October 14th, 2013

Does it make sense for HR or Learning and Development to own Sales Training?


Does it make sense for HR or Learning and Development to own Sales Training? 

Professionals in Human Resources (HR) and Learning and Development have tremendous expertise and can be extremely valuable to organizations. However, we believe that neither HR nor Learning and Development should own sales training. That may have made sense in the past, but it no longer fits today’s business environment.

Rather, these functions should be positioned as a trusted business partner to either the line or the sales organization. One reason for the change from owner to partner is that the world of sales and marketing is changing at breakneck pace, which is being driven by advancements in technology and evolving customer-buying behavior. Think of the way you buy products and services as a consumer as compared to 10 or 15 years ago. The “consumerization” that has plagued bricks-and-mortar stores has leaked into the business-to-business world.

Can HR or Learning and Development keep up with this level and degree of change occurring in sales and marketing in addition to keeping up with all of the change that is happening in their own world? It’s a lot to ask. Their learning-and-developmentrole would be better served as a trusted partner to the business to ensure that good learning principles and practices get applied to helping the sales force develop the skills necessary to operate in this new environment that we are being pushed into – but not necessarily as the owner.

Don’t take away the efficiencies gained through a central Learning and Development group. There has to be scalability between the overall Learning and Development initiatives, modalities, and approaches that are used within an organization. Every learner within the organization can and should benefit from those practices.

It comes down to forging a collaborative partnership between HR and the business units, but allowing the subject-matter experts to drive the training. HR and Learning and Development reps are not subject-matter experts in sales, although they are not subject-matter experts in accounting either. But it is a real wake up call for many HR professionals to say, “You are going to have to become a bit of an expert and live in the world of your learning audience in order to really be collaborative.” The takeaway is that HR should no longer own the process.

However, HR should take ownership of working with the VP of Sales and with all of the sales management. Travel to the field, get to learn what sales trainers are putting out there, and then start to think about what things you can help them with, how you can collaborate on new and different ways of practical, relevant training approaches. As learners, sales teams need to know that there are new learning models and approaches, in which HR should be an expert.

Do you agree that HR should no longer “own” sales training? Let us know in the comments below?

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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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One Response to “Does it make sense for HR or Learning and Development to own Sales Training?”

  1. January 02, 2014 at 5:52 pm, Neil Phipps said:

    I totally disagree, having worked in this environment for many years. You are assuming that the business function will want to involve the learning specialists in their decision process and also that a CoE for learning can’t have functional specialist who can be sales experts with a specialism in learning and development. Finally I believe that it is also more cost effective to have a CoE for learning as many skills are cross functional and therefore learning can also be cross functional thus eradicating silo business functions from forming in development and succession pipeline management.


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