Continuous Training for Continued Success
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Jenna Cronin: Alright. Good morning. Hey everyone, how are we doing? Got some coffee, got some breakfast? Okay. My name is Jenna Cronin. I am with the Association for Talent Development and so we do all things related to workplace learning and, in particular, I own the category of sales enablement, so obviously, an area of sales learning that is growing very rapidly. It is my job to keep track of all the biggest trends and strategies that people are using from year to year so that I can work on planning for our events, magazine articles – we publish a lot of books and resources for our members. So, continuous training is something that is very important to us, very exciting to me, and I am really looking forward to interviewing some of our panel members.
Emcee: Thanks, Jenna. I will turn it over to you and go ahead and introduce the panelists. Thanks for coming.
JC: Alright. So I will ask everyone to come up and take a seat. We have one panel member that might be stuck in traffic right now, so if we have someone else that joins us, we will go ahead and introduce Josie as she gets here. But let’s start with Matt and we will go down the line. Tell us a little bit about your background.
Matt McClendon: Great. Matt McClendon. I have been the president of DSG for the last eight years and we focus on strategy implementation. So as our clients are looking at their growth strategies – could be a new market, a new solution, new buyer – how do they operationalize that across their team. So I’m excited to be here and talk about continuous enablement and training. I’m definitely passionate about that.
George Donovan: Great. Good morning. I’m George Donovan. I’m the chief revenue officer with Allego. We are a software company. We are a sales learning, coaching, and collaboration platform and prior to that, I owned my own sales training business for 10 years.
Brianna Woon: Good morning. I’m Brianna. I’m with Polycom, now a part of Plantronics, and our team has about 700 quota-bearing salespeople and systems engineers and about two years ago, I would have said that enablement at Polycom was “random” acts of enablement so I joined the team because I have a background in communications and I help to run their programs.
Donna McCurley: Hi everyone. My name is Donna McCurley. I run a global sales enablement program for a company that recently went through a merger, so we are in the IT sector. The company is called Curvature and we are really bringing a company that has two different sales models together and it never had sales enablement in here, so one of the things that I am going to be sharing today is how to start from the ground up and create that continuous learning environment and the metrics that we use and the programs that we have rolled out.
JC: Excellent. So, thank you to our panelists and we can go ahead and get right into it. I always like to start on the big picture: continuous training. What does that actually mean? I am sure it means different things in all kinds of organizations but, George, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what those words mean to you and what does it look like when it is done well?
GD: Okay. So, continuous training – let’s talk about it, but before we do, let’s just frame the problem that continuous training fixes so that we can get our head around that. Let me do an analogy – does anybody know who Joey Chestnut is? Show of hands if you’ve heard that name before. Okay, about half the room. He is a competitive eater, and he has the world record for eating hot dogs and he wins every year in New York at Coney Island, and this year he won eating 74 hot dogs in 10 minutes. 74. Just think of that quantity and, not to get too disgusting, but that is about the weight of two babies, okay? So really, really disgusting. Now, Joey, how do you think he felt after the event? Probably pretty sick, right? Because he gorged himself and I’m sure he didn’t retain the food. I think of competitive eating like the way, unfortunately, some people train in corporate America where we try to do too much too quickly and we force feed our learners too much information, because there’s pressure, right? Let’s get all these salespeople into a room for a national sales meeting or a quarterly sales meeting and then let’s put a firehose down their throat for three days and pump them full of information, and then we are a little bit surprised why that doesn’t work.
So as we are here to talk about continuous training and the movement towards doing things a little bit differently. I am super excited about it, and I will share what good looks like. In our world, we are this learning platform and we have what we call the “Five Principles of Modern Learning”, which aligns nicely with continuous learning. And they are: 1) Bite-sized. Snackable chunks. Offering up training – I’m still a fan of live training – but if you can offer up bite-sized chunks of information in five-minute, 10-minute videos, three-minute videos, or podcasts or whatever it is, it is much more digestible. The learner doesn’t have that, as learning science tells us, very cognitive overload or cognitive block where you just can’t take in too much information at once. 2) Reinforcement. If you are going to push out some training to folks, you can’t do it just once. I think we all know this. We know about the forgetting curve where if we train someone on something, within 90 days or 30 days, as a matter of fact, they will lose 80% of it if it is not reinforced. So we have to have mechanisms to make sure we are reinforcing that training or they are going to lose it.
The third principle of modern learning or continuous learning is what I call informal learning, and informal learning is more of a pull than it is a push. So we are going to do our thing to train sellers and certify people in product training, sales training or whatever it might be, but we also want to be able to give them an environment where they can learn from each other and learn when they have a moment of need. And when do sellers want to learn the most? It is when they are in the middle of a deal. They are trying to close a deal and they need some information about a competitor, so how do we give them that environment to be able to pull information when they need it. And then a couple more: the fourth one is adaptive learning – making sure that in your continuous learning journey, it is not just one size fits all. It might be the ability for some machine learning here, so people based on skill sets and assessments. I am getting a different level of training than Matt or Brianna because we are on different paths on our journey. And maybe we are in different roles or we have a different tenure with the company, so we have to be able to offer up different experiences for the learners. Then lastly is flexibility. You want to make sure people can get to it from any device at any time. If you are going to use recorded type learning, you just want to make as much of it accessible through devices and let them consume it when they want to.
JC: Really great. And something that makes me think of, when we have these really large companies that sort of define how we live our lives every day as people – like Facebook, like Amazon – we expect things to be there quickly, to be able to find them. Our buyers expect things to be there, to be able to find things quickly, and communication. Our sellers expect the things that they need to learn to be that easily accessible, so it is the culture that we live in now that makes it so important to be flexible in that way.
Something that Josie and I were actually talking about before this session – Josie being our ghost panelist over here – was what the difference is between sales training and sales enablement. Perhaps one of our panelists here could comment on what that difference looks like and what the two terms may mean. I’m sure a lot of people in our audience here have one of the two words in their title or something similar.
BW: I have a perspective on that. So in the last panel that was in this room, the moderator ended the session saying, “we train animals but we enable people”, and I kind of chuckled at that because when I think of enablement, I don’t just think about sales enablement. It’s almost like customer enablement in the sense that the customers, because they are doing more research on their own, they are more educated than ever and doing all their homework before they even get to a vendor. I’m trying to think through enablement as providing the right resources or information for our salespeople so that they are ready to add value to any interaction that they have with a customer. So that’s some difference for me on the training and enablement terms.
JC: Certainly. Very good. So, sort of switching gears here over to how continuous learning actually gets rolled out. It is usually important to have different methods and different frequencies, especially dependent on who it is that is participating in the training. So, Matt, maybe you can share a little bit with us about what the most successful training methods and cadences are that you have seen in different situations you have been involved with.
MM: Yes. We would say that everything should start with the strategy, so in many cases, we see a disconnect between training activities, enablement activities, with a sales growth strategy. So just a basic question: How is your company going to grow? And as you look at the sales team, the product team, the marketing team, what are those – a lot of times we will hear a client say “key plays” – so it could be a new buyer. It could be a new market segment. It could be a new industry that you are going into. But as you are thinking about 2019, how do you grow the business, and then how is that directing and informing the sales enablement strategy? And so a lot of times we will help clients really think through that strategy – and it sounds basic, but a calendar. So as you think about a sales enablement calendar, month by month, what do those priorities look like? We see a lot of our clients are still struggling with high inflection points, so that could occur around an annual sales kick-off. It might be a regional mid-year event, but you see spikes where we have everyone together and we might do face-to-face training, but how do we keep that momentum throughout the year? And so we find debating a calendar month by month is really valuable.
Let me unpack that a little bit further. One of the things we have seen be successful with our clients is focusing on topics, so a topic might be getting the meeting. A topic might be whiteboarding. But think about a 60-day cycle. For that topic, how can we ensure mastery across the sales team and how can we connect that topic to the calendar. So as you are thinking about the calendar, it should be based upon roles – so obviously salespeople, sales specialists, sales managers – what are those key topics, and debate that across your team. It should be a combination of competency gaps. So you may see a specific skill that you want to make a topic, so it could be getting a meeting with a CIO. That is a topic. We see that as a competency gap, but that could also be connected to a key play. So as you think about key plays, during the next 60 days, we want you to lead 10 VP of finance conversations using this sales playbook, this set of content, and it becomes measurable from an outcome. We see a lot of our clients prioritizing key plays, prioritizing those topics across a calendar that can engage the team.
As you think about engaging busy salespeople, a lot of times from their home office, that is where a lot of the virtual enablement, like Allego and that type of capability to engage your busy, on-the-go salesperson around topics. And we would push towards mastery, so how can we transfer knowledge, how can we transfer skills that lead to a mastery around an activity? We have seen video create a lot of momentum, so if you guys don’t know it, salespeople love the video. They like to watch it. They want to learn. So think about your top performers, your subject matter experts. Record them. Sixty-second, 90-second videos. What is working? We would say focus that on a topic and that creates a lot of engagement across the teams as you are sharing best practices and so I would highly encourage you if you’re not using video with your sales team, think about ways that you can do that at scale.
JC: Definitely. I know that Brianna, you have a point of view on frequency and methods, so I’m going to come over to you in just a moment. But first, I want to see a show of hands. Who is using a calendar system right now to plan different topics for continuous training – not onboarding, but ongoing training.?
Audience 1: Well, right now, at this moment, yes.
BW: To build on the calendar concept, I think that is really important. The way that I think about the calendar is front-loading the quarter with training, because as you guys know, we are at the end of the quarter right now and so our sales team does not hear from us in the last two weeks of the quarter because you want them to focus and do what they need to do. And so one really successful thing that we do, a method I guess you would call it, is we do quarterly mandatory trainings and they are four hours long. If you could put on your salesperson hat and you hear that you have been assigned four-hour trainings, you’re like, “I do not want to do that, it sounds painful.” But we have found a couple of key ways to make those successful. One is that we set really clear expectations up front. We meet with sales leaders and AMs and we are like, “look, it is every quarter so it is no surprise. It is the one mandatory thing you have to do. If you do no other training and you ignore all of our other assignments, please come to our mandatory trainings.” So, expectations are clear. The second part is that we partner with the sales leaders to actually craft the trainings.
The four hours is not four hours for all 700 sellers – it is several four-hour sessions that are tailored to region and team. So we get on the call with the sales leader and we are like, “what does your team need training in this quarter?” And a lot of them say the same thing across the board. It is like, “we need more competitive training, we need more product training.” But in every case, it is custom to their team, so we get better attendance and better engagement. And the other key to making it successful is trying to inject more fun and games because we find that the salespeople love to play games for infotainment and learning, and our team – the sales enablement team – is all about games. I can talk about games for like another three hours, so if anyone wants to do that later, we can do that. So that’s one method we found really successful, and the other is the just-in-time learning, the snackable stuff. If we front load the quarter, that kind of leaves the rest of the quarter not empty, but we do the ad-hoc learning as they need it with the ask-the-expert sessions, etc.
JC: Alright. So go find Brianna about games afterward. Okay, so continuous learning and continuous training – we want to kind of separate that from onboarding. I talked earlier about how I’m tracking all the biggest trends in sales enablement and – onboarding, onboarding, onboarding – it’s always important. It is really critical to get that time-to-revenue down, but we don’t want to forget about our salespeople that we want to retain and continue to work with them. So, I’m going to go to you, Donna, on why do you think continuous training is so important? What does it touch in different areas of the sales team and what you have you used to successfully implement that on an ongoing basis?
DM: Okay. So, there are two parts to that question. The first part is why continuous training is important. And I will say three reasons. One is we all have heard in every presentation that the buyer is changing, the market is changing and like everything is changing, so it is obvious that things are very dynamic. We want to create a continuous learning environment in order to keep up with those trends so that when they walk into a customer that they are like, “okay, I know what trend a healthcare industry is going through.” The second thing is that when you think about a sales rep and the training, and this was mentioned a little bit ago, you hear something really great and you want to go out and implement it. But truthfully, when your feet hit the street, you tend to fall back into doing what you have always done. I was speaking with a CFO yesterday, and he was like, “we’ve got to go hard, go hard, we’ve got to get things done”. My mantra is sometimes, you have to slow down in order to speed up, and sometimes you have to ask for it. If we can just slow down for a period of time, this is the impact that we can have.
The third thing that I would say is that creating a continuous learning environment really helps you to identify the competencies that your sales reps might be missing. What I mean by that is, let’s say that one of the competencies that we are trying to train on is the sales process holistically, and I ask the leaders, what is it that your team is struggling with? And they will maybe tell me something like, “we are not closing deals, we can get a lot in our pipeline but we are not able to close those deals.” What is interesting is when you start to ask the question or as you begin to ask more questions, what you realize is that, no, you don’t need training on closing deals. We maybe need training on buyer alignment because your sales rep is here and a lot of those deals die at the end of the sales state when the truth is that the buyer is still back here. So oftentimes what our sales leaders think that they need is not always the truth. When creating a continuous learning environment, I am able to ascertain what is really missing so that we can go back and sharpen those skills.
The second part of that question is how we do it. I hope I share some really great nuggets with you guys when I share this process that we worked through. You are going to hear me say three a lot and you’ll probably walk out of here and go, “that girl that said three all the time”, but I will tell you that we keep it super simple – we only implement three things. In order to create that continuous learning environment, the first thing that we created was something that we referred to as a “sales kit” and that is our platform. That is our roadmap by which everything else is created. We can share it with our partners. We can share it with new hires. We can share it with sales reps. It is a high-level overview and it is something that we continuously refer back to.
The second thing that we do in order to create a continuous learning environment is we created a project that is called “Teach Me Something I Don’t Know”, and this has been a phenomenal thing. It has been able to leverage videos but, in short, what it does is three things. It focuses the first part as a video series – think of it as a case study – and it is a video series that focuses on just the buyer and their challenges and it has to be just six minutes or less. So, who was the buyer, what was the trigger event, what were their challenges? We can interview marketing. We can interview our buyers. We can interview a lot of different people to help with that. The second part of that video is, again, six minutes. But this time it is really more about product knowledge or it is about value offering – so how do I position that. And again, we can interview the product team. We can interview marketing. We can interview several people, six minutes or less. Done. We’re finished. And I want you to think of this as an episode, like your favorite television show. And we do absolutely end it with, “Hmm, will this deal be successful or not?” So the idea is to get people to tune in and hear the next part. And then that third video – again, six minutes or less – this one is actually the sales rep really celebrating their success and talking about the resources that they used, how they were really able to win the deal, how they were able to close the deal, and then what are those next steps when we start to involve customer success. What that has allowed us to do is when you think about the field reps who have been in the field for years and they feel like they already know what they are doing, what that allows them to do is to learn from their peers.
As I shared earlier, I’m in an environment that it’s a merger acquisition, so you have two different product portfolios coming together as one, and oftentimes one house has more knowledge about one side of the house vs. the other one, so the whole idea is about sharing resources. The other thing it allows us to do is it allows us to say, “who do I tap on for this expertise?” If I need more product knowledge, because as a sales rep I’m in the IT world, oftentimes they can only carry the ball so far, so they want to think about, who is my system engineer and who is that person who can speak about storage, server, or the network. So it allows them that opportunity as well, and the thing about it is it celebrates the entire company’s success and everybody gets to participate in this contribution of “Teach Me Something I Don’t Know”. Then the third thing – I know it’s not a part of this – is absolutely the onboarding piece. It’s the sales kit, it is “Teach Me Something I Don’t Know”, and then it is the onboarding and those are the only three things that we focus on to create that continuous learning environment. I would be happy to go into the onboarding step but will kick to you.
JC: I love it. Breaking it down into threes and microlearning – a lot of good tactics in there. So, Matt, I know this is something that you and I had talked about as well, so do you want to give your perspective on why continuous learning is so important and some of the things that it has an effect on that you might not think about?
MM: Yes. I think that just salespeople, in general, are opportunity-focused. So if I am a salesperson, I am thinking about 3 p.m. this afternoon and so we have found a helpful construct. We create sales playbooks. So think about content, tools, and training that would inform a 3 p.m. meeting. In terms of salespeople, we have found a really helpful construct within a sales playbook, which is what do I need to know? As I am preparing for that conversation, what do I need to know going into that meeting? What do I need to do? So, what do I need to know, what do I need to do? Salespeople also want continuous learning around what to say. What are my talk tracks, what are the insights I’m going to offer, what are the stories I’m going to tell, how am I going to differentiate myself? Where do I need to go, what do I need to do in that conversation, what do I need to say in the meeting?
Then lastly, a fourth bucket is what to show. If you think about today, that could be an infographic, it might be a quick video – but how do I spark discussion? We find just those simple constructs of go, do, say, show are really helpful for salespeople. Building that around your solutions, as we said earlier, those key plays that you are looking to get momentum and emphasis on. One of the things we always say is, “if everything’s important then nothing’s important”. How do you want to focus your salespeople? And continuous learning, continuous enablement creates that opportunity for you to always do course corrections. This month, we want the sales team focused here. This quarter, we would like to focus on this particular key play. And use those constructs of go, do, say, show to create content and tools and training in and around that.
JC: It’s so important that they can use what they are learning in context right away.
MM: In real time.
JC: Practices and how they end up implementing. And, Donna?
DM: Yeah, I’d love to add onto that. When you talk about playbooks, we actually make them create their own playbooks and it is part of the onboarding. What I mean by that is that we will take the sales process and break it apart. Let’s just take an example: The first stage of the sales process is really about gathering information. They are going out and they are building their own sales playbook. They are figuring out how to best research for new opportunities if that is one of the metrics that we are going after. Whatever those metrics that have been assigned, they have to do that. They are taking this Excel sheet and they are writing out their messaging, so how to engage, what insight to share, and then they are able to have this personalized playbook. The other thing that they are doing is they are gathering resourceful information, so the success stories, from their peers as well.
JC: It is so important that it is sourced from within because the last thing a salesperson wants to hear is somebody else’s idea of what is going on in the world that doesn’t incorporate their points of view. And that actually brings up back to something, Brianna, that you had mentioned earlier. You were talking about building different versions of the training for different people. So, can you comment a little bit on how do the demographics of your workforce impact your decisions when it comes to developing that continuous training?
BW: Yes, absolutely. We tailor our trainings on the role but also the region. There are some blanket trainings that everyone has to take. Like, everyone has to do their anti-bribery training this quarter and security awareness. But we got feedback that salespeople don’t like to get other blanket trainings too much. They are not quiet about it if they feel like you have wasted their time with training they didn’t need, right? So, what we have found is that we are doing separate tracks for inside sales. Sometimes we’ve got people coming just out of college that are joining a sales team, and they have a different need of training than our federal team who has been selling for 13 years. So, we are tailoring in that sense, but also by region because as much as I like talking about games, some games we play in America don’t play as well in Asia Pac. What was interesting is last night, actually, my boss’s boss was conducting training with the Asia Pac team two weeks ago and they were silent. She would ask a question, she would ask for ideas; no feedback. So we were like, “what’s going on there?” The Asia Pac team is just a little bit more reserved. They perhaps don’t want to throw anything out there that might not be the correct answer, even though there is no correct answer. So, last night as a course correction on our sales enablement part, she went in in a different manner. She held a “clinic” and put on a fake doctor’s coat, fake stethoscope, and did a pretend, “I’m a doctor and I’m trying to assess your need as a customer.” That got them talking, right? It’s just learning to tweak your training methods based on your audience or your customer, which is our sales team.
JC: Absolutely. And George, I know this is something that you care quite a bit about as well. So, what is your perspective on this?
GD: We get this question all the time from our customers about – especially since we’re a video platform – this concern that the older, more tenured people don’t want to be on video or don’t know how to interact with video, and we found that absolutely not to be the case. Sure, I think the key to continuous training is to offer up multiple modalities for learning. You might have live training. You might have video training. You might have collaboration and role-plays. That is the key for all demographics. The one thing that I will say is that the demographic that is most open to classroom training, and this probably isn’t a surprise, are the baby boomers and some of the older gen-Xers because that’s the way they were classically trained growing up. It’s a command and control, get up in front of the classroom and they tell you what to do. They are a little bit more open to that, but I think that there are definitely consistencies across all demographics. People just like to mix it up and try a whole bunch of different modalities for learning. We have found the more tenured people, because they have so much experience, love to share video best practices, marketing conditions, and success stories. Then you put it in a channel for everybody to access it on the team and the younger, less-tenured reps will go there and they will watch these videos and they will learn these little secret lessons from the more experienced folks. So, I think you have to mix it up.
JC: Yeah. I think that it’s really important to have a fun, dynamic, engaging aspect of it, but that can totally backfire when it puts someone in a really uncomfortable spot. So it’s just a matter of getting an understanding of what is going to work for each group and holding those focus groups to plan it out in advance.
BW: I would just add that I think one of the other big benefits of tailoring the trainings that I have seen is that the salespeople are more prepared for the surprises they may encounter when they are with a customer. I think if we are giving our salespeople the resources that are specific to their role, then when they are out in the field and they come across something that they didn’t quite expect, they weren’t prepared for it. Also as I mentioned earlier, they are ready to provide more value with every interaction that they have with the customer.
JC: Certainly. Very much. Good. Well, I want to leave some time for a couple of audience questions. So, my colleague Jake out there somewhere…
Emcee: Raise your hand and I’ll hand you the mic.
JC: Looks like we have a question up front.
Emcee: If you don’t mind, just stand up and introduce yourself, too.
Audience 2: First, I wanted to thank everyone for being here. This is a great session. My name is Jennifer. I’m a regional VP of sales for an IT software company, and I actually had two questions. I was a little bit curious to come back to a couple of your thoughts about onboarding. The other question that I really had was in the enablement process, I found that repetition – high levels of repetition, obviously in different modalities – are most effective. How do you integrate that into somebody’s salesforce schedule where you can barely get them to show up for the mandatory training? How do you enable it so that they are actively hungry for that repetition to increase those skills and create those habits with the reward at the end of that habit track?
DM: I’ll go with how to reinforce and we can absolutely talk about the onboarding. I think one of the best ways to reinforce is to make it a part of their world. As an example, let’s just say that – and I used this a minute ago – one of our metrics is to increase new opportunities, so we are trying to capture new logos and people are struggling with prospecting. If I make it a part of their training where they are writing their messaging and I am showing them how to create repeatable messaging and it works, and I can say, “send out x to this specific industry, how do you do that?” I think that when you think about metrics, there are lagging indicators, there are leading indicators, and there are behavioral. If I am focused on behavioral with a manager and I am thinking, “okay, what is the business strategy that we are all aligning to?” And if it is a new opportunity or if it is about value proposition, then I am making that a part of their daily work.
JC: And part two of the question?
GD: I’ll take that one since our platform addresses that, and there are other technologies that address that reinforcement. It is really, really simple. It is the practice of sending out really small micro-learning things. Think of flash cards when you were a kid: 1+1 is on one side and then on the back, it says two. It’s an electronic format served up to your phone with a couple of questions every day. If you just did an onboarding class and now they are going up to the field, you want to supply them with something every day; a couple of quick questions in text format, video format, interactive format – and they are answering these questions on their phone while they are in the lunch line. It is easy for them to do and it is really powerful because it drives toward mastery and the technologies are smart enough today, using algorithms and machine learning, to mix it up so we are all not getting the same type of reinforcement. Based on how I am answering the questions, I may get served up different questions than you. So, it is smart and it will drive us all to mastery over time.
Emcee: I like thinking about behavioral metrics. I really think about the behavioral aspect and culture change being a huge part of it is so interesting. Other questions from the audience? Wow.
Audience 3: Hi, I have a question around just part of the reinforcement, but really more around compliance, certifications, or tests. How do you work that into this continuous learning tactics and strategies?
MM: One of the things we see with our clients is separating out knowledge from skills to disciplines, and so whether it is mastery or certification or accreditation, break it out in terms of, “is this a knowledge focus”. I will say to this group, one of the things that we hear from salespeople is, “enough on the knowledge, enough on the thousand questions, enough on the rote testing.” And so there is a knowledge element and that is real, but complement that with specific skills, best practices, and disciplines. Where we see clients get a lot of engagement is through the first-line sales manager, and so to your question, we would advocate that first-line sales managers should be the first to certify, accredit, or master. If it is important to my sales manager, then it is important to me as a sales rep, so if my manager has taken the time to master that, then that is modeling for their team that this is important, this is strategic. We will advocate for our clients to start with that sales manager and go on that journey together. But as you think about knowledge and skills and discipline, what is that combination that you are wanting them to master, and then how can you measure that over time?
JC: I think a build on that is certification really does lend itself more to knowledge checks than skills, and with AI becoming a bigger part of the sales process, the sellers need the skills more than they need the knowledge. The knowledge can be pulled automatically more and more. I think meeting with your team of senior leaders and determining what the correct level of understanding is that your sellers need to be able to go into a conversation, appear credible, but get away with that minimum amount of knowledge, and then focus on the skills.
MM: And use the opportunities of experiential learning when you are face to face and you can focus on those skills, and that becomes valuable. So if you have done the knowledge transfer leading up to an annual sales conference or a mid-year, then what are those, as Jen was saying, specific skills that need to be mastered when you are face to face, and allow people to experience that. Get coaching and feedback and learn from peers. Don’t focus on the knowledge transfer when you have those important face-to-face opportunities.
Emcee: Jenna, I think we have time for maybe one more question from the audience before we go to closing remarks. Last question here.
Audience 4: Hi there. Thank you to all of you. This has been great. My question is – I love the fact you went through the five pieces of continuous training early on. The one thing I have really been struggling with is how to help my sales leaders with the coaching component. It is one thing to teach and another thing to practice, but then do you have any advice on how to help your sales leaders with that coaching and in-field application of the learning?
GD: Do you want me to take that one? Okay. It’s tough. It’s tough because that’s behavior change and it really starts at the top and mandating at the CEO level on down that we are going to have a coaching culture. As a matter of fact, I was talking to someone yesterday who said that they expect all new hires to come in and they said over time, you are going to spend up to 50% of your time as a new manager coaching. It is mandated, and that is part of the interview process when they are hiring new managers or if they are promoting people into management. They make them sign off on that. I thought that was pretty powerful because that is really driving a culture of coaching. So if you don’t have that mandate from the top and you don’t force it to happen, it’s not going to happen. It does take some time. Once that starts to click and the reps see value from it and they have a mechanism for positive feedback – and you have to teach the coaches how to coach, you can’t just expect them to be able to do it – the results start to happen. That’s when it becomes habit.
DM: I have one thing I want to add to that. I would encourage you to find a champion. What I mean by that is, literally on Tuesday, I had one of our VPs call me and he was like, “Donna, I lost $1.3 million in my pipeline, can we start implementing what you have been working on?” It is because he had seen the others having results. I didn’t make everybody follow the rules. I chose somebody who would be an advocate for me, and now they have seen results and it starts to accumulate.
MM: Managers need enablement and so what you find is that top-selling reps get promoted to managers and then they are not equipped. Donna was talking about sales kits and playbooks, but sales kits and playbooks for the manager. You talk about coaching guides, opportunity coaching, pipeline coaching, deal coaching, conversation coaching. How do you frame that up? What does a 60-minute coaching meeting look like? What are the questions that you should ask? Give them videos that show a roleplay of that kind of coaching session done right, and allow them to get feedback from their colleagues. I would say, bring your first line of sales managers together and enable them with coaching playbooks.
JC: And to Matt’s point, it is so important to show what a coaching session is in some way, to give managers that direction because ATD did a study on this. Sales managers on average report giving sales coaching three to four hours per month. Sales reps report receiving one hour per month. So when you ask your manager, “are you coaching your reps?”, they say, “oh, I talk to my people all the time”. Well, okay, but that wasn’t the question, so we need to define what it is and maybe give them some assistance with those agendas, or what that looks like.
Wrapping things up, I want to leave everyone with one takeaway that they can go on and implement right away from this session, so in our last minute or two, a tip, tactic or tool? Maybe we can start with Donna.
DM: I would say break everything into threes, but I would also say involve everyone; not just sales. Involve everyone.
BW: Donna touched on the importance of having a champion. We didn’t get to touch on it in this panel, but I think it will come in another session – the importance of having a sales enablement council where you have leaders from all over your organization involved because once you have their buy-in and their ideas. It becomes a great continuous loop for improving your training over time.
GD: That’s great. I echo Donna completely. Involve everyone. There is a massive shift going on in learning and it takes the pressure off of all of you because we all feel like we’ve got to deliver it all. Use your resources; executives, customers, best reps, and be more curators than trainers. That is the future. That is where we are going.
MM: With Brianna’s council, I’m going to go back to the calendar. Sales, marketing, and product all agreeing month by month that these are our priorities, these are our topics. It will take continuous training from being something that could be tactical, that is disconnected from your growth strategy to something that all departments are agreeing are our priorities and it is on our calendar, and you can create a lot of momentum around that.
JC: My favorite tool is the concept of the study group. If you do have a theme you are working on that month, you can break your team into groups of four or five, give them an agenda and say, “go talk about this.” Pick a couple of things that they need to have tried, skills that they need to have tried with customers before, and to report back on, and then a couple of “what if” scenarios; what would you do if you encountered this? They talk about it among themselves and then there’s a scribe that can send that information back to you. It is sort of a multiplier effect if you are time constrained in actually being able to conduct training.