Given that you are where you are in your career, you certainly don’t need to be told that your company’s sales force holds the keys to advancement of your enterprise. This is a lesson learned long ago at corporations globally. But seeing the advantages sales-force education has brought to major corporations certainly adds an extra incentive for your learning initiatives.
Consider, then, the benefits realized at two large corporations, British Telecom and Williams Scotsman.
Mick Taylor is head of education and learning for the Major Business Unit of British Telecom, which provides communications services in the United Kingdom and Europe. While the company employs 125,000 people worldwide, Taylor is responsible for the ongoing development of 12,000 professionals, with about 5,500 of those in sales or service roles. Sales training for his unit is ongoing, including management development programs and invitation-only development opportunities.
Last year, BT’s Major Business spent $12.3 million to train about 4,500 people, averaging about $2,800 per head. One of the company’s training programs reported a return on that investment of $1.2 million additional revenue generated by just 40 people. Overall, the company, working with Accenture, has doubled sales productivity and, perhaps more importantly, customer satisfaction is up by 30 percent.
“Given that we had 1,850 sales people at the time, we estimated we could produce $461 million in additional revenue if everyone performed at the same levels,” Taylor said. “The reason we’ve been able to retain the training budget to the levels that we’ve actually done is because the results have been there. If you don’t invest in your people, you don’t get a return.
“We try to mix our training up quite a bit, so it’s not all classroom-based,” Taylor added. “We continue to look at new areas where we need to progress in the business. The managers, the directors, VPs, etc. It happens at all levels. A lot of the time we try to get the people at the top to take part in training. Certainly they’re the ones that need to drive it. If they do it, the people below them will do it. If they don’t do it and live it, then the people below them won’t do it.”
Results have been similarly impressive at Williams Scotsman, the second largest mobile office provider in the United States, with 90 branches in 39 states and Canada. Williams Scotsman employs 1,400 nationwide, about 160 of those in sales roles bringing in $492 million in 2001 sales. That’s $60 million more than in 2000, an increase learning officers attribute to employee education.
“Quite obviously, the approach that we’ve outlined in terms of small, frequent feedings of training throughout the year that can be directly taken from the virtual classroom right into production logically follows that it certainly does have an impact,” said Chuck Hunter, technology training analyst for Williams Scotsman. “When a lot of other companies were tanking, their revenues were going down, we increased $60 million.”
Shifting from classroom education in its Baltimore headquarters, Williams Scotsman rolled out Mentergy’s LearnLinc training program, educating 670 professionals in nine weeks. According to Hunter, LearnLinc’s savings in terms of avoided travel and less productive time lost allowed the system to pay for itself in six weeks.
“There were times when the economy was running strong, and to tell you the truth sales training maybe wasn’t as important. The company was making money and things were rolling along pretty well,” said Ross Thornton, curriculum supervisor at Williams Scotsman. “We’re in a little different environment now, as I’m sure a lot of companies are. A lot of things that frankly five years ago we may not have been looking at as closely, now all of the sudden it’s showing up on people’s radar screens. They’re saying, “You know what, this does make a difference. If we don’t do this and the next guy does, we’re going to be at a competitive disadvantage.”