When you scan the horizon for strategies and tactics used by enterprises to training their sales teams, here are some broad conclusions you will quickly come to:
1. You will find that enterprises love acronyms. Be it sales models like SPIN or company specific sales stages that sales teams are expected to follow in their conversations with customers.
2. There is a heavy focus on process and compliance such as CRM updates, tracking the sales funnel, and reporting.
3. There are teams of sales training managers traveling all over the world (or the country) to conduct workshops and role-plays for the sales teams. These training managers are always short of time and are always jet lagged!
4. There is smattering of different types of learning and performance support content and tools. Usually there is a LMS with hundreds of courses, there are some videos of role-plays with or without a streaming server, there are social collaboration platforms such as Yammer or SocialText.
That summarizes the typical enterprise sales training infrastructure in today’s enterprise. Don’t get me wrong, all of the above are required and should be executed in a coordinated way. I truly believe there is scope for innovation in enterprise sales training and that this opportunity for innovation is not a choice that an enterprise can choose to ignore. Here are some reasons for my assertion:
1. Customer decision making process in an enterprise has changed dramatically. According to HBR, “By the time customers approach suppliers, they generally have a clear idea of the problem they need to solve, the solutions that are available, and the price they’re willing to pay. In this world, process-driven sales machine approaches fall short, because they give sales reps no room to exercise judgment and creativity in dealing with highly knowledgeable customers.”
2. There is a generational shift in the audience for the sales trainers. Gen Y and Gen Z are already in the workforce along with the Baby Boomers (on the verge of retirement). According Kelley Services, “The flow of information, the ease and quality of connections and collaboration, the facilitation of self-expression and feedback are all experiences that directly impact the way Gen Y workers feel about their workplace, and their place within it. Our research—empirical, experiential and anecdotal—suggests that Gen Y may have the most highly refined BS detectors ever.
3. Mobile devices are already available and most enterprises have either deployed mobile devices such as Tablets or rolling them out to their sales teams. However, these devices seem to be more used for accessing structured content (such as whats available in the LMS) and access to enterprise applications such as CRM. The focus seems to be on improving the productivity of tasks that were previously done from the cubicle! In a webinar that I attended recently, a senior executive from SAP proudly gave a tour of all the apps that sales teams at SAP are currently using. None of them have anything to do with addressing the fundamental shift in buyer behavior highlighted in point 1 above nor do they have anything to do with winning deals!
So what should enterprise sales training function do to tackle these opportunities for innovation? I will share some ideas in my subsequent posts. I certainly encourage comments and thoughts on this topic.