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Accreditation of sales training

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Paul Rowling, RMC Sales Training Manager, outlines how the company has benefited from incorporating ISMM professional qualifications into its in – house sales training programme.


RMC Group is the largest organisation of its kind in the World. The Groups core business activity centres around the production, sale and distribution of building materials world-wide, with an annual turnover of £4.4 billion, employing 35,000 people in 25 countries.

As in many other markets, RMC U.K. faces increasing commercial pressure from competitor activity and industry over capacity.

During our first year with the Group, my colleague Rob Gosney and I visited operating companies within all the Groups divisions and spoke to Company Directors, Sales Managers and Sales Staff. We came away from the exercise with clear objectives: to raise the profile and perceived value of the sales function and those involved in it; to raise standards of sales professionalism; and, ultimately, to improve results for the business. This is not to say that the standards were particularly low, simply that the commonly - held belief within the group was that increased competition demanded higher standards and more effective sales activity.

A history of excellence
RMC Group has a long history of training excellence and is probably one of the UK’s biggest investors in training. The first class residential facilities at the Group’s International Headquarters at Thorpe in Surrey are supported by a permanent training department staff of 20 dedicated individuals. Companies within the RMC group are provided with comprehensive training in a variety of areas including operational skills, management, IT, health and safety and accountancy, as well as sales and marketing.

For some time, staff in most disciplines have been able to undertake courses leading to professional qualifications. Management and supervisory staff have been able to work toward a NEBSM qualification, whilst our training for technical staff, accredited by City and Guilds, has the highest success rate in the World. However, our sales and marketing training, while of a high standard, was the only discipline not to have achieved external accreditation.

Furthermore, although we reaped the benefits of sales & marketing training in terms of improved sales performance, staff who underwent our six – month study programme, which includes three residential modules, often expressed disappointment at having no tangible evidence of their achievements.

We were also aware that, in other disciplines, career progression was often determined by possession of a relevant qualification. In addition to providing individuals with recognition and reward for their achievements, this brought additional benefits to the business by generating a more highly trained, qualified and motivated workforce, as well as an accurate method of gauging candidates suitable for promotion.

It was therefore agreed that, in working toward meeting our goals of increased professionalism, a higher profile for the sales function and improved sales performance, achieving accreditation of our sales training programmes should be a priority.


Getting started
We began by investigating organisations offering membership, study programmes and sales qualifications. We then looked more closely at their focus on salespeople, in terms of support, development and overall philosophy. Here we found that the ISMM stood out clearly in terms of the objectives we had set.

Coincidentally at this time, some 2 years ago, we learnt that the ISMM had just obtained DFEE approval for its professional education.

As soon as we compared the ISMM syllabus with the content of our existing sales training programmes, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that our in – house programmes required only minor modifications in order to comply with ISMM curriculum requirements. During autumn 1998 we were in regular contact with the ISMM in order to discuss the finer details of course content, programme design, delivery and accreditation.

These discussions increased our resolve and determination to affiliate with the ISMM, as they proved that the Institute shared our philosophy and goals and genuinely wanted us to succeed.


Moving ahead
The next stage in the process was to actually go out and sell the idea, to the 7 main U.K. operating companies, within RMC Group.

Each year, the RMC U.K. operating companies put around 400 of their sales staff through our training programmes. Use of the sales training department is not mandatory, indeed, some operating companies do use external training providers, when it is felt that they may more effectively address training needs. It was therefore essential that for the process of accreditation to succeed we had all of our ‘customers’ willing to buy the new product.

Those that can’t do, teach? I’m delighted to say that with passion borne of total belief in our product, the order book was soon full for the year ahead!

Support for the new training initiative gathered pace from all levels within the organisation and after a final round of meetings with the Institute to ensure that we had covered all bases to their satisfaction, accreditation was achieved on the 1st of March this year.
Already, four groups have embarked upon the new programme, but we know that the process has really only just begun and that constant fine-tuning will required to ensure an appropriate balance between theory and practice. Regular appraisal is also carried out, to ensure that the form of assessment and marking is fair, objective and that all aspects of theory required in the programme are covered in sufficient detail and depth.

This process of constant improvement will continue for as long as we are accredited to run courses leading to ISMM professional qualifications. Certainly, the added value that the new training represents, for both the individual and the Group are now self evident – in the application and dedication of the delegates and improved performance in the workplace.

Paul Rowling
[email protected]


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