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Leadership Do’s and Don’ts for Maximizing Sales Training ROI: Where do you Stand?

developmental feedback in sales coaching

michaeldalisDecember 13, 2013Blog

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In the movie “Father of the Bride,” there is a memorable scene in which the father (George Banks), unsure where to stand during the bouquet throw, misses important moments at his daughter’s wedding. 

Similarly, many sales leaders confidently invest in sales training (the wedding) yet are uncertain about the role they should play (or where they should stand).  The purpose of this post is to share my perspective, as a facilitator and former sales leader, on three common mistakes to avoid and five best practices to leverage as a sales manager in supporting a successful workshop that will drive sales training ROI.

The Don'ts: Three Common Mistakes

Leaders who maximize sales training ROI don’t:

  1. Hand off early:  once the training is scheduled, don’t move on to the next project, and don’t pass the ball to your colleagues in Learning & Development (L&D) to implement and to participants to learn and apply in the field. 
  2. Limit your participation to opening comments:  After your opening comments, don’t leave the group for the day and assume your team will feel more comfortable without “the boss” looking over their shoulders.
  3. Attend the workshop distracted:  Don’t attend the workshop without a defined role or you will be quickly consumed by other responsibilities, including calls and e-mails.
While there is logic to each of the don’ts, they represent George Banks-like missed moments. Even limiting our view to perceptions, consider the contrast between you, if absent or distracted, and your team — having committed time away from their markets and personal life and being asked to focus and move outside their comfort zone. How does this contrast align with your intent and the importance of this training?

The Do's: Five Best Practices

Beyond perceptions, what are the substantive ways that you can contribute to and maximize your impact on the sales training ROI — before, during and after a class? Here are five best practices that I see as a facilitator; I encourage you to consider how to employ some or all of them to drive excellent outcomes. Do:

  1. Stay connected to the program design process: Even the most capable and earnest L&D people have, at best, a second-hand understanding of the marketplace challenges your team faces daily. Do check in throughout the development process. You will ensure that the program and materials nail your business objectives and must-haves for your team to hit the goals you envision.
  2. Attend the workshop as an (active) observer:  Do take advantage of the opportunity to assess skill levels across your team, to emphasize or address key points that are raised in classroom discussions, and to share feedback. In the process, you will also be able to model behaviors, such as staying present and avoiding distractions.
  3. Attend the program as a participant:  Yes, with your team!  This might sound frightening, even risky, but do consider going through this experience with them. After the workshop, this will give you both the credibility and ability to model and coach to the principles covered in the workshop. Besides, who among us has no room to sharpen his or her skills?
  4. Schedule and participate in a managers-only session (alternative to #3):  Do take the time to enable you and your peers or first-line managers to understand, model and coach to the things your team will be learning in the program. This will reduce any concerns you or your managers may have about going through the program side-by-side with your team.
  5. Plan for reinforcement:  Your people will come out of the workshop fired up to apply their new or refined skills. Research shows that a habit takes an average of 66 days to form. Do lock in workshop outcomes through planned and steady reinforcement in the weeks and months that follow.  Among your options, do consider some of the ways that Richardson Sales Performance supports teams after a workshop:
    1. Measurement
    2. Continuous Learning
So, the next time you decide to schedule training for your team, skillfully sidestep the three common mistakes, and leverage the five best practices above.  Be clear in your intent about the role you will play before, during and after the workshop to maximize sales training ROI. The actions you choose to take as a leader will send a powerful message and create a classroom culture that extends far beyond the dates and walls of a workshop.
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