From on-boarding for new recruits, to enhancing the sales skills of established members of the sales team, employee development is a vital part of any sales talent management strategy. It is, after all, only through an effective development program that an organization can get the very best from its staff.
However, despite significant investment, many businesses find that their development efforts fail to live up to their expectations, or that their employees revert back to old habits, instead of implementing new ideas. In this article, we offer five key tactics that can improve success rates and improve employees' skills and behaviors.
1. Align Development to Business Goals
Development plans work best when they are aligned to wider business goals, which is why it is important to be clear on what the company is trying to achieve first. Outline the key priorities from a sales perspective and identify the performance indicators that matter most, so that you know what employee development is supposed to achieve.
One of the best strategies here is to implement a sales enablement initiative, and draw up an enablement charter. The initiative should be designed to align to corporate goals, as well as the customer journey. A charter can help to formalize this entire process, and can be referred back to in order to keep enablement on track.
In fact, according to the CSO Insights 2017 Sales Enablement Optimization Study, 73.6% of salespeople working in organizations with a formal charter achieve quota, compared to 43.3% of salespeople in companies with a one-off approach to enablement projects, and 56.1% in businesses with an informal approach.
2. Target Training Towards Weaknesses
When establishing your business objectives, especially in relation to the sales team, it is important that you pinpoint the key metrics that determine success. These could be obvious metrics, like win rates and quota attainment, but may also be more specific metrics, like customer retention rates or social media engagement.
From there, your organization can start to build a picture of what the sales team are good at, what they need to improve, which metrics are improving, and which ones are in decline.
This information can then be used to inform a sales training strategy, allowing organizations to direct efforts towards addressing areas of weakness. In most cases, this will be a more efficient approach than providing more general sales training, which is not geared towards the specific needs of the team.
3. Mutually Agree On Targets and Objectives
Once you have a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your team, you need to start working with individuals on a one-to-one basis, in order to develop their skills and address any performance issues. In particular, it is important to establish some specific targets and objectives.
The key to this particular step is to work with employees, rather than dictating to them. Try to agree on some realistic, measurable individual targets for them to work towards and discuss why you think these particular targets will be beneficial. Talk to them about their career aspirations and long-term goals as well.
"You should also ask your employees to assess their own work and discuss any challenges they’re having in their current position," says Jeff Miller, in an article written for Insperity. "Some of your employees may already have development goals in mind, but don't know how to get started."
4. Implement a Formalized Coaching Plan
With objectives set, or goals to work towards identified, the next tactic is for sales managers and other sales leaders to implement a formalized coaching plan. Coaching is an essential talent management strategy, because it allows information learned through training to be reinforced, and allows development to be more personalized.
Through coaching sessions, sales leaders should find ways to ensure new information is put into practice, so that salespeople do not simply revert to old habits. However, coaching should be mutually beneficial and should involve discussions so that sales leaders can better understand individual members of their team. Crucially, coaching needs to be carried out at regular intervals and progress needs to be examined regularly too.
In the CSO Insights 2017 Sales Manager Enablement Report, it was found that 34.1% of sales managers spend less than 30 minutes per week on lead and opportunity coaching, while 47.1% spend less than 30 minutes per week coaching skills and behaviors. To achieve real results, sales managers need to dedicate more time to coaching, and this coaching time needs to be approved at the executive level.
5. Make Use of Different Content Formats
Finally, in the modern age, it is increasingly important that employee development and talent management are not only confined to classroom-type settings, or meeting rooms. While that kind of traditional training and development still has a valuable role to play, it is important to also embrace modern approaches and new technology.
In particular, the most successful organizations are making effective use of training or development content that is consumed through e-learning or mobile learning platforms, allowing employees to take in new information, or reinforce information they have already learned, no matter where they are.
Aside from the ability to access this information anywhere, at any time, e-learning and mobile learning can make it easier for salespeople to seek answers to questions that they may be too embarrassed to ask senior staff members, or to check best practices when they might otherwise use guesswork.
Development programs are essential for improving the success of sales teams, but many organizations struggle to implement an effective program, which addresses the most important areas of concern. By utilizing the five tactics above, however, sales leaders can substantially improve the quality of their development efforts, resulting in a more rounded team, which is equipped to deliver excellent sales results.
About the Author
Monika Götzmann is the EMEA Marketing Director of Miller Heiman Group, a global employee development and sales training consultant, providing sales and customer service training solutions. She enjoys sharing her insight and thoughts to develop better sales and customer service skills in sales people.More Content by Monika Götzmann