September 7th, 2012

Don’t Expect Off-the-Shelf Sales Training to Drive Your Custom Sales Strategy!

Companies are like people and snowflakes: they may look and act similarly, but each one is distinctly different from the other. Remember this comparison as your organization embarks on its next change.

You might think that I’m wrong because identical twins look, well, exactly the same. But what makes them unique is their thought processes and behaviors. In this sense, companies can look like twins yet are still very different. You could have multiple companies operating in the same industry doing the same things, yet achieving dramatically different results. This would be true from fast food (McDonald’s and Burger King) to home improvement (Home Depot and Lowe’s) to technology (Microsoft and Apple) and any other sector.

Why is this important? Because we know that when we’re looking to make a new purchase, we read reviews and opinions from buyers who have already made that purchase or from experts whose job it is to test and evaluate the products. When making a change to our business, we look to best practices within the industry from those who have already undergone such a change, and we read the advice and opinions of expert consultants and business professors who study these situations as well as case studies of those who have experienced similar change first hand.

It is important to heed the advice and experience through researching best practices — unless you’re Goodyear or Michelin, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel (I know, they make tires, not wheels, but forgive the comparison). However, do so while keeping in mind the individuality of people and snowflakes: what works for one may not work for another.

Am I saying not to follow best practices? Of course not! However, be careful of how you go about implementing changes and customizing them to your organization.

Customize Solutions for Effectiveness

You are about to embark on an important strategic initiative in your sales organization, such as a new process or value proposition. You’re doing this because you expect it to move the needle and help you take your team to the top. You may only get one shot to get it right; your credibility and your career is riding on it. Don’t settle for an off-the-shelf solution to fit your custom strategy.

A recent study by Richardson with TrainingIndustry.com showed the importance of customizing  solutions to assist in making a change within your sales organization. When comparing very effective organizations to ineffective ones, respondents from very effective organizations were twice as likely to purchase products or services that are fully customized to their company’s needs (see chart below).

Custom Sales Training Graph

Two Takeaways from Very Effective Organizations

1.       Sales training needs to be customized to support your strategic initiative.

Applying the same logic as above, unless you have an off-the-shelf” strategy, then off-the-shelf” training won’t reflect what you want your people to do and what you want them to say, and how you want your managers to coach and reinforce the expected behavior change

2.       Making the case for change is unique to each company.

Think holistically about how you’re going to drive change and make it stick. You can’t just point to a best practice and say, “It worked for them, so it’ll work for us!” The case for change needs to be tailored to your company and its needs and then threaded through the training program so that everything hangs together.

A strategic communications plan to support the announcement and implementation of the change is critical. An event-based mentality won’t work. This means that you can’t just send an e-mail or hold a meeting to unveil the change and then sit back to watch it happen. People are busy and distracted, not to mention in some cases unwilling to adapt. You need multiple messages through multiple channels that highlight what’s happening, when, and with what implications, highlighting the need to change as well as the benefits.

For more information about the Richardson/TrainingIndustry.com study and how to enact successful change in your sales organization, click here.

About The Author: Dario Priolo

As Chief Strategy Officer, Dario Priolo is responsible for driving Richardson’s market, product, and corporate strategy and planning — sharing critical insights with clients to help them win in today’s changing market place. Dario gathers intelligence and market and customer knowledge to: drive Richardson’s innovation; ensure that Richardson offers the best and most relevant solutions for clients that exceed client satisfaction; and raise awareness of Richardson’s extensive capabilities with sales and business leaders.

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2 Responses to “Don’t Expect Off-the-Shelf Sales Training to Drive Your Custom Sales Strategy!”

  1. September 10, 2012 at 6:01 pm, Mike Kunkle said:

    Wow, Dario. It’s a little disturbing that this even needs to be said, isn’t it? No criticism meant with that statement, by the way. I agree with everything you’ve written and with that fact that it *does* need to be said. I’ve often quipped that “business books are dangerous” for some of the same reasons you cite here about best practices. Best practices for whom? The world is a lot more grey than most want to admit. (And, of course, distinguishing between various shades of grey takes “vision,” too, doesn’t it? 😉 Between B2B, B2C, tangible, intangible, long-cycle, short-cycle, consultative, transactional, direct, channel/VAR, and of course, industry and company culture, I don’t know how anyone could implement an off-the-shelf program and expect any sort of transformation to occur. Factor in the event-based approach (vs. creating real learning and performance systems where transfer is fostered and guided), and it gets all the more gelatinous. Kudos to Richardson for such a data-driven, evidence-based approach that makes a real-world difference, and for writing about it.

    [REPLY]

    • Dario Priolo

      September 11, 2012 at 9:13 am, Dario Priolo said:

      Hi Mike,
      On a personal note, it is nice to reconnect with you after a year or so. I hope that all is well! I really appreciate your comments and providing another data point to us here at Richardson confirming what we have always believed. Surprisingly, we encounter too many organizations try to take the quick, easy and cheap way out, and ultimately waste valuable time and money on something that their reps and managers reject because it isn’t meaningful to them. In our experience, these failed initiatives erode the sales leader’s and L&D departments credibility and builds resistance to change. We hope that this research informs leadership to do the right thing and make the right investment for their organization. Thanks again for your thoughtful remarks.

      [REPLY]

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