If American corporations spend $7.2 billion* every year on sales processes, account management skills, negotiation, and opportunity management training, why aren't these training initiatives being interwoven into the "DNA" of the organization? Interestingly enough, three factors are cited most frequently in our research for failure to implement training initiatives:
- not tied into a larger business strategy
- no executive sponsorship
- no reinforcement and measurement of the training at the field level
If, however, there is so much agreement among senior executives on the importance of these three practices, why don't more companies have the discipline to develop them?
- competing priorities
- distributed leadership
- sales training lumped in with all other training
One root cause is there are many competing training priorities. In addition to a variety of programs in core sales competencies, sales managers typicallly have access to between five and ten other types of training programs - including product training, systems training, government compliance, diversity, and others - that address the various competencies needed to be effective in today's increasingly regulated and sophisticated B2B selling market. Moreover, they have to do it in an environment in which they have numerous other tasks to perform, including forecasting, attending inter-company meetings, preparing reports, hiring and firing staff, conducting performance reviews, selling, managing customers, and a variety of other administrative tasks.
Additionally, we found that many companies still practice distributed leadership as it relates to the way sales forces are trained. Regional Sales Managers very often have their choice of which key selling, negotiating and account management methodologies they purchase. The result of which is wide variance region to region in key customer facing activities. Given the potential for brand equity deposits and withdrawals due to inconsistencies, we see this as a dangerous trend. In fact, one sales manager said, we need "a centralized budget so regional managers can't kill it to make their numbers." Distributed leadership works for many things, core sales competencies is not one of them.
But all training is not created equal. Because of the direct connection between sales and growth, the critical core competencies of the sales force - key selling, negotiating, and account managment - must be differentiated from, and held to a different standard than all other types of training. In fact, they must be seen not simply as "training," but, rather, as efforts to raise organizational competence.
"The pursuit of world class in all things for most companies leads to the proverbial 'jack of all trades and master of none' status rather than the world class stature they seek. In contrast, companies that are selective about the improvements they pursue are able to deliver and sustain outstanding results."**
In other words, managment must learn to select the one or, at most, two training priorities that connect most directly to the company's growth strategy each year and focus on institutionalizing them. That is, making sure they are sponsored by senior executives and that both the sales force and those who manage them are measured for their effectiveness. The various other types of training must continue, of course, but be viewed as adding to the salespeople's skills, and not be measured in the same way as the core competencies are.
"If an action does not enhance a core competency, it isn't strategic. If it isn't strategic, it isn't a key priority."**
If you'd like to find out more about this research, please request our white paper entitled, Enable Your Growth Strategy.
* Journal of Personal Selling Summer 2005
** Axiom Consulting Partners, Winning Axiom #2