Step Right Up: How L&D Professionals Can Help Sales Managers Sustain Change Post Training
Learning and Development must help sales managers to guide their sales reps after the training in order to sustain the changes introduced. Some sales managers may not be used to coaching and may need guidance themselves. Consider the following:
- Coaching training so that sales managers can engage and coach the participants developmentally during the post-training period
- Coaching checklist for the course so that sales managers can quickly and easily remember the critical skills and knowledge that they should be looking for among their salespeople
- A template of a post-training individual reinforcement plan that is either paper-based or through a learning management system
- Monthly check-in meetings with all the other sales managers who had salespeople attend the training to discuss successes, barriers, and best practices
- A report on successes, barriers, and best practices, as well as a formal request for senior sales managers’ assistance in removing key barriers
Sales Managers Cannot Do It Alone!
Front line sales managers play an oversized role in optimizing a company’s investment in sales training and are central to the application of new behaviors back on the job. To be successful, they need help. Learning and Development can help sales managers with raising awareness, creating learning space, and encouraging the application of new behaviors back on the job.
However, Learning and Development needs to advocate for the following to be in place at the corporate level or they will not get full buy-in from front line sales managers:
- Time. Time is a finite resource, so senior sales managers need to tell front line sales managers what they can stop doing in order to “free up” time to develop their salespeople.
- Incentives. Sales managers must be incented to make training a priority and actively spend time and effort supporting their teams’ development. Making development of their team 20% of their performance objectives is appropriate.
- Coaching skills. Sales managers need to be able to coach. While Learning and Development can provide high-quality coaching training, senior sales managers should be coaching the managers on coaching skills. Often, senior sales managers have to ask good questions in order to understand the quality and extent to which front line sales managers are coaching their sales reps consistently.
- Manage the message. Sales managers at all levels, from front line sales managers all the way up to the Chief Sales Officer (CSO), must be able to clearly and concisely describe in their own words how changes in skills and knowledge learned during the training support the company’s overall go-to-market strategy and goals.
When big change initiatives require training of new skills, knowledge, and behaviors, the training programs must be well planned, with objectives clearly communicated in advance, executed with extreme prejudice to helping attendees focus, and followed through long after the training in order to sustain the new behavior and complete the transition to the new normal. Stopping short once the training is done leaves too much to chance and dooms your efforts to failure.
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