Two significant and seemingly unrelated pieces of information crossed the desk of Sun Chief Learning Officer Karie Willyerd. First was a report summarizing the results of a skills analysis conducted for the sales force of a major business unit. The report found a significant number of skills gaps for this group that related directly to its performance. Second, a business-unit executive discovered there was no clear way for him to understand the competencies of his 1,000-person sales staff.
Willyerd immediately recognized these two situations as something that clearly needed to be addressed. In response, she gave Joe Campbell, director of sales and marketing training in Sun Learning Services, the mission to develop a sales training strategy that would align it more closely with core competencies the sales force needed to effectively achieve targeted sales objectives. In addition, a new learning management system was needed to support the delivery, access, management and reporting requirements of the new sales training curriculum.
Campbell assembled a team representing field sales, sales operations, marketing, learning technology and program management. Through collaboration, joint decision making and the input and support of multiple business functions, Sun Sales University was born with a strategy that focused on three primary areas:
Sun Sales University implemented a new learning management structure that gave the decision-making power for sales training programs to the business units. The role of the existing training organization became more consultative and added value by focusing on the educational effectiveness of the program and its content.
Training Content, Design and Organization
The design of Sun Sales University focused on developing the key competencies required by sales and utilized a formal curriculum, as well as informal content. Sun Sales University also provided an accreditation framework for development planning and performance management that enabled managers to evaluate progress and offer ongoing feedback and coaching to their staff. Accreditation focused on a more effective educational strategy: combining formal learning with practice and documented results.
Sun Sales University is supported by two technologies. First, a new learning management system was designed to support the storage, delivery, management and reporting requirements of the new sales curriculum. The Sun LMS was architected by Charles Beckham, Sun’s chief technology officer for learning, and is designed specifically to support Sun’s new sales training strategy and lay the groundwork for a company-wide learning strategy.
Second, Sun Learning eXchange was created as a repository of information that can be posted by any Sun employee and includes everything from video recordings of successful sales presentations to best practices in server maintenance.
The new sales strategy touched many areas of Sun’s organization and required changes in organizational roles and responsibilities. Participation by stakeholders was critical to the initiative’s success. Here are some examples of this participation:
• Sun Sales University was designed with extensive input from sales staff and addresses many of the historic inhibitors to participation in sales training.
• Two system pilots were initiated to test the system and demonstrate success, enabling participating executives to champion and vouch for the positive value of the program.
• The team gathered input from domestic and regional sales executives who would be asked to give up control of their own training resources.
In the end, the collaborative team approach, executive sponsorship and Sun’s commitment to innovative practices in workforce development won the support and funding required to implement this ground-breaking initiative.
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