Magazine excerpt: Barkey on sales

In the first of his quarterly columns, Richard Barkey shares his view that L&D can drive sales performance

As L&D professionals, one of the most direct ways we can help to improve a company’s performance is by improving its sales capability. Win rates, average deal sizes and prices all have a dramatic effect on the bottom line and provide superb measurement data for ROI calculations.

Unfortunately, in most of the organisations I’ve worked with over the past 21 years, there has been value left on the table in the interactions between sales and L&D.

The sales leader’s agenda is wide, ranging from the strategic (‘Which capabilities and systems are critical for this new market?’) to the tactical (‘How do I win this deal’), and from the commercial (‘How can I improve gross margin’) to the interpersonal (‘How do I retain this high performer?’). 

This breadth of agenda can be daunting, and to make it worse, sales leaders are often sceptical about training, or wedded to a particular approach, depending on their past experience.

For L&D to sell initiatives to sales, therefore, requires confidence, business acumen, and the ability to use the salesperson’s own toolkit: understanding objectives and barriers; bringing insight to the challenges and possible solutions; articulating value; managing the decision process and alleviating risk.

In most of the organisations I’ve worked with over the past 21 years, there has been value left on the table in the interactions between sales and L&D.

Over the next year, Imparta will be working with TJ to help L&D professionals build their knowledge of sales challenges and possible solutions, and how to use cutting edge sales skills to engage successfully with this most critical of functions.

Keep an eye out for webinars, articles online and in the magazine, and a special session at the TJ Awards conference on 4 December!

Good selling focuses on where you can genuinely add value to a customer – be that external or internal.  If you haven’t already, I’d recommend making a list of your sales leader’s objectives, in three areas:

  • Their KPIs; the things they are measured on, month to month (for example, competitive win rate or average deal size);
  • Their current challenges (for example, getting salespeople to engage properly with the CRM system, or responding to competitive price cuts);
  • Their wider goals (for example, creating a long-term sales enablement structure to drive hiring, retention and performance management).

Each of these sales objectives represents a potential area where you can add value. It pays to list them out yourself, then to use friendly contacts within the sales team to refine your list.  Finally, I’d recommend using that list as the basis of a discussion with the sales leader.

Test your understanding of the sales leader’s objectives; they’ll appreciate you bringing a hypothesis, rather than just asking open questions. Explore their priorities, and pay particular attention to any high priority objectives they are finding difficult to achieve.

Finally, use your experience, and your L&D perspective, to bring insight around the sales leader’s objectives, the barriers to achieving them, and potential solutions. Of course, this is just the start of the journey, and I’ll be exploring other aspects through the coming year.

I’m looking forward very much to engaging with the TJ community around this issue, and I look forward to hearing from you on a Webinar, an event, or via email.


About the author

Richard Barkey is the founder & CEO of Imparta Ltd and an expert in sales and learning, and a pioneer in the field of business simulations. To discuss any of these issues, please contact

Richard will be exploring L&D’s role in sales in a webinar on 2 October. Register free here 



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