What happens in too many cases is that someone or some group in corporate headquarters says, “We need a training program for all our locations. We will develop it here, in our home country, and then roll it out around the world.”
It doesn’t matter where that corporate headquarters is located. If a training program comes solely from any one place, the rest of the world will say, “That won’t work in our country.” It could even be that the proposed program is exactly what they themselves would recommend, but the fact that it came from somewhere else makes it tainted.
The resistance to a program developed in Country A being implemented in Country B, C, or D is high and often justified because the targeted customers — their communication styles, their customs — are different. Overcoming this resistance is possible and can be relatively easy. It just takes collaboration and alignment of stakeholders.
The people in Country B, C, and D should be considered stakeholders, not recipients, of the proposed training. Taking the time and effort to ask their input may not significantly change the construct of what the program would have been without their involvement, but it will make a huge difference in adoption.
The stakeholders will feel listened to, engaged, and more receptive. They are more likely to say, “Yes, I think this will work in France,” and their acceptance can help influence everyone who takes the training in France. If a training program comes out of the US and it has never been vetted by anyone in Europe, then there is sure to be strong resistance to implementation.
Most global sales organizations provide a certain amount of local autonomy, which gives staff around the world the flexibility required to do business locally. They are often given control over local budgets, including local training. They may well use this autonomy to refuse to pay for a training program developed by headquarters without their input. In that case, headquarters has to sell it to the foreign managers, and that’s a very tough sell because the product was created without first identifying the customer needs — the customers, in this case, being the foreign sales staff.
Rolling out a global sales training program is very much like rolling out a global product. It requires understanding the needs of the customer, reviewing and discussing what the stakeholders want, getting their buy-in to the proposed solution, and gaining approval and acceptance of the final product.
The conceit by headquarters of thinking, “We know what you need,” backfires with regularity. Sales professionals in other countries don’t want to sign up for the program, so it’s difficult to get training events filled with participants in advance, making it harder to book the desired trainers, produce materials cost-effectively, secure the right venues, and settle other logistical matters. As for participation, there will be a certain percentage of people who won’t come, and, as a result, there will be inconsistent approaches to selling across the company and its locations.
It may seem cumbersome to do the upfront work of involving stakeholders around the world before developing global sales training programs, but it’s nothing like the task of trying to get a program invented elsewhere implemented by local managers around the world.
Simply put, to avoid deep resistance to rolling out global sales training programs, make sure to involve key stakeholders. It can make a world of difference.