing FLMs.
All of these roles provide tremendous capability to the sales teams, from reps and pre-sales to sales managers and senior sales leadership.
The “secret sauce” to maximizing salesforce productivity is managing a holistic approach to learning; combining coaching, live training, web-training, e-learning courses, short topical videos, assessments and certifications. Skipping any one of these approaches puts the entire endeavor at risk.
Typically, strong sales organizations create learning paths for each role in their organization. A learning path indicates each content item that a rep needs to absorb, what assessment is available to confirm understanding, and when it is appropriate for that knowledge to be obtained. Different roles (e.g. business development reps vs. inside sales vs. commercial sales reps vs. Enterprise sales reps or other supporting roles) all have different learning paths.
Great learning paths include all the learning requirements, making it a one-stop shop for getting up to speed and growing over time. They can include HR overviews, sales skills, sales methodology, sales processes, sales tools, product knowledge, solution pitches, market insights, competitive insights, and how to get things done (social selling tools, CRM, quoting, booking deals, etc.)
Learning starts with pre-boarding. Before a rep or FLM even walks in the door, they should be presented with a series of learning activities, the completion of which is mandatory prior to starting with the company.
The onboarding process is often a live event. This is where a new employee gets their first impression of the company. It is essential that it be well-organized, with content relevant to getting them off the ground quickly. Given that reps come in at different levels, it is important to focus on material that is common to all new reps.
This would be entry-level content, like company information, product knowledge, marketing pitches, your sales process and how to get things done as opposed to the development of sales skills and detailed sales methodology.
If you bring on more junior reps or inside sales, it is best to split them out to ensure they are effective sellers through dedicated training and review. In any case, you should provide short “homework” assignments and quizzes to augment what was learned in the live sessions and confirm understanding.
Event prep (like a sales kickoff) is similar to onboarding where you have a live event except (in theory), everyone comes in at similar levels. The focus is usually on product updates, new messages and marketing insights. If new systems are being implemented, this is usually a good time to ensure that reps know how to use those systems (this will save a tremendous amount of support time later).
In all cases, homework and quizzes are used to consolidate and confirm understanding.
Ongoing learning – new product offerings, an acquisition announcement, a new system implementation, new insights, sales techniques and anything else – is an essential yet overlooked part of the learning process.
It isn’t about spraying emails and hoping for the best, or running web conference sessions where attendance is low. It’s about providing snippets of useful content in any form, then ensuring that sales personnel have absorbed and retained the information through assessments.
Hybrid learning is simply mixing training modes to produce optimal results. Live training with follow-on content, assessments and/or coaching is a sure way to help reps retain more information.
Sales coaching is the secret ingredient of the secret sauce. Companies employ sales coaches in addition to trainers, content developers and curators to provide a way to accelerate learning and avoid mistakes. Sales coaches turn FLMs into super-effective sale coaches for their reps.
They also provide additional capacity for deal reviews and territory planning. They make sure that FLMs and reps get certified in relevant content and point out opportunities for improvement or risks in the business. They pay for themselves in a very short period of time.
Assessments are critically important to optimal learning success. There are too many distractions in today’s world. Reps leave live training to take calls, they let a web conference run while they catch up on email and fly through e-learning without really understanding the material.
By implementing a creative assessment approach (see the next section), your sales personnel will not only absorb critical information, but they will retain more of it over time.
For those companies that want to do certification, it is a useful approach to confirming that sales personnel have completed relevant material and prove that they understand that material.
As discussed earlier, almost all companies have some form of corporate intranet and many companies implement LMSs. Intranets are often the place where “content goes to die” and new material is added but nothing is ever retired which often creates confusion.
LMSs often have limited success due to their monolithic nature and implementation complexity. Without the backing of a strong L&D team, content is not updated in a timely manner and will likely fail to include material most relevant to sales teams.
We have found a complementary approach to LMS that provide a more nimble and focused way to ensure sales teams have the knowledge they need to be successful.
The Mentor Productivity Accelerator (MPA) is a platform that provides short bursts of timely content (often videos) along with links to supporting material, LMS e-learning content (like HR required courses), role-based learning paths, a messaging capability to share key information specific to sales, and a creative assessment approach that accelerates learning and absorption. Combined with adoption analytics, the MPA has a unique approach to maximizing salesforce productivity through optimized learning.
In the final post of this series, we’ll review a checklist that you can use to drive salesforce improvements through optimized learning.