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The Learning Hug Part II: Preparing for Change

Before you drop people into a learning environment, it’s important to prepare not just your learners but your organization for change. This is part of what I call the learning hug, wrapping services and support around training to make it stick.

Part I of this series, Training Services Wrap Around and Support Learning, explains the concept.

Now, let’s talk about the run-up to training. Before teaching people new things, you need to consider ways to prepare the organization so that the learning fits and will be reinforced. In other words, what are you doing to prepare the ground for planting new seeds of knowledge?

There are three perspectives we need to consider:

  • How well the sales organization is prepared and ready for change – the ground.
  • What we know about the individual needs of the learners – the seeds.
  • How to measure whether or not the learning is having the desired impact – monitoring the crops.

Is Your Organization Prepared for Change?

To lay the groundwork, the kinds of services we wrap around training involve making sure the client has a consistent and effective sales process, sales management practices, and a leadership discipline framework. Sales professionals and their managers need to be aligned and using the same set of practices and tools. Leaders within the organization need to be prepared to own the coming change and be champions for its adoption. Leaders are expected to step up and both drive and model the new behaviors.

At this early stage, we typically partner with clients to validate and, if needed, customize the sales stages and activities throughout the sales process so they reflect how sales professionals should be pursuing opportunities.

In the data collection phases, we bring together key leaders and subject matter experts within the client organization to gain a thorough understanding of both the current and desired future states of the sales process. Interviews with top performers, sales leaders, and other stakeholders provide valuable perspectives on the sales or account management cycle. We dig into the details of success stories, and then we review and challenge existing best practices, layering in best practices from other high-performing sales organizations.

What Are Your Learners’ Needs?

To understand the training needs of individuals, we want to know their natural talents and applied skills. There’s an important difference between the two. Talent refers to an individual’s aptitude and motivation. Talent is part of their DNA, because people can be great at jobs that are a good fit. The flip side of the coin is that, while a poor fit can be workable, it’s not optimal. It’s hard to be passionate about a job that doesn’t play to a person’s talents.

The other element involves skills. This is the “how” of doing something. Skills can be observed. If there was a video camera taping a client meeting, what would the camera see? Talent should be assessed as a foundational element, both in pre-hiring as well as pre-training. Assessing skills is the next step to set a baseline to measure progress against. These two elements, assessing talent and skills, should come before training.

How Will You Measure Learning Outcomes?

Finally, as the saying goes, “What gets measured gets done.” Measurement shines a light on what is important. Just knowing that management is observing, monitoring, or assessing behavior will change it. A measurement strategy is often thought of only after training concludes, but measurement is an integral part of the learning journey, from outset to completion and even beyond. Before implementing any training program, you need to know where you’re starting from, your ultimate desired destination, and how you will measure progress along the way. By planning a measurement cadence and approach, you provide an additional value to the learning for individuals and the organization.

This part of the Richardson Sales Performance Learning Hug provides the kind of preparation necessary to fully support the client organization and help participants make the most of the training that comes next.

About the Author

Eileen Krantz is currently the Vice President of Consulting & Measurement at Richardson, a leading global sales performance solutions provider. She is responsible for helping Richardson’s clients improve their business by applying appropriate consulting solutions and leveraging data and analytics. Richardson utilizes a variety of technologies and methods to assess a sales organization’s ability to deliver against a client’s market promise and to recommend business-relevant solutions designed to impact near- and long-term business objectives.

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