Sales managers and leaders are responsible for not only setting sales strategy, but for communicating, enabling and supporting that strategy to accelerate pipeline growth, account penetration, accelerated win-rates, and bigger deal sizes.
Pursuing such sales results and business outcomes requires a cross-functional approach. In many ways, sales leaders are accountable for these results, but they often lack cross-functional support within the greater organization necessary to achieve those goals.
To enable the learning and development function to better support the sales leadership team, learning leaders should start by using broad market and industry sources, expert opinion from the sales team and historical sales data to identify emerging threats, downward trends, and market expansion opportunities. Learning leaders also can assess quarterly results, CRM data, and voice-from-the-field feedback in order to develop and execute training and enablement approaches that accelerate current or new sales strategies and/or achieve business objectives. Then, to really make an impact, conduct root-cause analyses to identify and promote effective and innovative sales practices while overcoming key obstacles to sales effectiveness.
Also, because human capital strategies are changing, roles across the company have to change as well. Customers across different industries are focused on their needs and wants; within large enterprises, for instance, businesses focus on the customer of their customer, and align business strategies and sales to better create value throughout for those sales processes.
This can map out in different ways. Let’s say the learning function in a large IT company finds out they have 90 days to create onboarding for a new sales role within the organization. The old way of creating this experience won’t work. It’s too long, there’s no content that can be leveraged, and the business expects something to produce tangible results, i.e. time to productivity as defined by the business.
Thinking cross-functionally, learning leaders work closely with SMEs, and by deploying an iterative, collaborative approach, extract the core content needed, then combine it with a strong learning engagement. This produces the desired onboarding and ramps up the new seller role, mapped and aligned to productivity.
Key to success during this new process, activities became more and more visible to the executive team. This creates a more trusting relationship so the learning team can actually produce what the business and sellers need to drive growth and attack new revenue streams aligned with company strategy.
Consider the following as starters to change the learning and development mindset from siloed to cross-functional:
- Recognize that sales strategies require a well-articulated game plan to communicate and implement changes that evolve sales behaviors to close the customer gap.
- Explain the learning function vis-a-vis business impact. It’s about functional impact, not individual impact. Individual heroes might have a short-term impact for sales managers, but if overall sales functions aren’t set up for impact, sales managers won’t see the value over time.
- Evolve impact beyond task-based initiatives. Think in terms of projects and programs. It’s also important to add strategic value. It’s important to partner with the business, so it’s a good idea to start with the sales team.
- Align end-to-end support necessary to buttress and accelerate sales conversations. To do that, work collaboratively across functions. Work with sales, marketing, product, and technology groups.
- Finally, always keep in mind this is evolving. It’s not about how to train someone, it’s about why training needs to happen and what to build out from that starting point.
Juliana Stancampiano is CEO, and Brian Lambert is a consultant for Oxygen Learning. To comment email editor@CLOmedia.com.