Senior leadership engagement in sales training – more time may not be a waste of time

Sales simulations - engage senior sales leadership

Over the years we have conducted numerous training projects for companies engaged in major B2B sales.  Recently we completed a project that made us rethink the importance of the level of engagement of the senior sales leadership – specifically the VP of Sales.

Here are our observations of the typical level of VP involvement in sales training projects.

The VP of Sales gets engaged at the very beginning of a project deciding the need for the sales training, the general type of sales training, and the level of funding.  Usually these matter are discussed with the Sales Training Manager.  Typically the VP has some level of engagement in vendor selection, too. When the program is rolled out, the VP of Sales often kicks-off the first session and as the program rolls out they get feedback from their sales managers and the Sales Training Manager to check that things are on course.

Rarely does the VP of Sales attend and actively participate in the sales training sessions.

Contrary to the “standard situation”, the VP of Sales, for the aforementioned project, attended and participated in all three implementations of the program which was a sales simulation that ran for two days. The VP also made sure all his front-line sales managers attended the programs.  The VP not only attended but also actively participated and did so in a way that did not intimate his sales reps or undermine his sales managers.

The impact of the VP of Sales attending the program was an order of magnitude in regard to the level of the discussion and the substance of the feedback. And, that was over and above what the front-line sales managers provided which was also significant.

After the three programs were over, we had the opportunity to have drinks with the VP.  We shared that his contribution to the learning would have been difficult to achieve by some other means than his participation.  We went on to ask if he thought his time was well spent.

His answer was yes – and from his perspective one reason stood out for all the rest. Because of the geography and his schedule, he seldom had a chance to observe the sales team planning and conducting sales calls.  The sales simulation provided a chance in a relatively short period of time to get an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the team.  He commented – “I learned three things I personally need to do right away that can help our sales team do a better job selling to our customers.”

This was just a sample of one therefore we should not jump to conclusions.  However the next time a VP of Sales says they do not have the time to actually attend the programs, we will spend more time having a “time well spent” discussion.

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About Janet Spirer

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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