I was speaking to a friend the other day.He’s VP of Sales Enablement for a large technology organization. He had just come out of a meeting of his peers–the top management in the sales organization. He called to say, “the field VP’s proposed that we initiate a major sales training program and are willing to fund it.”
I was puzzled, “What’s the problem? That should be fantastic for your organization. It’s the opportunity to implement some of the new training approaches we’ve spoken about.”
He replied, “Yes, from that view, it’s great. We think the training could have a real impact. But I have a problem with the way they have approved this. Their view is that all that’s needed to improve performance is training. They’re tossing the solution to the entire performance issue on my lap. It’s a sure path to disaster!”
My friend was absolutely right – unfortunately, his neck and only his neck was on the line. He was in an impossible situation. The problem my friend faced, is that however outstanding the training program, without the active and ongoing engagement of the managers, would never have the impact it could. The issue he faced had nothing to do with the quality of the training, and everything to do with his peers views that performance improvement could be solely the result of a training program.
It's never just about training
Improving sales performance is never just a matter of training, yet so many smart managers seem to have this impression. They think, “all we need to do is conduct this training program and things will be improved.” They couldn’t be more wrong. Sales training–skills development is a component of any performance improvement initiative, it may bea very important component, but by itself, seldom achieves the expected results.
Before investing in training, ensure that the right strategy, processes, and tools are in place to support and reinforce it.
To sustain performance improvement, we have to move away from the event mentality that surrounds most training programs. We have to look at the other components critical to sustained performance improvement. Does the training reinforce the strategies and priorities of the organization? Do we have the right systems, processes, and tools in place to support and reinforce the training? Do we have metrics and goals aligned with what we are trying to achieve through the training? (The opposite of this is true as well: Does the training reinforce the ability for the people to achieve the metrics and goals we have in place?) Perhaps most importantly, has management committed to ongoing and active reinforcement and coaching?
It’s unfortunate, but we’ve seen too many training efforts fail, and much of it has little to do with the quality of the training program, but it’s because managers treat training a standalone event. They fail to integrate into the business. They fail to have all the other components in place and aligned with the overall objectives of the organization. If managers, at all levels, are not committed to integrating training into the other elements of the sales strategy, then you are probably wasting a lot of time and money.
Are you getting the most out of your training programs?
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.