Leaders of both business units are on the same page, working toward the same goals and on the same timeline. Conversely, when the relationship is contentious, there’s a lack of faith and respect toward each other, which is bound to yield subpar results that not only do each unit a disservice but the organization as well.
So it should be no surprise that that same kind of synchronicity is sought by training leaders for Sales and Learning functions. This was one of many topics covered in the recent study “Training’s Role in the Implementation of Strategic Initiatives in the Sales Organization” by Richardson and TrainingIndustry.com.
Sometimes, training is only tactical and not strategic, such as an intermediate Microsoft Excel course. But when training is part of a strategic initiative, be sure to value and support it as such. It’s not a transaction and it’s not just a nice-to-have. Rather, this training program will improve your sales reps’ knowledge and skills to enable them to sell and deliver for your clients in the new ways you’ve prescribed as part of a strategic change.
What advice do learning leaders have for their sales leader peers? Here’s a peak from the report:
1) Work as a team.Who likes being dumped on to fulfill a last-minute request? No one. If your Learning and Development department (L&D) is viewed solely as a transactional resource, then you’ll not realize the full benefit of their services and expertise. You’re good at your job, and you should assume that they’re good at theirs. Talk to your counterparts in L&D to let them know what’s on your agenda and when so that they can help you plan in advance the most effective training curriculum to support your strategic change.
Don’t force the training leaders to work in a vacuum. Be sure to articulate what is changing and what is staying the same. What new skills and knowledge will be required for success among sales reps? What new behavior is expected?
2) Don’t delegate your accountability to drive change.There’s a lot that goes into preparing a major training initiative to support an important strategic initiative. Your colleagues in L&D can help you with a lot of things to help you get the job done, such as pinpointing developmental needs, crafting training solutions, selecting and coordinating vendors, project management, and program administration.
However, your people don’t report to them — they report to you. You can delegate preparation and administration, but you can’t delegate your accountability. You need to lead the change effort, and you need to hold your managers accountable to sustain the effort. “Checking out” and hoping your L&D colleagues will carry this load for you will result in your initiative failing.
3) Communicate regularly about progress and impact.You need to have regular and frequent communication with your L&D leader before, during, and after the program takes place. Surprisingly, some sales and L&D leaders never talk, and not surprisingly, results fall far short of expectations.
According to our research, you should meet with your L&D leader at least weekly during the start-up phase of a project and no less than monthly once the program is up and running. Communication helps you keep your finger on the pulse of progress so you can proactively address challenges, assess impact, and stay connected to your objectives.
4) Invest in reinforcement to sustain the training impact. Remember that for most of your people, the training event will be the start of the change journey. As you work with your L&D leader to design the training solution, make sure that you take into consideration activity and budget for reinforcement to sustain the training impact.
There is a lot of new and innovative technology that is low cost and can make a huge improvement in post-learning adoption and reinforcement. For example, our QuickCheckTM system helps your sales reps and other employees who go through training to retain what they’ve learned over a longer period of time. It does this through a series of weekly short quizzes that the sales rep receives on their mobile phone that continue to jog their memories of the training and help them recall the necessary details more effectively. To learn more about QuickCheckTM, we encourage you to read our blog post, “What you can Learn from The Harvard Medical School to Make Sales Training Stickier.”