SAP needed its Sales University team to meet the rapid industry shift leading customers to digitize their businesses. In 2013, management identified underachievement by sales representatives against their key performance indicators (KPIs)—with more than 40 percent of reps missing their annual sales quota—as a serious organizational challenge.

At the same time, the learning team reviewed usage data and found that online resources were largely going untapped, with many e-learning courses accessed fewer than 10 times despite a sales force of 15,000 reps.

To meet the performance challenges and increase participation in training, the Sales University team undertook a design thinking approach. The needs assessment included both regional university team leaders and sales leaders to try to understand the root cause. The team also interviewed sales reps, asking questions about how training could be improved, how they liked to learn, and communication preferences when it came to mission-critical training. The Sales University team’s analysis of their audience determined demographics and levels of sales experience.

This resulted in the creation of a virtual live classroom program that provides the sales audience with an engaging learning environment focused on the sales and soft skills critical for a global sales organization. More specifically, the training is based on current skill needs, industry trends, and company strategies. It offers both standardized and role-specific training, and is delivered as stand-alone courses and within a blended learning solution.

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In 2016, 92 percent of attendees rated their skills as either excellent or very good following the course (versus 29 percent before). In comparing participants and nonparticipants, the Sales University team found that learners had 46 percent more pipeline opportunities and higher close rates than non-learners. 

Editor’s Note: SAP was a ATD Excellence in Practice Award winner. Applications for the 2017 awards open July 1.