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Training Departments Please Oil the Sales Engine

Clayton Shold

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The challenge - how can a training department in a large U. S.insurer be a better partner to maximize sales?

Could these statements be coming from your organization?

“The training department has lost much of its focus in being a key partner to the Field. ”

“We have become reactive, more administrative and thus less effective in helping Field Management accomplish their goals. ”

I recently reviewed a proposal that was in its final stages before presentation to senior management. The report outlined a restructure and expansion of the learning department. The person leading the change wanted a set of outside eyes to read through it, what was missing, what might be unclear?

As you would expect, they had given much thought to the required re-engineering within their area. Equally as important, the author of the report looked at the critical interdependencies with other areas of the organization, including recruiting and selection and compensation alignment.

I liked the length they had gone to in obtaining input from field sales management and producers. They realized what ever path they went down, they had to put their client needs first and then integrate learning and development strategies as partners, not as head office experts.

I liked their recognition and emphasis on the necessity of coaching in the field, and the important role field management needed to play, especially with behavioural learning.

I liked that they understood the importance of identifying desired performance outcomes of all field positions so they could create appropriate learning programs.

What was missing in the report was any anticipated response to senior management asking, “How will we measure our return on the increased investment in this area?” Sure there was a budget, but there was no projected return. The working team focused so much on the detail they lost site of the big picture. If we do all of this, what happens?

This is the age old challenge, quantifying the learning investment is easy, tallying the return is much more difficult. Given the tight time line they were working to, my suggestion was to not dwell on precise dollar amounts but focus on the resulting benefits. Before doing so, I challenged them to have a hard look at the possibility of restructuring with no increase in complement, in fact could they reduce resources? A leaner and more productive learning group sends a loud message. It also allows the presentation to focus on the benefits of the proposed changes without the distraction of debate over need for increased complement. The key benefits identified were;

  • Integration and alignment of head office and field mindset specific to performance outcomes – less duplication, time savings, faster implementation.

  • Identify and leverage best practices, in the field and with external organizations – cost savings, productivity improvement, opportunity for recognition of internal excellence.

  • Assess best fit for e-Learning solutions – not all development is suited for this medium – economic savings, ease of access, consistency.

  • Recognize personal ownership for development – mindset of individual accountability is priceless.

    The learning function of this company gets full marks for recognized the need for change. They understand the impact their department can have by becoming a true partner with the field. Once the learning team understands its role in helping the sales force fuel the revenue engine, field leadership will be asking for more. Keep your clients satisfied and life is great!

    Clayton Shold's mission is to help sales professionals make more money. He is a member of the Salesopedia community, “The World of Sales from A to Z". Learn more at

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