Reaching for the stars

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Written by Seun Robert-Edomi on 1 November 2013 in Interviews
Interviews

In our series on the winners of TJ’s 2012 Awards, Seun Robert-Edomi talks to Hilti GB, winner of the ‘best sales programme’ category

In organisation that helped to make its sales force more powerful through training on selling and account management skills was recognised at last year's TJ Awards.

Construction supplier Hilti GB won the best sales programme category at the November awards, defeating the Nationwide Building Society and BSkyB in the process.

Hilti GB was lauded by judges for its programme, a blended learning solution designed to take into account the needs of a busy and dispersed workforce.

Tim Royds, director at highclere and category judge, said: "Rather than reduce the premium pricing in an increasingly competitive market that was reducing in size, Hilti GB chose to up-skill its sales team and develop the programme Situational Selling Skills."

The problem started for Hilti GB when its sales force was asked to double sales, while competing against lower-priced competition. Their basic selling skills were not being applied adequately and, with inconsistent content, the company's sales training was lacking compared to that in other direct sales companies and other industries. It needed to develop a baseline programme to make the entire sales force more powerful in their selling and account management skills.

With this in mind, there was a clear need to:

  • assess the gaps in the sales force's current knowledge and skills
  • develop a globally consistent approach to sales training
  • identify the gaps in the sales force's current ability to build relationships for the purpose of selling.

Hilti GB then conducted research internally and externally, benchmarking its current approach to that of other companies and industries. It did this with focus groups, questionnaires and interviews. Based on this research, it identified the sales skills and competences needed to be an effective sales person today and in the future.

Hilti GB then set up the Situational Selling Skills programme with the aim of:

  • identifying all the gaps that prevent its sales people developing customer engagement
  • enabling its sales people to become a great sales force in both planning and execution
  • enabling its sales people to better understand their ability (or inability) to achieve outstanding results
  • getting a realistic picture of actual selling skills, knowledge and execution
  • bringing consistency to its approach to selling and training sales skills
  • getting all existing employees through the programme within 12 months of launch.

Before attending the two-day classroom course, staff had to complete e-learning modules, which would provide them with the information they needed. During the course itself, delegates were taken through multiple activities, including speed dating, role play and peer sharing, designed to enhance their knowledge and skills for when they faced customers.

As a result of the programme, employees are now able to self-coach and evaluate their calls, to help them better understand, and improve, every sales interaction. Global consistency has been achieved as the programme has been implemented throughout Hilti GB with more than 12,000 employees. Furthermore, new employees now also complete it as part of their basic training.

The post-training programme incorporates six to 12 months of follow-up activities, ensuring the training is continually coached and reinforced on the job.

Cheryl Harding, founder of Effectiv8 and category judge, said: "With a strong focus on follow-up coaching and embedding by line management, the programme developed a culture within the sales team of personal responsibility for self-coaching and personal development."

Sarah Lace, training co-ordinator at Hilti GB, described it as "amazing" to have won the TJ Award.

"It was very much unexpected. Our training department had not been in for an award in five years - and, with this being a brand new category, we had no real idea of how we would do," she said.

"When we went for our interview, the judges said that our passion shone through.

"There were six companies shortlisted and, as it was the final award to be handed out that evening, it was all or nothing really - and for us to win is truly amazing."

For Lace, attending one of the TJ masterclasses prior to submitting the application was a real eye-opener in getting to know what would be submission-worthy.

"We were able to really prove our return on investment and, in my opinion, it's hugely important to show that what you are doing has real value and I think our application demonstrates that," she said.

"I attended one of the TJ Award masterclasses in London, which was a big help. The information provided showed me what a good application would be like.

"The award was a real recognition for our people who help to drive the business forward every day. We believe in what we do and I think that comes through when you read our story - it's really endearing on a personal note."

Finding out the gaps that lie within the organisation is key for those looking to implement a similar type of course or programme, according to Lace.

"We were constantly in touch with our frontline and listening to the concerns that they have - it's very important to engage with them.

"I also think that other organisations could learn that the 70-20-10 model of learning is imperative for learning transfers, with 70 per cent learning on the job, 20 per cent learning from peers and 10 per cent learning in a classroom environment. In this programme, the emphasis was put on classroom practice of the theory and how this increases learner retention," she concluded.

For more on this year's awards, visit www.trainingjournal.com/awards/

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