New Sales Force, New Sales Training
Recent Sales Management Association research suggests most firms will ramp up spending on sales learning and development (L&D), and more than 92% will undergo substantial changes in strategy, structure, and value delivery models over the next three years. For many of these firms, the L&D investments they’ll make will be in nontraditional approaches to salesperson training.
In this webinar, a web panel examined how three firms are incorporating nontraditional learning modalities to enhance salesperson training, and engage in discussion about the latest approaches to sales L&D.
Sales Management Association
Bob Kelly is founder and chairman of the Sales Management Association, a global, cross-industry association for sales management and sales operations, and host of the Sales Force Productivity Conference. The Sales Management Association serves members in more than 40 countries with research, content, workshops, peer networking, and professional development.
VP Global Sales
Gary Greenberger is responsible for Qstream’s direct and channel sales strategy globally. He’s focused on accelerating the adoption of Qstream’s mobile microlearning solution. Gary is a proven sales executive with a successful track record in billion-dollar and entrepreneurial technology organizations. These include Sample6, a biotechnology firm, Vela Systems where he contributed to the company’s sale to Autodesk, CTSpace (sold to Sword Group), Constructware (sold to Autodesk), and CompuCom Systems.
Bob Kelly: Hello and welcome to today’s webcast hosted by the sales management association. Our session will start in just a few moments. First, I have a few announcements. Please note that we will not open attendees’ audio during Q&A. However, we do very much welcome your questions and comments. You can submit those at any time during the session by typing them into the small chat window labeled questions on the right side of your webinar application. Also, as a reminder, today’s session will be recorded. We’ll make it available for playback in the Sales Management Association’s resource library. Our members will also find copies of today’s slides available for download there. Our session today is one in a series of web based Sales Management Association presentations that feature practitioners and thought leaders in the field of sales force effectiveness. The Sales Management Association is a professional association for sales operations, sales enablement, and sales leadership professions.
We provide our members with research, case studies, training, peer networking and professional development. If you’re joining us for the first time, we invite you to consider membership in the association and encourage you to visit us online at salesmanagement.org. Also, please be sure to join us in Atlanta October 23rd through the 25th for the ninth annual sales force productivity conference. You can learn more about our excellent conference on our conference site that’s salesmanagementconference.com. My name is Bob Kelly, I’m sales management association chairman. Today I’m happy to introduce and share the next 40 minutes or so with really an excellent panel who I’d like to introduce you to now. Today’s panelists who are joining me are Gary Greenberger from Qstream, John Bell from Red Hat and Darlene Weghorst from Lenovo. John Bell is sales applications delivery manager at Red Hat, a global provider of open source software. He leads a team responsible for Red Hat’s, seller and partner quoting and contract life cycle management programs. Before joining Red Hat, John was the consultant for Resolution Digital Consulting and a manager in the digital sales operations function at Cisco.
Gary Greenberg is vice president of sales at Qstream. Qstream is a provider of mobile micro learning solutions that improved sales proficiency and organization performance. Gary has responsibility for Qstream’s direct and channel sales strategy globally. He previously held senior leadership roles with Sample Six Technologies and Autodesk. Also Darlene Weghorst is with us today. She is director of sales learning and development for Lenovo’s worldwide data center group. At Lenovo, she has developed and managed onboarding programs, management development initiatives and learning platform implementation. Before joining Lenovo, she was worldwide curriculum development manager at Johnson and Johnson Ethicon Surgical Care and also global training and development manager at NCR. Well, with introductions out of the way, I’d just like to personally welcome my excellent panel, Gary Greenberger from Qstream, John Bell from Red Hat and Darlene Weghorst from Lenovo. Thank you very much for being with us. Welcome everyone.
John Bell: Thanks Bob.
Darlene Weghorst: Thank you.
Gary Greenberger: Thanks Bob. Glad to be here.
Bob Kelly: Excellent. Let me do my best to try to frame up of what we’ll talk about today, which is an open and somewhat unstructured discussion about what’s changing in sales organizations and how training strategies are adapting to accommodate and support those changes. I’d like to just spend a few minutes on research that we concluded earlier this year in 2019 about how sales organizations are managing change. We learned that 92% of organizations expect there to be substantial amounts of change in their organization over the next three years. As high as that number is, what’s also daunting about the circumstances that the change will be happening faster, two thirds of firms believe that change will be occurring faster in the next three years than it did in the previous three years. Just 10% expected to happen slower. In terms of what is changing, there’s just a very broad array of significant areas of change in sales organizations.
This is especially true when you look ahead over the next three years, where in fact the area that is expected to change that is most likely to change in organizations is how sales people deliver value. Now, there are many other things that are changing to things that are based on new technology or new ways of organizing and deploying people or how performance is measured or paid with incentives. All those things are changing too. But I would suggest that there is this sort of hierarchy of change that includes tactical things like technology or tools. It includes strategic things about how we’ll organize and how we’ll deploy to the market, but it also includes these existential matters that relate to the very function and value of salespeople. So, these are the things that sales organizations are wrestling with and they are significant things. In our panel discussion today, I’d like to ask a series of prepared questions to our panel and encourage, of course, our audience to also chime in their own questions as we go. I’d like to just start with having our panel tell us a little bit about the things that are in fact changing in their own organizations. To get us started, I’d like to go to you first, John Bell from Red Hat. What’s changing there?
John Bell: Oh boy, lots and lots. So, thanks Bob and thanks team. I’m really pleased to be here today, to be part of this conversation. So, I suspect probably for most of us we see lots and lots of change. I think sales organizations in particular are always in flux and are always growing and shifting and changing to meet the demands of customers and partners and just if you’re in a high-tech company and a position in the marketplace, the speed of technology even as an accelerator on that. So, we constantly see changes across each of those three areas you mentioned Bob, but for us, if I think about a couple that are most relevant, they’re more existential and for anybody who might know anything about Red Hat, we grew up very much as a core technology company, brought enterprise Linux to the masses. We have a whole portfolio now, but we grew up as a salesforce of technology sellers and very product pitch-oriented sellers.
I would say we’re very much in the throws of a journey to transition to… if you listen to our CEO, Jim Whitehurst talk, talks a lot about co-creation, right? How can we show up more effectively with our customers and our partners and to the world really in a co-creation mindset where it’s not just… here’s what we can do for you from a product verse… it’s how do we partner together? How do we get on a path as sellers to become trusted advisors, to really enable a partner’s joint go to market strategy, if you will, and really evolve as a salesforce? That includes our sales managers and leaders as well. So many of the programs that we’re focusing on are really right in the sweet spot of that change to help our sales teams a ball to that conversation if you will.
Bob Kelly: Thank you, John. Let’s try to get Darlene in on this part of the discussion too. How would you answer the same question, Darlene?
Darlene Weghorst: Hi and thank you for having me as well. I am enjoying being part of the panel. What we see here at Lenovo, if anybody is used to seeing our name out there, it’s typically on your laptop and people have grown very accustomed to the Lenovo logo and brand. It was the former IBM brand. So bringing from IBM, it’s a long tradition of how you go to the market. Since 2005, that was our primary business was the PC ThinkPad and the PC line. In 2013, Lenovo purchased the X86 business and we have built out our data center opportunities and offerings and it’s something new to the marketplace and our sellers have to become adept at. The PC side is a very much a consumer swappable item, data center is highly complex and it’s integrated into the core business of our customers.
You can imagine if someone like Merrill Lynch or something like that, had a hiccup in their data center, it interrupts their base core functionality they can’t afford a second out. So our sellers have to understand the reliance of their customers on their data, access to the data, and how any movement within that infrastructure and the offering, how it impacts their business, both to the positive as well to the negative. So, being able to give our sellers that complex understanding and background has been a major lift for us. How do you get that information to them quickly? Because the technology is changing so fast. You think about the Internet of things and banking, it goes from your phone and moving money around through all your accounts over the web and in the cloud. How do you have those conversations? And with every passing day, the technology just changes faster and faster.
How do you get your sellers up to speed at a moment’s notice as the new technology comes on board? How do you keep yourselves fresh and able to answer your customer’s questions when they hear, my competitor just did X, Y, and Z, how do I take advantage of that? They have to be able to address it. So being very adept and very fast in picking up information, being able to study the industry and give them those resources and tools is critical to our business and keeping them at the forefront of what’s going on. I think the biggest challenge is just speed and keeping on top of the things that are changing and impacting their customers.
Bob Kelly: Darlene, that’s great. I know it won’t be lost on our audience that the two companies, Red Hat and Lenovo, these are companies that were formed based on disruptive change. I mean, you’re really not very old as companies of your size go and then… and yet you’re already on at least another complete reinvention of the firm’s value proposition. So, I know that is not lost on our third panelist either. Gary, let’s get you in on the discussion. You have the additional perspective of seeing how not only your own sales organization is changing, but how those of your clients are changing as well. What are your thoughts?
Gary Greenberger: Yeah, I thought John and Darlene did a pretty good job touching on the key points. Qstream, you are correct that we’re selling best of breed knowledge reinforcement software into a lot of corporate America companies but at the same time I’m running a larger organization. So, a couple of points that I would bring up about change. I see the world going from really a technical sell to a real value sell, meaning to me solving problems is the name of the game, not necessarily feature functionality any longer. I think the challenges are going to be around collaboration. What I mean by that is there’s a challenge out there to make sure you’re aligning the training and goals of training with the business goals and to make sure they’re consistent. I think that really involves a discipline of bringing all the key shareholders, stakeholders if you would together. That’s a big challenge today.
The other challenge I think that Darlene mentioned briefly is, time again as a valuable commodity and efficiencies are a requirement today with this new global sales organization that’s virtual. We really have to help companies, and this is what I’ve tried to do with my organization, really help managers understand what are the critical coaching actions and what are the gaps in the learner experience and how do we get people focused very quickly in those areas. I think technology is a really big, big supporter of this challenge. You’ve got to be able to adapt. You’ve got to make things easier and you’ve got to deliver content more precisely. So those are the things that I worry about and that Qstream focuses on.
Bob Kelly: Well, you’re beginning to talk about what I had in mind for our next question, our next prepared one anyway and that is how sales training is changing. So I’m just going to stick with you on this one Gary and help us understand. I mean, how far have we come over the past five years or so and how companies are thinking about training sales people?
Gary Greenberger: Well, I will let John and Darlene be some of the experts, but I can tell you from my perspective, we’re dealing with, as I mentioned, this global workforce, very mobile and a whole new group of millennials that are coming into the fold and there’s an expectation out there in my opinion, that we have to explore new ways to deliver training. We have to make the learner experience very engaging. At the end of the day, we’ll worry about what the learner is looking for is, the attempt to change behavior. It’s just not enough to learn something and check the box but can we change the behavior of people? What I’d like to say is at the moment of truth can they come up with the right answer or do they fall back on their bread and butter? I think as we evolve as companies and as we challenge people, we really have to start looking at changing behavior.
The other thing that’s changing is I just think it’s much more difficult for a lot of companies to justify some of the budgets that are being spent and you really have to drive ROI in measurements so we spend a lot of time on helping through data-driven metrics justify that the training that’s actually happening out in the sales organizations throughout the world are justified or bring in a return and that return has to be measured typically in productivity and performance.
Bob Kelly: Great. John, I’m going to swing it over to you.
John Bell: I totally agree with that, but I’ll also say, there’s a very related component of behavior change in training staying the same. I think Qstream in particular is right in the sweet spot of some of the things we’re focusing on from a reinforcement perspective. It’s crazy to think that we can expect our sellers to make drastic mind shift and behavior changes without some fundamental pillars of reinforcement. Those are some of the things that is we’re evaluating our training programs, we’re going back and really investing more in our manager engagements, right? Really investing more in standardizing our managers on a really sound coaching framework that we found to work. Anchoring through change management, coaching plans that help managers really understand their role and the evolution of their teams from a learning and development perspective.
Then just good old fashioned reinforcement after the fact with platforms like Qstream and coaching after the fact that really make the learning sticky and, you know, help someone understand that, well, this is something that’s really important to my leadership, to my manager, they’re asking about it. They have the skills to coach and reinforce me on what I learn in this workshop or this learning intervention. So, I think a lot of it for us is just going deeper on the good old fashion, roll up your sleeves and do the work to reinforce the new skills and behaviors and mindsets that we’re trying to instill with our sales audiences.
Bob Kelly: So as you point out, it seems to take two… manifest itself in two ways. This focus on reinforcement, it manifests itself by delivering content more frequently, more continuously not just in a single class, but you’re doing it over time after the fact. Then also having a human intervention where you’re working with someone to develop them as a coach. Let’s hear from you Darlene, do you see the same emphasis on reinforcement and some of the other things mentioned such as a little more accountability around ROI?
Darlene Weghorst: Absolutely. To John’s point, we can put out training modules that are self-pace, just in time, take them when you need them. But if you think, let’s call it 15 minute online learning module about any aspect, either a sales skill or product information or a solution offering is going to change someone’s behavior. Or instantly after watching that 15 minutes, they’re prepared to go and tell that story to a customer, we are setting our sellers up for failure. We have to build things in a greater context and give them the full perspective of this module fits into an entire block and as you work through the block, you’ll get the bigger picture and be able to relay that larger picture. So you have to keep everything in context and then to both the points coached to that, okay? You’re going in to see X, Y, Z customer, what are their needs? Have you done the investigation? What are you going to tell that customer that’s of import to them that relays what we can offer to help them in their journey, regardless of the technology platform or offering that they’re trying to move forward with.
It has to be done in such a holistic way that people can actually go along that journey with you. What we’ve seen often times is we’ll have product releases and we rush to get that information out and a lot of it is knowledge transfer, but it has to have the context of, this is one piece and it goes into a solution set and how you put that whole story together for your customer is the key to helping them be effective as salespeople because as we mentioned before, it’s about bringing value to the customer, being a trusted advisor, going in with one component and saying this is the best, it’s faster, it’s stronger, it processes quicker. Three weeks from now your competitors are probably going to outdo that. It’s a constant evolution and a race. You need to have the better story of here is how I’m going to help you holistically in your environment by bringing the best in breed all together as a solution. So, what we have to do is give them the ability to take in that, but practice it.
One of the tools that we use is called a lightboard. What we do is have sellers come in and demonstrate best behavior of how to tell the story on a solution, be it a cloud offering or data management, data security. So, the seller comes in and what a lightboard is, it’s a reversed whiteboard. So the person stands there and draws on this board. It’s almost like a “back of the napkin” exercise so that they can demonstrate, here’s how I talk to customers about our portfolio and our offering around this space. It gives the other sellers a model to go after and to practice themselves. Can they draw it? Can they talk to it? Can they answer questions and then try it out on their manager and make sure they become fluid with that story before they try and go pitch it.
Bob Kelly: Darlene as you know from our conversations about this, I’m infatuated with the lightboard. As soon as I have some free time, I’m going to build one of these myself. But I pulled some pictures down of this. I think this is a neat device. I think it’s one of many interesting things that companies are doing to actually make learning and the production of learning content, a little more democratic and a lot faster to get out. But anyway, these photographs which I took from something called fliplearning.org show the basic idea of this lightboard, which is a way of drawing on a whiteboard without turning your back to the audience, which is really a big problem when you’re trying to film something, someone drawing on a whiteboard. So anyway, thank you for sharing your experience with the light board.
This is likely a good time to maybe go to our next question, which is really about how learning has to change to accommodate the change happening all around it. In other words, many of the things that we’ve talked about so far about how learning is delivered would be true and even static organizations that is you’d still have the ability to use these different technologies and you’d have millennials coming on board and you’d have the need to reinforce things, but when the organization is going through a lot of change, so for example, if jobs are really changing dramatically the way you train might also change as a result of that. I’m really after the insight into how do you deliver training and this chaos that characterizes a lot of organizations changing with new structures and or charts and that sort of thing. So is there anything specific and what things would you call out as especially helpful in high change organizations? Let’s see. Gary, can we go to you on this one?
Gary Greenberger: Yeah. Thank you. Really appreciate a lot of the references to reinforcement in the previous discussion, but a couple of overarching thoughts around this adapting a lot of value in some of the traditional ways that we learn, but I think the concept of a one and done type training, project based training is a term I use, I think is out the window in this new day and age and I think the adoption has to be this continuous programs, this continuous journey. It’s never over. I think that mindset is very important. Then I think when you’re adapting in today’s day and age to these new global work courses that I’m talking about, it’s can you deliver training outside of traditional methods? In other words, can you roll it out in short bursts of information? Can you provide very quick imprecise coaching actions based on establishing gaps in the learner experience? All done concise without having necessarily to pull people out of their offices, out of the field where they’re selling and have that same effect. Can you do that? Can you do this over a considerable continuous period of time? So almost like you look at it on an annualized process for a launch, not we’re going to bring people in one weekend to it, they’re going to learn everything and they’re good to go.
So, I really think some of these newer technologies that are out there that we’ll talk about in a little bit, but the concept of changing the game and taking advantage of what’s available and again, short bursts of information focused on critical areas. That’s what I think about often and how it… one program leads to another, one training course will lead to another.
Bob Kelly: Great. So that all gets a lot more difficult when there are so many organizational changes happening. John, I’m going to have you chime in here maybe with a more specific question about, do you find it helpful to bring more people into the content creation function, creating training material? Like Darlene shared the lightboard and that’s a way of getting people to share their ideas easily in a digital medium. Do you find that being important at Red Hat and for people to share what they’re doing across teams or across the organization?
John Bell: Oh, yeah, absolutely. So, I think it depends on what you mean by more, but we certainly have a practice with our content development functions where we’re, particularly leaning into team members from the audience we’re trying to touch and train to. So, if we’re targeting in the sales specialist space who are doing the job on a day to day basis because they’re living in the chain. Right? I think that’s an angle for your change management strategy, right? So that you can remain adaptable if you’re pulling in someone who’s very close to the chain.
Bob Kelly: Darlene, let’s go back to you on this idea of, adapting learning, delivery to changing and sometimes chaotic circumstances. One way that I think is pretty obvious in doing this relates to distance or virtual training. Can you comment about how you’re making use of this and if there are some specific challenges? I’m asking actually on behalf of a listener who really wants to know about the challenges that our panelists are seeing related to remote training where it may be a little more difficult to see and hear what’s going on with learners.
Darlene Weghorst: Oh, absolutely. I head up the worldwide sales learning and development and I reside in the US so people have a tendency to default there, but we have to get our programs out worldwide to 1500 to 2000 people and get it into their hands as quickly as possible. So I have learning leaders, one in each geography and their role is to make sure that the… not only the material, but the learning is cascaded down. So, they work with partners inside each geography that can then take the worldwide messages, adapt them to the local market. We do an awful lot of WebEx sessions and things of that nature. But the key there is, as you know, you get onto sessions like these and it’s a very one way delivery method. The power of these tools is much, much greater and it takes a different type of facilitator. Usually someone who can stand up in front of a classroom and a room of people can read people’s faces and understand whether they’re engaged or if they’re dying off.
When you’re in a virtual environment like that, you have to use the power of the tools. There’s the chat function, there’s polling, there’s the raising of hands. There’s even mechanisms within the tool for the facilitator to be able to watch if people are going to an alternate screen and they’re drifting away from the program. If you see those icon start showing up, that’s when you know to call on people because in any type of learning, we’re looking to engage the entire audience and the experience of the people in the room as a collective is generally greater than the stage on the stage. They have to deal with the day to day environment. So we encourage, what have you learned? What have you tried? What’s working, what’s not? What do you want from the organization to help you in your sales efforts and make it truly a dialogue? If you don’t engage that way in a distant learning environment and break down so to speak, the walls, they can’t be in the same room. It’s not economically feasible anymore. So you have to find ways to engage the learners and do it in such a manner and a time that’s good for them.
So, the other thing we look at is what’s the work week look like for a seller? One of the best times to have them awake and engaged and participating. Is it in the middle of the week? Generally not. We pick the right times depending on time zones and we set things up to match what’s going on and we make it a work, an application of knowledge session, not just an information transfer. It’s critical that you see it from the person sitting on the opposite side and you know how to engage them and what’s top of mind to.
Bob Kelly: That’s great. Thank you Darlene. John, I hope that you’re back with us. I’ll just encourage you to jump in if you’re back online. The next thing I wanted to talk about, really the last thing before we open it up to more questions from the audience has to do with technology. Really technology has been something we’ve discussed all along, but it is… it’s driving a lot of the underlying changes that sales organizations are reacting to. It also is at the heart of a lot of the new ways of delivering learning and development that so many of our members are concerned with. So, it might be just a good idea to try to understand at high level what is the appropriate role of technology when we’re thinking about investing in learning and development and structuring L&D programs that had the greatest impact? Gary, you on our panel are… you’re both wrestling with making this stuff work for your own people. You’re also in the business of providing it to clients. So I’ll let you have first crack at this question. What in your opinion is the proper role for technology and sales learning and development?
Gary Greenberger: Yeah. Great. I want to go back to one thing Darlene said. I just think it’s that important and as we use technology and this sort of answers this question as well, we’re always looking for ways to keep people engaged that are remote to the person that asked that question. We use game mechanics, which is some… our version of gamification that just makes things competitive. So I really think, you have to be respectful of people’s time that are out there remote, but you got to engage them and competition is one way and immediate feedback is another way. To answer Bob, the broader question, we’re a software company, that’s what we do at Qstream and we do scenario based questions that we roll out that are very respectful of people’s time that help them with knowledge reinforcement. The main thing about software at its phases, and that’s the technology I’ll talk to is you’ve got to make people more productive and more efficient. You’ve got to find ways to take steps out of the process. I’m constantly thinking if I’m a sales person and I was one for many years, I managed many teams, the concept is, how do I get that time that I can apply more usefully to generating revenue for the company and performing and that’s what we think about when we look at technology is, how do we make this experience more efficient? How do we keep reps in the field? Our technology if I had to sum it up in a lot of ways, is trying to reallocate their time, the sales reps time more efficiently to focus on these areas.
How do you do that? You do that by making the experience again, extremely respectful of time. Recognizing that you have to find areas of time where they can sit down for a little bit through… on a mobile device where most of these folks work at times and that they can be challenged. Some of these challenges require some feedback and collecting of data and being able to take advantage of big data today and being able to drive those metrics and those points back. One broad statement I would make and Bob, we did some… we joined together and did some research, the three C’s as I call them and I’ll just put a plug in for this involves using the latest in technology to collaborate on. It’s got to be a collaborative process, that’s critical. It’s got to be continuous. We’ve talked about that and you mentioned the customization of content. We rely on our partners. We rely on our customers to really make sure that the content that we’re providing through this new technology accomplishes the goal. It starts with the company goal. I look at technology as nothing more than taking advantage, at least software of productivity and efficiency. That’s where we’re focused on.
Bob Kelly: Well, thank you for mentioning a research that we did together. I thought that was very good research and those things that we found to be correlated with much better outcomes in training are all… that is those three C’s collaborative, objective setting and continuous delivery and customization, technology has to drive those. You can’t do those three things cost effectively without technology. Well listen, John Bell, our man at Red Hat is back with us, so I’m going to invite him in. You may have a few insights just to catch us up John.
John Bell: Brilliant. So, I agree with the conversation so far around technology’s role. We’re really fortunate here to have a very talented Red Hat university team that supports many of the enterprise and sales initiatives. We have great learning consultants that partner with us on programs we have great instructional designers and as we grew up as a company here in Raleigh, we’ve maintained a bit of a local presence. We still have many workshops that are physical but they’re very dynamic and coming from a big technology company of… where I was there for 17 years, we went very heavy into e-learning. We were early adopters. I came from Cisco Internet Working Company e-learning as a great bandwidth hog.
So I get it’s hard to substitute the magic that can happen in a classroom and if you have a great design to workshop, you can really make some magical things happen in the room. We still try to take advantage of that thoughtfully wherever we can. So many of the technology reinforcements we have in place are just that they’re there for pre-work. They’re there for assessment activity. They’re there for post reinforcement. Again, we’re leveraging Qstream on one of our biggest programs and are finding some good success with it.
So I think we try to have a balanced approach of the more evolved interactions that we have in the classroom for example. We do virtual ILT as well, where we think we can have an effective design around engagement. Some of our bigger programs for managers are mostly virtual and facilitated that way through technology. But we’re still a big believer in the things that can happen collaboratively when you bring people into a room together and set them loose on a problem or a learning and development challenge et cetera.
Bob Kelly: Interesting. Thank you. I’m going to open it up now to our audience. Please feel free to submit any questions that you have to our panel. I will… I’ll read them on your behalf if you type them into the small questions window, which is on the right side of your screen. Let’s get to our first question, which has to do with measuring the impact of training, a question was asked, how are panel members measuring results of change management and training? Darlene, if I may, I’m going to swing this one over to you for any thoughts and we’ll go around the horn a little bit on this one, it’s pretty central importance. I think
Darlene Weghorst: It absolutely is. If you cannot at the end of the day prove or show your impact and your value to the business, the business is going to go elsewhere. So what we do is we watch the before and after sales activity as much as possible and rely on the management teams as well to tell us that our training and what we’ve done, they’ve seen a difference in the way that their sales folks relay that information and that opportunity that they’re able to use it and convey the message effectively to their customers. They know the information we provided and they can apply it in day to day operations, which then should result in greater pipeline growth, greater activity through the sales motion. So we should see more engagement, more opportunities, and hopefully more revenue on the back end.
However, I am not of the opinion that you can do in a sales force such as our complex environment say that Bob went to a training program, they’ve come out, they’ve practiced, they’ve honed their skills, and because of that they were able to land X deal, the absolute ROI for one to one training activity to a revenue recognition. I have a bit of a hard time making that leap just because of the other pressures that are on business, such as what’s going on in the world with the economy slowing down and trade discussions and all sorts of other things. But we can watch sales proficiency, sales activity and make sure that what we’re putting out directly drives engagement and inactivity out in the field and that our managers are coming back saying, yes, they’re hitting the mark. The message is resonating, which means we have partnered very well with the marketing organization. It is a collaborative effort. Training, can’t do it on its own, but we are one of the key levers to getting sales force engagement in activity. So we really watch the physical activity that goes on out in the field rather than a dollar to dollar ROI.
Bob Kelly: Oh good. Thank you. I’m going to jump to the next question here, just in the interest of getting as many in as we can. Though I’ll invite our other panelists to address anything they get skipped on, but I’m going to address this one to John and potentially Gary, if you’ve got a follow up comment, Gary. But the question is, there’s a lot of discussion about coaching, how do you ensure consistency in the delivery of coaching and how do you impact the me– how do you measure the impact of coaching? John, how are you?
John Bell: That’s a great one and a very relevant one for us right now, ironically. So we’ve been on a bit of a journey focused on our sales managers starting early this calendar year. I’ve just joined the team within the past six months and came in very fortunately to a prioritized focus on sales managers and we took some time to really be thoughtful about it and well, should we do this and what’s our potential return and value? Do we really need a full development program? A lot of companies overlook the multiplying factor, if you will, that a manager bring particularly around things like consistency and cadence and helping teams both focus on the right activities that are bringing value for other sales teams in the business. We just saw such a great opportunity to expand beyond just the quota carrying seller and really develop an end to end program for sales managers.
No surprise as we did our needs analysis, as we pulled in our high performing managers and really sat down and looked at what we thought some of the key themes should be coaching and creating a coaching culture at Red Hat within this organization and helping sales managers become better coaches and to really… the starting point is, what is coaching, right? We had a lot of sales managers because we’ve grown so quickly and have all of a sudden they find themselves in a managerial role and we all know the artistic value that might serve a seller very well. It’s a very different set of muscles. So, we are definitely doubling down coaching in our new program and we’re creating a concept around anchoring a standard coaching model down to all the behavior change that we’re helping sales managers drive with their teams. So, it’s very easy for a sales manager to see the role, the importance of the role, a good solid coaching framework for them to refer to and an anchorage of that coaching framework across all the behavior change programs that we have in place for the sales organization for their teams. So, consistency for us in… and the value of focusing there is, I would say a top priority for this year as we design the program and next year as we stand it up.
Bob Kelly: Okay, good. Gary, any thoughts on either of the two preceding questions?
Gary Greenberger: Yeah, that’s right in our wheelhouse. I like those answers. I like the question. The way to bring consistency, I think the number one thing is you’ve got to quantify it. So we use dashboards, we collect information to a set of scenario based questions. But more importantly the responses provide very specific coaching actions by topic. We measure a lot of these in what we call proficiency heat maps. So we use heat maps, we look at how somebody is doing initially and that at the end, how are they doing? We like to measure, the percent increase in proficiency. If a manager is doing his job well, he’ll see an improvement in that area. There ought to be a direct correlation from proficiency to performance. I agree with Darlene, you can’t always quantify an ROI on that but what I like to tell people is, if your team is more proficient, it may have been coached properly to their gaps, you should be able to start to measure an improvement in actual performance. That’s the way I would sum that up.
Bob Kelly: It makes sense. It also means that you must know what you want them to do and what they need to do to be successful. That really puts a lot of pressure, I think on management to know what people need to do to be successful. A topic perhaps for another day. I have a related question. I’ll throw it out to the group, which is really about changing the accountability of management to address these coaching requirements. We had a question we were asked if you have to change the sales manager’s incentive plan in order to get them to focus on these objectives of developing people and coaching. I think that question is worth maybe broadening to say, in light of the renewed emphasis on developing salespeople and a lot of organizations, including the ones on this panel is… are there structural changes that you have to make to the sales management role to accommodate that? I’ll make that a jump ball. Anybody struggling with that issue?
John Bell: Well, we’re definitely taking change management very seriously with our sales manager development program, both for those who will be in the program and upper and executive leadership who ultimately need to buy off on it. We have gotten it to the level of changing how they’re compensated based on that. It’s kind of chicken and the egg thing on some level. Before we could make that drastic of a change, I think leadership is going to want to see some impact but at the same time, I don’t think you underestimate the importance of getting overall leadership buy in and what you’re doing. We heard that from sales managers themselves, right? First line managers, they begged us to make sure that the layer above them was willing to be accountable for supporting the program, for endorsing the new behaviors, the new directions, et cetera. So, it’s definitely very real. I think how you go about it may depend on a number of things, culture or where you are in that journey, et cetera, et cetera. But good sound change management for what we’re doing is definitely something that’s top of mind for us.
Bob Kelly: Well, thank you on that very interesting note. We’ll have to draw to a close. I’m afraid we’re out of time. I’m sad about that. This is a really interesting discussion. I hope to welcome our great panel back to continue it sometime with us. I want to just say thanks personally to our panelists, Gary Greenberger from Qstream, John Bell from Red Hat and Darlene Weghorst from Lenovo. Great job today. Thank you again for being with us.
John Bell: Thanks Bob.
Darlene Weghorst: Thank you.
John Bell: Thanks everybody.
Gary Greenberger: Thank you.
Bob Kelly: Before we go, I will just remind our audience that our next sales management association webcast is September 26th. On that date, we’ll host a session that will explain how Salesforce, the company aligns its own salesforce. We’ll do that in a very interesting webcast we hope you can join us for. You can learn about it and also many other webcasts that we have scheduled by going to our website. That’s salesmanagement.org. I’m Bob Kelly, Sales Management Association chairman. Thanks again for your time and attention today. Goodbye. Until next time.
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