ATD Blog

Sales Training Leaders: Start a STOP (Sales Training Outreach Program)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

ASTD has been talking about this topic for years, and it offers the ASTD Competency Model, the ASTD World-Class Sales Competency Model, and on a broader scale, ASTD’s Human Performance Improvement Model to help practitioners recognize and navigate a performance improvement process that spans beyond training.

The CEB shares its Anatomy of a World-Class Sales Organization.

The founders of ZS Associates share its approach in their book, The Complete Guide to Accelerating Sales Force Performance, in which they cite culture, sales force structure, hiring, sales manager selection, training, compensation, technology, sales territory design, goal setting, and performance management as factors that drive sales performance.

Sales Benchmark Index offers its view into the drivers of sales force effectiveness.

Richardson has a Sales Performance System that addresses readiness, development and sustainment.

And there are plenty more examples of learning for sales enablement out there—this list just scratches the surface. Indeed, I’ve written plenty about the Sales Performance Ecosystem and Sales Performance Levers, including this conference presentation on SlideShare.

Details and semantics vary, but the idea is the same. There are various factors beyond training that impact sales results. More important, we achieve the best results with an aligned approach that pushes on various levers.

This is the very real tightrope we walk, as learning leaders, isn’t it? We’re more frequently held accountable for showing evidence of impact or proving return on investment for training expenditures, but we don’t control all the moving parts. (I think this is what people refer to as “living the dream,” right?)

This is also where the sales training outreach program (STOP) can come into play.  

STOP in the name of performance

Pick your favorite systems approach and take a closer look. I’ll use the Sales Performance Ecosystem as an example.

How many other departments, functions, or roles are mentioned or referred to in this ecosystem outside of training? Obviously, this depends on how your organization is structured and which departments are responsible for which tasks, but here are some possibilities:

  • Advertising
  • Business Analysis
  • Compensation
  • Customer Service
  • Finance
  • Human Resources
  • Incentives, Contests and Promotions
  • Information Technology
  • Leadership Development
  • Marketing
  • Marketing Communications
  • Product Management
  • Recruiting
  • Sales
  • Sales Effectiveness
  • Sales Enablement
  • Sales Operations
  • Sales Support

Now ask yourself some important questions:

  • Who leads these functions?
  • How well do you know these leaders?
  • How many different leaders and departments are involved?
  • Do they all report up to the same senior leader? If not, how many and who?
  • Who is coordinating goals, activities, plans, measures, progress, reporting, trouble-shooting, change management, and so on across these functions?
  • How well are you aligned, sharing plans and progress, and helping others who support sales efforts and improve sales results at your company?

And then, the final question: What would it take to close the gaps and collaborate as an aligned team toward the shared goal of improving sales performance?
Wallflowers rarely get to dance

Hey, if you came out smelling like a rose here, I offer my congratulations! But if you’re like most leaders in most organizations, there is a gap ranging between “we have room for improvement” to “wow, I could park a 747 in this gap!” If you’re facing this reality, it’s time take action. Sitting and waiting for someone else to reach out is a sure way to miss the opportunity to dance.

It’s fair to note that I have some friends who chide me about this, citing that anything less than top-down driven plans will flail and fail. I completely agree that top-down support is ideal. I desire it and I ask for it. However, I also live in this place called “reality,” where sometimes, someone, somewhere, has to just do something to get things started.

If your circumstances are less than ideal, yet you want to get the best results possible and earn the coveted “seat at the table,” take action.  In the words of The Grateful Dead: “Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.”

This is a situation that requires collaborative leadership. While you often hear more about collaborative leadership applied to education, public sector, and nonprofit settings, collaborative leadership is a perfect fit for today’s highly matrixed corporate environments where diverse teams share a common purpose and desired outcomes.

Getting STOP started

Dr. Hank Rubin, author, professor, dean, and co-founder of the Institute for Collaborative Leadership, suggests:

  • Collaborative leadership is the intentional and skillful management of relationships that enables others to succeed individually while accomplishing a collective outcome.
  • Collaboration is NOT the outcome or goal. Collaborations are processes that, when successful, align people’s actions to accomplish a goal or solve a problem.
  • Collaborative leaders ably facilitate the involvement of two or more people in a group working toward a shared outcome in a manner that reflects collective ownership, authorship, use, or responsibility.

Rubin believes you are a collaborative leader when:

  • You have accepted responsibility for building—or helping to ensure the success of—a heterogeneous team to accomplish a shared purpose.
  • You convene and sustain relationships that influence individuals and institutions and find and sustain common self-interests in the diverse missions and goals of independent actors

Sound like a good idea? Talk to your boss. Talk to your leadership team. Reach out to your cohorts and peers. Socialize the idea of more aligned, focused collaboration. Get people together…talking.
Create your own Sales Training Outreach Program. The cadence, participation, and other exact details will vary based on your specific circumstances, but you’ll figure that out as you go.

And, all fun aside with the STOP acronym, we all know that’s a misnomer; it’s not really just about sales training and you don’t want to call it STOP outside of your department. But for you, it is YOUR outreach program—to connect and align all the players, so you can support your external customers and your internal sales customer in the best way possible, to improve sales performance.

You’ll share the glory, but at least there will be an improved chance of having glory. And won’t that be a nice story to tell when it comes time to show evidence of impact or prove return on investment for training expenditures?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts about this, and hopefully, hearing your success stories later.

Further Reading on Collaborative Leadership

About the Author

As VP of sales effectiveness services for SPARXiQ and a nationally recognized thought leader in sales improvement, Mike Kunkle designs sales training courses, delivers workshops, and works with clients to implement sales effectiveness systems that dramatically improve results.

You can connect with Mike on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter at @Mike_Kunkle.

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