To be successful, training cannot be viewed as a one time event but needs to be instituted as a process—with prescribed steps taken to reinforce the learnings. In my last blog, I described some of the critical elements needed in order for the learnings to avoid a premature death. But what we have identified so far are just some of the essential elements. Without these other critical factors, the learnings could still succumb to death by training.
Initiatives quickly die if they are not given obvious and well communicated support from senior leadership. A well designed communication plan from senior leadership that is consistent and interesting sends the message that they are involved. Senior leadership sets the tone for any new initiative to be successful—and can be instrumental in fueling the desire for change and organizational transformation as a result of the training. When others in the organization see their senior leaders engaged in walking the walk, they recognize the significance of this new endeavor.
The intent is to build accountability, share successes, motivate new learning and new behaviors and demonstrate that leadership is not only supportive of the initiative but is passionate about the importance of this for the organization. Senior leadership also needs to actively seek opportunities to highlight successes and share the criticality of this to the organization. The desire for change and the need for change are often underappreciated by some leaders and constant communication about the need for change AND linking that change to a specific benefit to the individual is crucial to any change initiative.
To help increase the speed and effectiveness of skill acquisition, participants need to receive relevant and timely support materials. It is impossible to ask people to be excellent unless we show them what excellence looks like…in detail and in the context of the challenges they face every day. Job aids, newsletters, suggested reading, drive time CDs, recipes with examples, reference cards, etc. These are all options that should be explored to help drive home what needs to be done and how it can best be accomplished. Making it very hard for people to fail is the goal—and that requires a broad based approach to provide the support necessary to drive skill improvement.
Which brings me to another crucial factor—building in practice. Since new skills are only acquired by practice (doing), it is vital that first line managers create a safe environment for the reps to practice. Sales leaders need to create numerous opportunities for practice in this safe environment where learning and growth are encouraged. Getting experienced sales people to understand that the difference between good and great is really small and that a devotion to continuous learning and improvement is what is needed to make a difference can be a powerful accelerator.
As leaders we would be well served to help ensure that this type of environment is indeed being created and that the vibrancy that comes with growth, learning and success is alive and well in every part of our commercial operation. It is essential to examine the method and manner of the reinforcement of the behaviors, choosing those that will resonate most with the team. In sales, this means incorporating a field coaching report that is aligned with the new approach and the desired behavior as a significant first step in ensuring successful follow-through.
Live interaction is the final crucial element to ensure successful implementation of the learnings. There is no substitute for this direct contact. Within 6-9 months of being exposed to these concepts a thoughtful live interaction needs to be scheduled. This will create the opportunity for reinforcement that this is an organizational imperative that lives. It also is great for the sharing of success stories that begin to cement the need for continual improvement and provides an opportunity to build on the foundation already in place. This too is the perfect time to identify what needs more attention and what gaps still exist with individuals or with the approach that must be addressed immediately for long term success.
In the U.S, organizations collectively spend billions of dollars in training each year. It is not worth the time and investment if 6 months later, your sales reps are doing the same things they have always done. The training was great—was spot on. Don’t let that enthusiasm wan. If you are decide to invest in the training, incorporate those other critical factors so that the training not only doesn’t die but lives on to inspire your reps to attain new heights—for it is only by developing that the organization can grow.
If you are interested in learning more, click here to access my white paper: The 7 Critical Elements of a Follow-Through Plan: Leading to Skill Acquisition and Instinctive Sales Behavior.