Learning Leaders: Boosting Sales Performance

Learning Leaders: Boosting Sales Performance

Their Excellent Learning Programs Have Provided the Impetus for CA and CISCO’s Dynamic Growth As organizations scrutinize their training budgets in this tough economy, it is more important than ever for sales training to align with corporate goals and deliver results. CA (www.ca.com) and Cisco (www.cisco.com), named winners in the annual Bersin & Associates Learning Leaders Program (www.bersin.com/leaders), are best cases of organizations that have boosted sales performance through excellence in learning programs—CA with a blended learning program to help sales managers better coach their teams, and Cisco with elearning designed to help salespeople prepare quickly for new product introductions. According to Josh Bersin, president of Bersin & Associates, both organizations have demonstrated a strong focus on business alignment. “By building coaching skills in sales managers, CA was able to significantly reduce turnover of its salespeople and increase sales volume in the first year of the program. Cisco saw sales jump when it gave its salespeople on-demand support for the steady stream of new product launches. These organizations stand out as Learning Leaders for the strong line of sight between learning and sales.” How did they do it? CA’s learning sales readiness team designed and implemented a comprehensive and continuous blended learning and performance support program that mapped to sales managers’ specific needs and time constraints, preferred learning methods, and the corporate culture. Cisco developed business-focused e-learning courses for salespeople to get up to speed quickly on new products. Information is broken down into small, searchable and easily consumable segments, with modules as short as 15 minutes. “These companies showed a strong understanding of the day-to-day performance and learning needs of their target audiences,” Bersin adds. “In addition to providing compelling learning experiences, both organizations had a high degree of executive support, and used technology in innovative and practical ways—all among the key criteria we look for in Learning Leaders.” SALES MANAGERS CRITICAL CA is known for products that run on mainframe and distributed platforms, deployed in the majority of companies in the Forbes Global 2000. However, as large banks, government agencies and other sophisticated users of information technology (IT) have become even more dependent on an increasingly heterogeneous IT infrastructure, CA has focused on helping these users solve their most complex IT management problems. To achieve this goal, sales and marketing had to reorient their focus. In 2006, CA changed its sales coverage model to enable sales teams to build customer relationships through an enterprise IT management strategy and to create long-term business partnerships. Teams of account managers and directors, led by sales managers, focus on opportunities to generate new contract value (NCV). Sales managers who can successfully coach sales teams to high-performance selling are critical to achieving NCV targets. One of the key roles on the CA sales account team is the sales manager. This position is ultimately responsible for its sales team achieving its financial targets. A core competency of a sales manager is his/her ability to effectively coach sales teams, especially account managers and directors, toward performance behaviors that generate new contract value within their accounts through an enterprise IT management strategy. By creating a continuous learning and performance support program for sales managers, CA hoped to increase revenues as well as reduce costs associated with attrition. CA devoted a small team of sales operations experts to develop an appropriate sales coverage model and selling methodology to achieve its goals. The learning organization (the CA sales readiness team) worked closely with these experts and, through a combination of discovery techniques, analyzed and documented the competencies and behaviors required of the key sales roles on an account team. The learning organization determined that the sales manager community was faced with a range of pressing issues, from finding time for coaching and team member attrition to spending too much time coaching the lowest performing members of their teams and not using a consistent coaching methodology. In addition, they were not collaborating about coaching with peers in any organized fashion and using a “telling” versus “coaching” methodology with their teams. NEW COACHING FRAMEWORK The CA sales readiness team recommended and designed a comprehensive and continuous learning and performance program (see Fig. 1). The program included a coaching framework tailored to managers’ needs and the CA culture and a safe learning environment in which to practice applying the framework to realistic on-the-job scenarios. It also included a two-day coaching workshop conducted by Richardson (www.richardson.com) to introduce the coaching framework, assessment tools for managers’ current coaching style, anonymous feedback from their sales teams, and on-the-job consulting and coaching practice with workshop instructors. An online community was created to share coaching best practices, seek additional support, and receive continued learning and performance support through self-paced learning, virtual learning sessions and the opportunity to receive one-on-one continued coaching. Blended learning was used throughout the program lifecycle. Pre-work was distributed through CA’s learning management system to encourage learners to reflect on a coaching situation that they would like to use during the workshop. To encourage sales managers to practice using the model in a safe environment, the workshop was designed to be heavily dependent upon interaction and role plays. E-learning was used to reinforce coaching principles, and a variety of media and collaboration tools were used to reinforce learning, introduce a sense of community among sales managers, and introduce new topics for coaching based upon business need. CA’s executive vice president of global sales formally kicked off the program in person in 2007 and instructed all of his direct reports to make the learning program mandatory for all sales managers at CA. In addition, he acted as the visible sponsor of the online collaboration tool. According to Chris Howard, vice president of research for Bersin & Associates, CA’s online coaching collaboration tool is a best practice example of how blending social learning elements into formal learning programs provides value. “Having access to an online community of exerts gives sales managers the opportunity to share ideas or reinforce what they’ve learned in real time, driven by business need.” The business results have also been excellent. These include decreased voluntary attrition for account directors (down 4 percent), account managers (down 51 percent) and sales managers (down 86 percent). In addition, employee satisfaction has improved for both sales managers and their direct reports, and morale is generally high. Sales managers report that they have sufficient opportunities for training to improve their skills, and they would recommend CA as a place to work. As a bottom line result, quality coaching by sales managers has contributed to increased performance of the direct sales force, resulting in an 18 percent increase in new contract values between the first quarter of CA’s fiscal year 2008 and the first quarter 2009. CISCO: PROLIFIC PRODUCTION Cisco is the worldwide leader in networking that transforms how people connect, communicate and collaborate. The company’s sales organization is challenged with a dynamic portfolio of products that can be combined in many ways to create effective networking solutions for its customers. launched — averaging more than one aAs new and updated products are day — the 16,000-member sales force must be able to access and assimilate new product information quickly. Prior to 2006, content development work for new products was outsourced to third-party vendors. This approach did not yield satisfactory results for a variety of reasons, starting with the fact that the outsourced developers simply did not possess a granular understanding of Cisco’s business objectives or product strategies. Additionally, the e-learning content was often too static and linear — and salespeople did not see positive outcomes after completing the training. Outsourcing also made it difficult to keep up with the frequent schedule of new product upgrades and releases. When an analysis revealed that outsourcing was costing more than internal learning content development, the director of Cisco’s worldwide sales force development organization, which builds all sales and technical sales learning content, hired 27 new instructional designers and brought the new product introduction learning program in-house. The director organized the IDs into teams around specific subject matter experts, which made each team more responsive to the need of its business unit. To keep pace with the steady flow of product announcements, the learning team collaborated closely with business unit product designers and marketing teams to gain visibility into which new products are in the development pipeline and due for release. The goal was to have multimedia (Flash-enabled) content on the day of product launch. To increase the on-demand nature of the content, everything was made searchable, so salespeople in the midst of a customer engagement could quickly find specific information, such as a customer testimonial for a particular product. SMALL CHUNKS Cisco’s philosophy for new product training is that learning is non-linear and more about providing on-demand performance support when a salesperson needs it. It developed QuickStart, e-learning courses between two and two-and-a-half hours in duration, with many 15- to 20-minutemodules. Information is broken down into small search able and easily consumable segments. The idea is that a salesperson can get key information quickly, such as how to demo the product, right before a customermeeting if need be. The QuickStart learning objectives focus 90 percent on business issues and 10 percent on technology issues, and generally answer the following questions: >> Who is the customer?
>>Why will customers care about this product?
>>What should I say to customers?
>> How do I demo the product? Every QuickStart has nine modules. These include a solution overview, which provides a high-level look at the product and where it fits into the overall vision and architecture; a go-to-market strategy, which outlines the sales process, roles and responsibilities of the team; and a value proposition, which defines key decision makers, their main business issues and how the solution addresses those issues. Other modules cover customer testimonials, competitive positioning, prospect profiles, service offerings, technical background and solution pricing. To ensure that new product introduction information is always timely, existing content is now updated twice quarterly — which allows users to review only the updates in a matter of minutes. The QuickStart Program was launched in early 2007 and is one of the most successful online learning programs Cisco has offered. Sixty-five percent of Cisco’s account managers are using QuickStart on a regular basis. QuickStart learning offerings continue to be in the top 15 most accessed e-learning offerings for sales training. A recent look at sales teams that have taken a QuickStart program shows a 15 percent increase in the uptake time of the new product as well as a 15 percent increase in revenue for those teams. According to Howard, QuickStart is an excellent example of a high level e-learning strategy. “In our study of online corporate learning over the last five years, we have found that organizations go through four distinct stages of maturity in implementing online learning.Very few organizations have achieved a Stage 3 (lntegrate & Align), or Stage 4 (On-Demand) learning strategy. His is where the CISCO solution fits. Organizations at this level have shifted focus from content to one of job- or role- specific solutions. Cisco took a situation plagued with ‘too much information’ and put it in much more useful,manageable context.” —To read more about best practices in sales training and about other winning learning and talent management programs, download a copy of the free Learning Leaders report at www.bersin.com/leaders.

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