At Richardson, Europe Limited, I am a consultant, facilitator, trainer, and coach. I work with European firms, FTSE 100 global companies, and many, many foreign subsidiaries of US companies around world.
It is from this vantage point that I see how parent companies often approach the rollout of global sales training initiatives. Some get it right, but too often, problems arise. Here are five key elements that are essential to rolling out a successful global sales training initiative.
- There has to be a consistent sales process — a benchmark, standard, or consistent norm that clearly and succinctly describes the steps required for successful sales within the company. This sales process must be widely communicated, accessible to all involved, translated into the appropriate languages, and championed by the management team. Promoting the sales process is essential so that everyone will know what “good” and “success” look like. Without this consistency, sales teams have to recreate the wheel everywhere, and sales training will teach a different approach everywhere. Companies can’t afford the false steps, inefficiency, and mistakes as each salesperson around the world creates their own way of doing business.
- Identify skills and activities — The next step is to break the sales process into the specific skills and activities that people need in order to be trained around the world. Diagnostic tools — such as SkillGauge™, to benchmark existing skills, and TalentGauge™, to assess whether the right people are in the right jobs — can help in determining the current capabilities and need for specific training. These tools, or company assessments, help provide a platform for individuals to identify their strengths and areas to improve. With so many successful people in sales divisions, it’s important that training isn’t perceived as “fixing poor performers,” but improving skills for everyone. There is no such thing as “good enough,” and even gold medal winners in sports keep practicing and improving.
- Develop training for skills and activities — Build a global sales training program to support the skills and activities required to implement the sales process. For international training, it’s important to include time or a module to discuss how these will vary based on the culture of different countries. The conclusion will likely be that they do apply, although in slightly different ways. But to not address cultural differences directly will undercut the credibility of the training. And, it’s important for participants to understand the flexibility of the sales process and the expectations of their companies so that they make the necessary modifications.
- Create a realistically timed agenda — International training should take into account the need for additional discussion coming from the difference in language and cultures, along with delivering training that addresses the gaps in desired skills and behaviors in each country. This might mean spending more time on needs dialogue in one part of the world than another, or developing listening skills so that participants fully understand both the content and emotional message conveyed by prospects and customers. In some cultures, participants may need more practice in the skill of “presence” — learning to project confidence, conviction, and interest in body language and voice.
- Sales managers are the most important group to train — Rolling out a global sales training initiative is an expensive proposition, and without the full commitment and reinforcement from sales managers, the training has little chance of succeeding and changing behavior. This is true in domestic programs, too. In fact, the training of sales managers is so important that if there’s only a budget big enough for one audience, sales managers should be it. But, they have to be trained in the skills and the ability to transfer them to their sales teams. By focusing on sales managers around the world and improving their skills and behaviors in managing and coaching, they can be the champions who make sure the desired sales process is implemented around the world.
By developing a consistent sales process for use across global operations and training local sales teams and sales managers around the world, companies have a greater chance of achieving their targets and getting better results quicker.