Using The Sales Process to Bridge The Gap Between L&D and Sales
When Richardson Sales Performance people talk with prospects in a Learning and Development role, the conversation tends to focus on a training solution, skills reinforcement, and maybe, a change management initiative.
When Richardson Sales Performance people talk with prospects in a Sales leadership role, the conversation tends to focus on the sales process — and only after the sales process is thoroughly reviewed will the need for skills training or behavior change be addressed.
This makes sense because primary interests are related to the function of the job. L&D leaders are responsible for developing the knowledge, skill level, and potential of their people. Sales leaders are responsible for achieving sales results through their people. However, with different optics come different views of what the goal line looks like. In this post, I’d like to offer a way for each group to easily check that they are aligned.
Achieving Rapid Alignment Between L&D and Sales Leaders Through the Sales Process
To rapidly achieve alignment, I recommend using the sales process as a bridge between L&D and the sales organization, helping them work more effectively together. If you think of the sales process as what to do and the knowledge and skills as how to do it, then aligning the two becomes a quicker and more effective way to get the kind of results both L&D and Sales desire.
What we at Richardson Sales Performance mean by a sales process is a formal, dynamic architecture that includes a series of steps, stages, activities, verifiable outcomes, high-impact questions, and measurement metrics. For some clients, a fine-tuning of their existing processes may be all that’s needed. For others, we start with a clean sheet of paper. The end result is a customized process that reflects the client’s strategic direction and a clear path for getting there.
This architecture provides direction for what sales professionals and their managers need to do differently, and it provides direction for training and coaching to the desired skills and behaviors.
Defining Training Needs
It’s not that L&D and Sales don’t ever meet to talk about sales training, but too often the discussion lacks the kind of depth and specificity necessary to truly fulfill the real need. Both can agree sales training is necessary, but they don’t address the particular skills and behaviors required or what kind of training is needed most. Where do sales stall? How will performance be measured pre- and post-training? How will training be tied to specific business outcomes?
When training decisions are largely left to the L&D organization, without specific input from Sales, they may not know if a sales process even exists or how formalized and effective it is. So, they ask potential training partners about their approaches to training, learning methodologies, skill retention, and how to make training relevant within their context. These are all valid concerns because L&D looks to deliver the highest level of skill training in the most efficient and cost-effective way.
L&D people know their internal customers in the sales organization: the multiple generations represented; how to blend instructor-led training with digital technologies; and the culture and characteristics of the company. But what L&D may not understand is the way their sales organization sells and how their customers buy.
Sales leaders, on the other hand, understand the mechanism of sales, so the importance of a sales process resonates with them. They know about sales activities, dialogue models, and progressing from one stage to the next as opportunities move through the pipeline. They recognize the different skills needed to open, develop the opportunity, present solutions, negotiate, close, and expand the relationship. But what Sales may not be as aware of as L&D are such things as learning science, assessing skill levels, the forgetting curve, or methods of reinforcing behavior.
Using the sales process to facilitate the conversation can elevate the understanding of both groups. Sales can say, “Based on the sales process, these are the skills our sales professionals need. I want my people to be proficient in X, Y, and Z.”
L&D can say, “Knowing that these are the skills your people need, I can deliver training using these learning methodologies and technologies, with these kinds of pre- and post-training assessments. I can train your managers to be coaches and measure progress against these key performance indicators.” That’s a much better conversation for L&D and Sales to have — and much more likely to lead to desired results.
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