1. How to create your own internal sales academy?
More and more businesses are launching internal sales academies to develop their own sales talent.
A sales academy can help boost your teams sales performance and help them become even more successful. It will also increase employee retention, help you develop new starts, whilst allowing more experienced team members to continue learning and enhance their knowledge in ever-changing markets.
Despite the cost in time and money, studies continue to show that companies that fail to invest in continuous training and development risk being left behind by their competitors.
Frighteningly, 40% of employees will leave a company within the first 12 months because of substandard or no training.
This not only costs the company financially, there is also a heavy impact on brand reputation as disgruntled employees share stories of their poor experience, which then hinders future recruitment.
It’s no surprise then that training shouldn’t grind to a halt when new team members have completed their induction.
Read on to find out why creating your own internal sales academy could be vital for your continued sales growth and longevity.
•Up to 90% of learning is lost within 30 days as people struggle with implementation as people quickly return to old ways of working.
•Valuable time lost with salespeople away from their desks and missing from their “business as usual”.
•98% of knowledge & skills retained within a 6 month period creating behavioural change
•Delivered inside Microsoft Teams environment where sales reps can collaborate and learn from peers with live support from sales coaches.
2. Developing a Framework?
If you are interested in launching a sales academy, you’ll need to develop a framework which will include things like objectives to work towards.
You should use a wide range of resources to meet the different learning styles of the participants and to ensure that your sales academy is a success.
These can include courses, workshops, videos, guides, templates and books alongside various types of other online and offline material.
A sales academy can be seen as a development programme that ensures each of your team members gets the guidance, knowledge and skills that they need to thrive in their role, and build upon their existing skills.
More and more companies are turning to specialist training providers who can provide them with bespoke resources to help their teams grow their knowledge and skills.
83% of employees want to learn new skills that will enable them to perform better in their role.
LinkedIn Workforce Survey 2021
- Learning Objectives
Learning objectives are simply the outcomes that we would want the salespeople to both know and do after any training. A real life example from one of our own training modules covering handling stalls and objections would be that salespeople should be able to list three different strategies for handling a stall and objection and then be able to role play each of those. We purposely always have at least one objective which is on the theory and one objective on the skill required.
- Learning Paths
Learning Paths are predesigned programmes that take the learner on a journey, which results in them having the skills and knowledge required for a particular job role. For example, a learning path might take a Key Account Manager through a series of courses, coaching and mentoring that would provide them all the skills and knowledge required to be a VP of Sales.
Training comes in a number of different formats such as instructor led training, remote training, self-paced training, 121 training, group training and the list goes on and on. The most successful academies offer a variety of training formats to cater for different learning styles, delivery requirements and budgets. There is no one size fits all.
Some would argue that training without coaching, especially in sales is ineffective. What’s indisputable is, that training without any form of reinforcement, or support with the practical implementation of the learning, is a vital part of the adoption of new behaviours and skills.
Mentoring is an often over looked part of the learning and development process, yet it can play a pivotal role in developing the next generation of leaders within your sales team. Mentoring provides mentees with insight and knowledge that only experience can bring.
- Performance Management
Tying performance into learning is a great way to ensure engagement of your Sales Academy and guarantee it delivers a tangible ROI to the business.
- Knowledge Bank
An important part of every sales academy is the knowledge bank built up over time. This should be a living, breathing encyclopedia of “How you sell” that any new start can tap into and gain an immediate understanding of your company sales methodology.
- Bespoke content
Content plays an important role in sales whether it be learning content or content in the form of sales collateral. Your academy should be a genesis of ideas for new content based on the customer insights uncovered by the sales team.
- Learning Platform
Every Sales Academy needs a learning platform, however, these can come in many different formats. Our own platform is built inside Microsoft Teams which is where salespeople now spend the majority of their time.
3. The value of continuous learning
If guidance and coaching don’t continue once someone becomes part of your team, even your best sales professionals can lose direction and stop meeting their targets. There is no sales professional around who can’t benefit from additional learning.
40% of employees will leave a company within the first 12 months because of substandard or no training
LinkedIn Workforce Survey 2021
4. How to create a Sales Training Academy?
4.1 Executive buy-in. The most successful training projects we have worked on all have buy in from senior Executives and the Academy is a part of their wider sales/business strategy.
What does this mean? They have aligned the Academy in a way that helps them achieve their sales/business objectives and by definition the Academy then becomes a strategic initiative/project that they are invested in both at a practical and emotional level.
How do we do this? There are normally two parts to this as follows.
a) First would be to examine the goals of the business strategy and the sales strategy, and then look for areas the Academy can help them achieve those goals. Examples of this could be; entering new markets, moving into larger or smaller accounts within the same market, launching new products and services, increasing revenues, product splits and margins.
b) Look for areas that the board don’t know what they don’t know. For example, you could work out the average revenues for the 40 salespeople, then work out how many are below that average and by how much. In nearly every company that is an achievable target.
You could create “Problem Statements” like:
“The average contribution to revenue per salesperson is £200k per annum and with 43% (17 out of 43) of our salespeople below this average figure by more than £50K it’s costing the company £850K per annum”
“87% of our Salespeople who are delivering 71% of our revenue are over 55 and eligible for retirement in the next 5 years and we have no succession planning in sales to cope with this.”
“69% of our salespeople sell only three out of ten products in our portfolio and based on the figures of the salespeople who are selling across our portfolio we are missing out on £5.1M in revenue.”
“Our competitors are slowly eroding our margins and customer base and the data shows the only way our salespeople have been responding is by lowering prices which is reduced our margins by 7% in the last 2 years.”
“We have 40 salespeople who sell 40 different ways which means we have no consistent sales process to follow, track, record and ensure the day to day activities of the sales team are aligned with the business strategy.”
I appreciate this will take time and research, however, all of this helps build a business case which they will expect when you go to ask for funding. They need to know the size of the problem, not just that there is a problem.
4.2 Once you have some form of Exec buy in (in principal only at this stage) we should be looking at (in no particular order):
4.2.1 What is the Vision for the sales academy? – What should the Academy look like in 3 years, what will the academy have achieved in three years [curriculum, number of students, impact on the business, impact on the students] ?Structure
4.2.2 How will we measure success? – How do we link the training to your skills needs analysis to ensure it’s relevant? What trainers do we have currently and how can we develop more trainers internally? Do we have a “Change” programme in place? [Unlike things like IT training, Sales Training involves behavioural change. We will move faster and achieve more if we include a Change strategy.
4.2.3 Accountability – How will we hold the salespeople responsible to using the new skills we teach? Do we need to train the managers first so they understand and buy into the new sales behaviours? How will we measure the new sales behaviours? How will we measure the impact of the Academy?
4.2.4 Support – What support and resources are available from other departments such as marketing, operations and IT? Do we have Exec level sponsorship and if so what are their needs and expectations?
4.2.5 Strategy – The strategy around your internal sales academy is import and where possible we would look for ways to:
Align the new academy with the company’s sales strategy or even better part of the overall business strategy
Tie the Academy into an upcoming new product/service launch.
Align the training with the companies HR and pay grades – this is really powerful.
Use the academy to identify and nurture Future Leaders
Use the academy to establish and record best practices in sales across the organisation
Include non-sales content to broaden the development such as training on “Commercial Awareness”
Where appropriate include some degree of cultural change. From non learning to learning, from pro-active to reactive, from customer service to five star service
Align the sales academy with exiting technology to ease adoption and prevent the inevitable delays involved when introducing any new technology.
5. Boost employee engagement and confidence
91% of learners believe that teams that learn new skills together are more successful.
A well run sales academy will not only improve employee engagement, it will ultimately drive more sales revenues for the company. It can also help you retain your best sales performers, enabling you to avoid the high cost of replacing them.
Valuable members of your sales force are more likely to stay with you if you continue to invest in them, and boost their skills with quality coaching programmes.
Some companies say sales academies are more helpful than generic training, as the latter isn’t always tailored directly towards their needs.
Purchasing unrelated courses from a series of different providers can also be ineffective. Building a sales academy can also be seen as a more structured way to improve your teams’ skills and knowledge.
6. Building Teamwork and focus?
92% of learners believe that community based learning gives them a greater sense of belonging.
Many salespeople say they feel more focussed and clear on what their obligations are once sales academies have been launched.
Sales managers often gain a richer understanding of the kind of candidates they need to seek out to drive your business forward. A sales academy can drive revenue, generate a healthy return on investment, boost career progression and reduce staff turnover rates.
It can make employees more motivated to learn and develop their skills, and ensure training is directed exactly where it’s needed.
It can also improve your workplace culture, transforming your environment into one where all employees are eager to continue learning.
7. Long term benefits of filling capability gaps
A sales academy can be regarded as a long-term solution that ensures your business continues to see improvement in sales years down the line.
It can help sales managers create more defined, measurable and achievable goals whilst aligning business targets with the personal aims of employees to increase engagement.
Many businesses say investing in sales academies has helped them plug gaps in sales capabilities and enabled more team members to strive for excellence.
The creation of a sales competency framework will show you the areas of development to strive for including the knowledge, behaviours and skills.
It will allow you to identify areas that require improvement and any capability gap trends. A programme of learning can then be developed which can form the foundation of your sales academy.
8. Bespoke learning content and training
No two businesses are the same and neither should their sales academies. The components that you need to build your sales academy may be substantially different from what’s required from another business even from the same industry as you.
If you’re turning to a specialist to help you create your sales academy, they’ll normally start by analysing your current training processes and documenting what’s working and what’s not.
It’s likely that they will interview staff and customers, analyse your sales data and observe your business-to-customer interactions and typically they will create a report and present their findings and recommendations to you.
Whilst there will be instances where generic content is applicable it’s important that you allow time and resources to create your own custom content to give your team a sense of ownership of the content.
9. A culture of learning and sales excellence
Your sales academy should create a culture of learning and excellence, delivering noticeably better results.
It will make your team more capable and confident whilst ensuring everyone in the team is following a single sales methodology.
It can also make collaboration between sales professionals more effective and improve the coaching skills of your sales managers.
Each individual should have their own Personal Development Plans that are supported by the academy. Your sales academy will be relevant to everyone within your organisation that interacts with your customers and in addition to sales we have had great success including marketing teams.
This helps break down silos and create common goals for both groups to work towards. It’s vitally important to include the most senior members of the sales and marketing organisation and not just sales development reps, account managers and business development pros.
10. Using Work Based Learning strategies
Learning can be delivered via various strategies and your individual team members will respond differently to classroom-based, virtual learning, instructor led training, whilst others may benefit from role-play simulations.
We recommend you provide a blend of all these options to cater for the individual learning styles. One-to-one sales coaching should always be included, as should field-based observational sales coaching if appropriate.
Technology tends to play a big role in all sales academies, with apps and other software being used to facilitate learning and development.
Deal or Pipeline clinics have also proved to be effective, with attendees working on ‘deals’ with training professionals to review opportunities effectively and move potential ‘customers’ further down the sales funnel.
At Klozers we specialise in what is called Work Based Learning. This focusses the salespeople on learning via doing, versus learning in a classroom or theory environment.
As 70% of learning is by doing, this increases the retention of the new skills, strategies and tactics and helps foster rapid adoption. We do this by working with your teams in advance to build powerful sales campaigns that the salespeople then help execute.
They use the sales campaigns to practice the new sales skills covered in the programme, which helps build confidence.
Salespeople love selling, so rather than having them spend hours in an academy classroom, our Sales Campaigns help them learn on the job.
11. Now is the time to build your sales academy
Sales academies have a proven track record in helping sales professionals close more deals, document and follow best practice, gain vital and relevant market knowledge and meet their sales targets.
They can also help sales managers identify the best candidates for development, set realistic yet ambitious goals and motivate their teams more effectively.
If you’re ready to achieve more success in the long and short-term, the creation of a sales academy could be the solution that you’ve been looking for.