Each year, ATD challenges organizations to subject their most recent talent development achievements to rigorous scrutiny for recognition as a BEST organization. BEST stands for:

Building talent 

Enterprise-wide 

Strategically driving a 

Talent development culture that delivers results.

The award criteria ensure that ATD BEST companies have integrated learning as a strategic business tool with strong alignment to business objectives and commitment to measurable outcomes. MillerCoors ranked #3 in the 2016 BEST Awards. Here is its story. 

Challenge 

During the past few years, the nation’s taste in beer and alcohol has continued to evolve. Consumer choices have increased dramatically and competition from other beverages—such as craft beers, wines, and spirits—has risen. To keep up with increasingly sophisticated palettes and consumers looking for more flavors, the MillerCoors marketing leadership team needed a new strategy to market current brands and find space for new products. 

Solution 

The strategy included four 90-minute learning modules and two full-day work sessions disseminated over 10 weeks to 160 marketers. There were train-the-trainer sessions for subject matter experts, and new strategies were applied in a risk-free environment. All these small modules culminated in a three-day live academy during which the new strategy became part of the company’s brand plan for the future.

While the brand-planning academy helped build capabilities for the future, MillerCoors also established a program to better retain sales talent. The company now has a reorganized sales structure to better promote employee growth, as well as a recruiting program for college graduates and young professionals. That program has resulted in nearly 200 entry-level sales representatives.

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To gain consumer preference in a fragmented market, MillerCoors also worked to solve the challenges it has experienced in on-premise channels, such as restaurants and bars. Some of the company’s brands were seeing declining volume due to the aforementioned increase in competition. To strengthen those brands, MillerCoors moved from a tactical selling approach to a strategic one.

The company then created a development track to support execution. Sales staff learned how to personalize their approach, working to understand the customer needs. That approach coupled with leveraging innovative technology allowed them to come up with unique selling solutions. 

Results 

After a year of sellers working hand in hand with night clubs and bars, progress was being made. However, entry-level teams weren’t making progress in a timely manner. As a result, a senior-level action learning project team joined forces with the learning and development team to create a six-week onboarding program.

Entry-level sales reps aren’t placed into a market until they complete the program and receive a certification. The program combines on-the-job training, assessment, and classroom learning. At the end of each week, participants are assessed and must score a 90 percent or better to become certified. MillerCoors has found success with its entry-level sales reps since the inception of this program.

Better recruiting practices, training and education programs, and equipping sales staff with the pertinent skills and customer-centric mindset, have paid off. Not only are several MillerCoors flagship brands showing momentum, but the organization was just rated the number 1 supplier in the Tamarron Survey, which is voted on by U.S. beer, wine, and liquor distributors.

“Our leaders teach, learnings provide opportunities to solve real business challenges, and we measure our results,” says CEO Gavin Hattersley. “The outcome is a highly skilled, motivated, and high-performing team equipped to lead our business into the future.”

Do you have a BEST sales story to share? The 2017 BEST Application is open. Deadline for submissions is March 31, 2017.