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Attention Sales Leaders: 4 Predictions from Bersin Worth a Closer Look

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As a business or sales leader, you know how important it is to manage talent in your organisation. Bersin recently published a great piece called “Predictions for 2013” that should be of interest to you.

For those of you who don’t know, Bersin is a research and advisory firm, similar to Forrester or Gartner, except that Bersin focuses on the human capital management space. Richardson Sales Performance has been a Bersin member for many years as a solution provider. We attend their conferences, collaborate with them on writing case studies, and participate in briefings with their analysts a few times a year to talk about what’s going on in the space. They’re real pros, so when they publish a report like, this I spend time digesting it, giving considerable thought to what it means for us and our clients.

In the report, they provide some interesting data and make 15 predictions. I won’t go into each of them, but here are some highlights that might be relevant to sales leaders and learning leaders who support the sales organisation.

Learning and Development Spend is Increasing at Double-digit Rates

According to Bersin, learning and development spend increased by 12% in 2012, the largest increase in eight years. While this might be surprising given the economic uncertainty, the pace of innovation and disruption has been overwhelming, forcing organisations to adapt and transform or risk becoming irrelevant. Training is an important step in the transformation process.

What does this mean to your organisation? You need to make sure that you are allocating enough budget to ensure that your people have the knowledge and skills to be productive in a rapidly changing world.

“Informal Learning” is out; “Continuous Learning” and “Capability Development” are in

According to Bersin, “new” learning modalities, such as mobile and social learning, have now become mainstream. Companies are beginning to realise that they need to integrate these training modes into their overall learning and development strategies to maintain pace with customer expectations and competitors.

What does this mean for you? There have been many great innovations in learning and development that play very well in sales, and you should be discussing how to take advantage of these advancements. Furthermore, the business world is in such a state of flux — driven by technology, competition, and regulations — and the information is so readily available that, to remain competitive, you must place your people into a continuous learning mode. The downside to this is that it takes time, but the upside is that the tools and resources to help your team learn more efficiently are plentiful.

A good example of innovative learning technology is our Richardson Sales Performance QuickCheckTM system. In only a few minutes a week, it has proven to increase training programme knowledge retention among participants from a few weeks to nearly two years, which represents a considerable gain in sustained performance as well as training ROI.

Developing a Mobile HR Support Strategy

No organisational function has been transformed more by mobile devices than sales. According to Bersin, many employees now come to work with their personal mobile devices and fully expect all of their core HR systems (e.g., time and attendance, vacation scheduling, expense reporting, and the employee directory, as well as e-mail and other secure applications) to be at their fingertips on their device.

This trend extends to sales enablement, systems such as CRM, sales content management (e.g., Savo), sales presentation automation (e.g., Alinean, VisualiseROI, Seismic), and sales compensation (Exactly). This is a CIO’s nightmare as they face growing pressure to allow people to “bring their own devices” (BYOD) but risk losing control over data and security. We see a lot of workarounds, which can help in the moment but lack permanent standards and solutions. Rarely do organisations have a strategy to provide service and support of HR and sales applications on mobile devices.

What does this mean for you? The demands of your employees to use their own devices (for you to integrate) or for you to provide new devices will only escalate. We have clients who, under pressure from senior line management, provided iPads to thousands of sales reps. However, they later realised that they do not know how they will get a return on this investment. In fact, most reps still travel with their laptops because iPads have limitations. So, before you succumb to peer pressure, make sure you have a compelling strategy to generate value from the investment. In fact, challenge a core group of employees to devise a business case that makes sense.

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Social Tools and Behaviours Have Started to Significantly Change Many HR Strategies

According to Bersin, social tools have infiltrated nearly every software platform in HR — enabling every HR practise and process to be infused with social functionality. Activities, such as recruiting, hiring, onboarding, learning, and performance management, have been revolutionised.

However, many disruptive new tools have also surfaced. For example, companies such as Glassdoor now provide independent employment branding information, leveraging social technology to expose your employment brand in new and scary ways. In learning, fostering a social experience has been elevated as an important aspect of sharing insight and best practises in real time, which has forced training managers and facilitators to adapt.

What does this mean for you? You can either ride the social wave or get crushed by it. We see many companies struggling to put in place policies to guide its success or try to hold back access to social media altogether. Social tools provide new, low-cost ways to reach prospective salespeople and customers. This shouldn’t be news to you, but it’s time to take action. This is especially true as a new, extremely socially savvy generation enters the workforce.

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