Most businesses have growth as one of their key strategic goals. Whether it’s through mergers and acquisitions, product or service innovation, or entering new markets, if a company isn’t growing, it’s losing to competitors that are. Developing a growth strategy is the first step in ensuring success, and making sure you have the sales talent in place to carry out that strategy is critical.
“To achieve consistent growth and tap into the expertise, talent, and energy of your salesforce, training and development must be part of your growth strategy,” writes Nancy Bleeke, founder, president and chief sales officer of Sales Pro Insider. When sales training is part of a company’s strategy, it results in increased profit, improved sales employee attraction and retention, a “culture of performance,” and improved competitiveness.
Tiffani Bova, global customer growth and innovation evangelist for Salesforce and author of the new book “Growth IQ,” believes that training – “the people part of the equation” – is critical for growth. It’s especially important to focus on middle managers, the people who are communicating the growth strategy to sales teams and, at the same time, “managing up” to executives as well. These sales managers reached their positions because they’re good at selling – now, they need the training to ensure that they’re good at managing, too.
Preparing Employees for Change
When a company pivots and starts down a new growth path, it’s important to help employees navigate the change. “As a training and development leader, you are the only participating party that can bridge the gap between executive expectations and the reality of sales force performance improvement,” writes Michelle Vazzana, a founding partner at Vantage Point Performance. Depending on how much of a change your new growth strategy represents, you may use a range of tools to help employees adapt.
“Companies that forget about the individual people side of strategic changes when it comes to growth,” says Bova, aren’t maximizing the impact that a motivated team can bring when its members are all moving in the same direction. She recommends using multiple types of communication, including emails, in-person meetings and training to educate employees about the new strategy.
Similarly, research by ValueSelling Associates and Training Industry, Inc. found that a best practice for driving change through sales training is to “communicate enough detail, communicate to everyone and do so on a deliberate time-table to ensure an initiative does not miss milestones due to unfamiliarity.”
Aligning Business Performance, Employee Satisfaction and Customer Experience
As with any initiative, it’s important to measure success when implementing a new growth strategy. In addition to the usual sales metrics, Bova says it’s important to add more customer- and employee-facing metrics. Two important indicators are employee and customer satisfaction. “The metrics that tie business performance, employee satisfaction and sentiment, and customer experience and satisfaction [together],” says Bova, “may actually start to expose areas for improvement.” For example, if employee morale is declining, then employee churn may increase, affecting business performance. These metrics, then, may indicate that you need to take a look at your sales training and employee engagement programs to determine whether they match your company values and vision. If you need to change the programs or create new ones to improve performance, you’ll have the data to back up that decision and inform those changes.
“The one thing is,” Bova writes in the introduction to her book, “it’s never just one thing.” Multiple factors are at play when it comes to growing a company. However, the company’s people are arguably the most significant factor. By developing a training strategy that supports your organization’s growth strategy, you can ensure that L&D is an effective business partner now and into the future.