Sales trainings – what’s crossing your mind first? Product trainings? You are in good company. But that’s only one of several sales training categories. That’s why there are many different stakeholders, perspectives and target groups to be orchestrated. And that’s the reason why cross-functional councils can increase effectiveness significantly.

At this point, we assume that an overall strategy is in place and that sales trainings are considered as a strategic issue: More in Dave Stein’s excellent article “Tactics vs. Strategy: The Distinction Makes a Difference”.

Let’s look at the two different target groups: Front line sales managers and sales reps. Whatever you invest in sales reps, you will have much better results, if your sales managers are equipped accordingly – how to become a world class front line coach for their teams. To equip the sales managers the right way is essential to leverage any sales system’s full potential.

Let’s look at different training categories that are relevant for each target group, but in different shapes and forms:

  • Skill trainings that cover e.g. value messaging skills, storytelling skills, questioning skills, presentation and negotiation skills or how to manage tension. Coaching is part of this category.
  • Product or portfolio trainings – revisited.  They should equip people how to sell, what products and services do and what they mean to different customers, rather than what their features and functions are. Ideally, these trainings are closely connected to messaging trainings. If integrated, even better.
  • Sales methodology, sales process and customer’s journey: This is all about how your sales methodology and your processes look like and why it helps to be valuable and successful. Account management is also in this category.
  • Tools and systems: CRM, SFA, sales enablement and collaboration platforms, pricing tools, proposal tools, client visit tools, on all devices, and many more.

So much for that. Your foundation should be an overall sales enablement framework with the customers at the core, with different sales milestones that are mapped to the different stages along the customer’s journey. All that should be connected to the sales process. Such a framework is your design point for all enablement, not only for training services.

Let’s define a Trainings Council as a cross-functional strategic board that makes strategic decisions on design, piloting, rollout and impact metrics for all defined sales training categories and for both target groups: sales managers and sales people. The execution can remain in the initial functions. Budgets should be assigned to the council, but your point of departure will often be the other way around.
True leadership is required!

Follow these steps to initiate your trainings council:

  • Create a compelling story to sell your vision internally and to get senior executive buy-in: Address the challenge clearly (current focus is too narrow on product trainings, an integrated big picture is required across all training categories on what and how to sell, efficiency potential between content and training has to be leveraged, coordination has to be improved to avoid “random acts of sales support”). Make pretty clear, that sales managers need a special focus on coaching to leverage a sales system’s full potential. Your story is to make the whole training landscape much more efficient and effective. In a perfect world, the sales, the marketing and the HR leader are the council’s senior executive sponsors.
  • Define the trainings council lead: The person, who leads the strategic sales force enablement team should lead the trainings council to provide strategic guidance, based on the overall framework. Make sure that your partner in crime, the content council leader, is a member of the trainings council.
  • Define the council members: Typical members are the leaders of product & solution marketing, vertical marketing, portfolio management, content council, any kind of dedicated training teams and – often overlooked – HR business partners and skill development leaders are important members.
  • Create a council charter: Such a charter defines vision, mission and principles, defined outcomes for each phase of your roadmap, members, sub-teams and sponsors as well as a meeting calendar. Creating this charter together will help you to build a strong team.

Define a first roadmap:

  • As-is Analysis and big picture: Create transparency on all the different training services that happen across the sales system. Map them to three dimensions: Your target groups (sales managers and all sales roles), the customer’s journey (where along the customer’s journey it this training most relevant?), and to your training categories. Identify redundancies and gaps. Create a big picture of your desired future state based on the above mentioned dimensions.
  • Define two fields of action: One to fix the worst redundancies, one to address the most important gap (which will be often a sales manager coaching program).
  • Create a roadmap from current state to future state and define teams to execute the first two projects: Such a road map needs milestones that are easy to communicate (design, pilot, rollout or as-is-analysis, redundancies are fixed and gaps are closed), that help you to track progress and to communicate success and to address necessary decisions to your sponsors.

These three streams decide on your council success: Your vision and how well you execute on it. The next two streams are ongoing streams, which – depending on your organization’s maturity – have to be developed from scratch or just to be honed.

  • Align trainings and technology to increase efficiency and effectiveness
  • Create metrics along the customer’s journey to measure efficiency and effectiveness

Start your trainings council and create impact!

This post was published initially @ TopSalesWorld, December Magazine.