As a learning professional charged with training sales managers, your mission is to deliver great training and then show the ROI of that training to the C-suite. But let’s face it: sometimes that’s a tall order. Depending on the type of training you choose, it can be difficult to cleanly connect the dots from your content to follow-on sales performance. And when that connection is weak, it can keep you from looking your best in front of senior leadership.
What if, instead of struggling for ROI, you could consistently wow the room with a clear link between your training and strong business results aligned with company strategy? What if you could look like a rock star every time you stood in front of senior leaders, making you an indispensable part of your company’s future? You can. When you follow the five principles below, you will be able to draw a straight line from your training to the movement of key metrics to improved company performance—every time–and the C-suite will at last see you as the rock star that you are.
Principle #1: Stay aligned with business needs. Every great ROI story begins with an L&D professional who is positioned, either formally or informally, as a partner in the business. The only way to stay abreast of what’s important to the senior leadership team today is to engage in regular business conversations with them.
How? Think like a business partner. What are the company’s key strategies? Which 3-5 sales metrics will senior leadership be watching carefully over the next six months? Is the company planning to move into any new markets? Do leaders want a push for increased sales of a certain product in which they have invested heavily? When you know the answer to questions such as these, you are starting down the right path to equipping the sales managers with the code for increasing productivity from their sales teams.
Principle #2: Pick the right content. This may seem like a no-brainer but it is surprising how often L&D professionals choose “soft” general content such as “leadership” or “coaching” that is difficult, if not impossible, to later connect to sales results. Your aim for the sales manager population should be to train them on the framework that leads to improved business results. When you do that, your ROI story will fall right into place.
This is a story of effectiveness and efficiency in training—of teaching managers to fish vs. simply giving them a fish. Depending on the sales team’s goals and objectives, sales managers must determine the high-impact activities reps should be taking every day to move forward and how best to enable reps to execute those activities. When you as the L&D lead clearly understand the metrics the business needs to move and you help sales managers with training content to chart a path to move those metrics, demonstration of ROI through pre- and post-training results is a snap.
Principle #3: Incorporate current research. To paraphrase George Orwell, all content is not created equal. Even if you clearly understand the metrics that need to move and you identify the type of training content you need in order to move the needle on those numbers, you must take a hard look at all your content options to ensure the one you choose leverages the most current empirical research. If it doesn’t, it will degrade the effectiveness of the training—and negatively impact your rock star reputation.
As you evaluate different content options, ask yourself: Is this content rooted in solid research? Is that research directly relevant to sales managers? Is it recent? Does it incorporate the latest best practices? You’ll know you have found the right content when the answer to all these questions is a resounding “yes.”
Principle #4: Know your audience. You understand the company’s strategic direction and the critical sales metrics that will enable execution of the strategy. You’ve got the right content, supported by the latest research and best practices, to train sales managers to move those metrics. Still, all that groundwork will be for naught if your audience can’t operationalize the content because you haven’t adjusted it to account for the reality of their lives.
Sales managers are a hyper-busy and incredibly stressed group of people. The demands on their schedules and the pressure to grow sales are huge. This means that any content you train must be easy to digest, very practical and easily inserted into their daily routines. It also must be obvious from the outset how the training will help them produce improved results in areas that help them hit their sales goals. Otherwise, they won’t absorb and apply it—and you won’t see the right numbers move in the right direction.
Principle #5: Leverage existing sales tools. To amplify your rock star persona, consider ways you can leverage your company’s prior investments in sales enablement tools when planning training. CRM is usually a big hot button here. Countless organizations express frustration that despite investing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in a CRM system, that system gets little use by sales managers and reps, thereby making it impossible to pull out reliable forecasts, status reports and other promised benefits of the technology.
If your training not only improves key metrics but also motivates the sales team to start using and gaining value from a technology investment such as a CRM system, the board room will see you as more than a star—you’ll be a hero.