Suppose you are a large U.S.-based global company with three operating divisions totaling 2,300 world-wide sales people. When it comes to sales training, historically each country has done its own thing – for that matter each division has for the most part unilaterally developed its own sales training. Some countries have done a fair amount; while others have done very little. The same can be said about the divisions.
Your executive team has decided it is worthwhile considering designing sales skills training programs that can be implemented across divisions and across countries. Lee, the project leader is interested in delineating what the payoffs might be and some best practices for implementing the effort.
Let’s start by exploring some of the payoffs Lee might want to consider in determining whether the effort is worth it.
- Cost savings. In a large scale project it is likely that a company would partner with an outside training firm. In which case, significant cost savings could be achieved by through a multiple division global implementation versus individual efforts.
- Integrated sales efforts. Instituting a common sales language increases the efficiency and effectiveness of selling bundled products across divisions and positioning integrated solutions across countries.
- Branding. If the sales training is successful, it’s possible to develop a superior sales team that can differentiate by the way they sell, as well as, by what they sell. With the help of Marketing, this competitive advantage can be incorporated into a company’s branding strategy.
It is absolutely true that implementing a sales training on a global level across multiple divisions is a task that should not be taken on lightly. Not many companies attempt the challenge and of those that do, only a limited percentage is successful. On the other hand, those that come out the other end of the tunnel are able to achieve impressive results. So, what are some of the best practices for getting it right?
- Achieving buy-in. The golden rule for crafting a global sales skills training effort is – “Gain commitment then build it versus build it and then attempt to gain commitment.” It is an imperative to develop a shared view of the major parameters of the program such as: topic area, level of customization, learning methodology, and pricing model before the design effort begins. The buy-in process must be not only be early but also substantial. If a shared vision can not be reached up-front, long-term success is unlikely.
- Recognizing that topic matters. When the major topic areas such as: call execution, sales strategy, negotiation etc. are considered, some are more likely to be successful for a global implementation than others. For example, the skills and best practices that go into planning and executing a sales call (call execution skills) tend to be common across product portfolios and across countries. On the other hand the best ways to handle negotiations can vary widely by division and by culture.
- Customizing. Even if the right topic is selected, one size will not fit all. This is why a customized design works better than a generic one. At first blush we often think about language and cultural differences – and they are important. However, there are also differences in best practices and significant differences when it comes to what constitutes a relevant case study or role play. The key is to craft the protocols for the customization with a global implementation in mind so that the various versions can be created with a minimum of work.
- Leveraging internal capabilities. In working with a training partner, it makes sense from a cost and operational perspective to do with the partner only those things that an outside firm can uniquely perform. Outside training firms should be expected to provide programs with an established track record with state-of-the-art designs and tested best practices. On the other hand, most large organizations have the capabilities to customize, modify, produce, and train sales training programs particularly if the partner provides robust materials and assistance. The cost savings should be hundreds of thousands of dollars in a large global implementation if internal capabilities are effectively leveraged.
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©2011 Sales Horizons, LLC