Sales Managers bring a level of expertise and respect that can instantly make – or break – your training program. You know the typical ways to involve sales managers in training:
Understand their needs: Prior to training, ask sales managers to define the business objectives they hope to address. Identify what they want their employees to accomplish, that they haven’t achieved previously. Determine the return on investment and skill change the sales managers are seeking to appropriately match the training program.
Include them: During training have sales managers kick off the program and tell participants why it is important to the business, the team, and them individually. Have managers share their expectations for the team following training. Ask them to deliver key content where they excel, share stories that reinforce class content, and to participate in activities.
Position them as a role model: If the manager is participating in the training, which is the ideal, be sure to let them know how important their presence will be among the reps. Make them understand that it’s their job to serve as a role model, being attentive, and engaging themselves in the training program. This is your opportunity to ban the manager’s cell phone and laptop.
Serve as a coach: Suggest that sales managers who attended the training use sales calls and team meetings as an opportunity to continue to teach reps how to apply the training concepts and techniques more effectively. As a trainer, offer to instruct managers on the key techniques to reinforce through coaching and modeling. The world of learning and development has evolved and sales managers in many organizations are now getting engaged in the development and delivery of sales training to their people. As they get engaged, managers discover three benefits of their involvement that far outweigh the cost of their time:
They serve as subject matter experts, influencing the key learning objectives, content, and activities to ensure they fit the business objectives driving the training
They can reinforce the points they feel are key to the success of their teams, and ensure their teams are focused on the right learning
They demonstrate their expertise, ultimately gaining and reinforcing the respect of the sales teams
When to Involve Managers
Not every program should involve sales managers in development and delivery. They have other business priorities of their own. Consider where their expertise and support are critical to the success of the program, and the level of their involvement needed to be successful. Some examples include:
If you are implementing a custom process, such as a custom sales, negotiation, or lead generation process, involving sales managers in the development and delivery of the program will garner immediate buy-in from the entire Sales organization as they see the manager support.
Several of our clients have found using sales managers as subject matter experts in development and delivery to be an effective way to reinforce specific sales topics. Topics have included structuring creative deals, demonstrating solution capabilities, handling consulting services objections, cementing partnerships, and forecasting success.
Kick-off and team meetings where available time is limited, but a skills element is required, are also ideal situations in which to engage sales managers. Managers are perfect subject matter experts and when assigned a 1-2 hour module, can spend a total of 2-3 hours working with an instructional designer to have it created. If the program is designed well, groups can be up to 60-80 participants, and sales managers can deliver effectively with appropriate preparation and facilitation support.
What Managers Can Offer
Sales managers can share knowledge and expertise, without a significant time commitment, if they’re asked the right questions. Areas where they can assist during development include:
Key skill gaps to address and how to frame them with the sales reps
Specific techniques to train
Sales phrases they would like their reps to use
Positioning to use with customers at different points in the sales process
Anticipated roadblocks to the training content and how to overcome them
Areas where they can assist during delivery include:
Delivery of content modules or sections
Modeling through role play
Serving as an expert on a panel
Assisting reps during activities
The Mechanics of Involving Managers
So, how do you get sales managers involved when you know their time is limited, or they may lack confidence in their delivery abilities?
Let managers serve as the subject matter experts. We develop the content, write the activities, design scenarios, gather success stories, and write assessments, where the sales managers provide the background information required and review the content for accuracy.
When we work with sales managers who are being asked to deliver content, we often facilitate, acting as the master of ceremonies, introducing and debriefing activities, writing on flipcharts, even engaging the class in discussion. This allows sales managers to focus on the content and not worry about the training techniques required to keep the class moving forward. This works both face-to-face and over the web, and is especially easy for managers who were involved in the development.
Prepare managers to deliver their portion of the training so there are no surprises for them or you. Run an abbreviated train-the-trainer over the phone. Make yourself available for questions during their preparation.
Engage multiple managers so no one manager has too much responsibility. You may choose to work with them as a team, or one-on-one.
Critical Success Factors
Not all managers will be successful in training development and delivery nor will they all have selling experience or be particularly good in front of customer. Be sure you know they can present and sell. Look for sales managers who have the respect of the sales force, are articulate, and know what techniques and processes work with customers. You want consciously competent managers who are able to articulate what they do well – so you can develop the content and so they can deliver it.
Engaging sales managers in training will increase the company’s return on investment as managers are more likely to reinforce it, and reps are more likely to implement the techniques their managers taught them. It’s a win-win for the whole organization.
By John Hester