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How change can improve sales training pt1


Austerity is here to stay (for a bit). It's time to embrace change as an opportunity, says Arron Taylor.

In these turbulent times, organisations are increasingly looking to employees to be more effective, make a greater contribution and have a bigger impact on the way that they work. With 33% of companies also changing their business models and widening employee responsibilities within the last 12 months, new research has revealed that recession can actually be a great stimulus to revisiting historical business practices and either adjusting or changing them dramatically.

With few organisations able to thrive in these challenging times without any modification, the encouraging news is that once a business has re-evaluated its model, it can act as a growth catalyst. It is however imperative that these changes are communicated in an effective manner, not just to customers but also to employees and stakeholders. Communicating what your business does in a clear, concise and simple manner is critical.
And yet despite enduring the worst peacetime recession since the 30s, astonishingly, more than 50% of UK companies have resisted any kind of change or adaption. Historically, when an economy slows, most companies typically panic and tighten their belts in an attempt to save as much money as possible and weather the storm. They automatically engage in cost-cutting activities which almost inevitably start with freezing recruitment, slashing marketing spend and reducing training budgets. After all, who is going to pour money into training when the cash is so desperately needed in other parts of the business? Well, you'd be surprised.
"Shrewd organisations recognise that economic downturn as a chance to gain market share, and actually increase spending in recessionary periods."

Of course, some judicious pruning may be appropriate, however studies have concluded that companies that forge ahead, aggressively pursuing marketing campaigns and other growth projects such as training through difficult economic conditions not only increase sales but also increase profits. They also ready themselves for growth and gaining valuable ground on their competition well into the future. Shrewd organisations therefore recognise that economic downturn as a chance to gain market share, and actually increase spending in recessionary periods. Companies that continue to implement targeted communication plans while their competitors cut back, build very strong brands that they can capitalise on when the market inevitably picks up. Often, taking no action is the most expensive option of all.

It might be tempting in the current climate to make cutbacks, yet one of the most common mistakes businesses make during recessionary times is to reduce or slash its training budgets. The fact is, committed employees simply want jobs with good career paths and solid, continual development programmes.
"People are a companys greatest asset. It is really short-sighted to not invest in them"

According to recent research conducted by global staffing solutions provider Randstad, optimising people's productivity whilst containing headcount costs was the highest priority amongst UK employers. The study also revealed that:
  • More than 8 out of 10 UK people want to keep developing throughout their career and believe that their employer should support their career development
  • Only 55% of working people in the UK agree that their organisation is providing appropriate support in this respect
  • Over 60% admit that if they feel that they could develop themselves in a faster or better way with another employer, they would change jobs
And yet whilst the report concluded that retaining key people is one of the top three most frequently featured challenges amongst UK employers, it found that ironically, employers are largely unaware that these are the factors which will attract new recruits and retain their best existing employees.

Organisations must therefore be transparent about how they deliver clear promotion and career development plans, especially for those employees who have up-skilled by taking on additional responsibilities during the downturn.

Salespeople are vital to businesses in every economic climate. Salespeople are the ones who drive a company's growth, success and profit. They generate the revenue necessary for organisations to employ people, acquire capital equipment, buy more products and services, invest in research and move the economy forward.
Because of the essential nature of salespeople it is crucial that they receive the proper attention, guidance and development to ensure that they are doing everything that they need to for a company, particularly one struggling during tough economic times.
"The recession is a powerful stimulus for behavioural change" - Neil Rackham, Creator of Spin Selling
Are salespeople ready for change? The answer is yes, they're even welcoming it. This is the perfect opportunity to transform bad selling habits and instil effective sales methods. The present economic climate has both given organisations the opportunity to build powerhouse sales teams and made it essential that they do so. Those companies that invest in their sales teams and train them to be world class will rise above the competition and emerge from the recession with flying colours. Training your sales people to succeed will not only prepare them for tomorrow, but also show them they are a key part of the organisation today.
"Those companies that invest in their sales teams and train them to be world class will rise above the competition and emerge from the recession with flying colours."

It's no secret that sales have become tougher to make over the last year... the playing field has changed dramatically and we've all heard virtually every excuse in the book from salespeople looking to explain their lack of success in the down economy. Businesses have become complacent over the years that customers would come to them and now it is time for business to go to the customers.

The result is that training needs have changed. Time was when the ability to juggle clients and manage a buoyant market could get you through. Now, though, more traditional skills are coming to the fore and salespeople have to be extraordinarily good at the ordinary. In the boom times all of these things become a dying art but it is in the tight times that you rely on them the most. It is truly time to go back to basics. It's time to ramp up your sales team's habits and teach them to look at the sale from a different angle.

At this very moment in time, your sales people are more apt and willing to learn and make behavioural changes because if they don't, they just might not stay afloat. Change is all they've got. In fact, for the first time, they are welcoming change and as an organisation, you need to provide the training to make change happen. Instil the behaviours now that will put your sales organisation ahead of the game today, and uncatchable in the future.
"It's not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change" - Charles Darwin
Arron Taylor is managing partner at Optimality. He has spent the last decade helping hundreds of companies across many diverse markets achieve their optimum performance through people. Arron is an expert in competency assessment, talent acquisition, retention and behavioural training

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