• June 1, 2007
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Gunning the Sales Accelerator

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Many adults hate going to school, especially for something they feel they already know. This is a particular problem with salespeople, who are often forced into sales training to learn to use new tools and techniques that are supposed to make them better at their jobs. The problem existed at Bombardier Recreational Products, a Canadian company that develops and manufactures such popular items as Ski-Doo and Lynx snowmobiles and outboard engines from Can-Am, Evinrude, and Johnson. Sales Progress helped the company implement a self-learning system for salespeople that puts each individual in charge of her own training and provides feedback for management. "Sales Progress started as a sales consultancy, and we saw a lot of people who were very frustrated with CRM when it came to interfacing with sales," says Tim Hagen, owner of Sales Progress. "Their complaint was that they'd take time out to read documents and study a new system, then never hear about it again." Training also tended to be very general and not applicable to the real world. "It's better to ask specific, pointed questions--what objections were raised by a particular customer, what good points were there in the meeting, and what did they really want--than to sit in a classroom beforehand." Bombardier was not performing badly as a company, but its sales were not all they could have been, according to Tom Walley, then sales and marketing manager (he has since left the firm). There was no good way to break the sales team of old habits, but Sales Progress has "specific techniques that drive performance and allow the employees to administer their own learning. This is a huge load off of any manager's mind," Walley says. "This is not to say that the manager is not involved; rather, this system promotes self-learning and progress even when the manager is not physically present." The system literally tracks, with the SaleBuilder software, how much people are learning and where, to provide insight into whether they are addressing their specific skill gaps. Within six months of implementing the Sales Progress Management System, Bombardier saw that dealer participation increased 25 percent. "Employee development exponentially improved, and it positioned the department for the next program," Walley says. The next program's goals were met four weeks before the deadline, and after completing the initial phase, specific staff members' sales increased by over 30 percent from previous programs implemented at one division. Another program ended with sales increased 74 percent from the prior year. The relationship between Bombardier and Sales Progress began in mid-2004, but its bonds have continued, with new salespeople brought up to speed while Sales Progress veterans refresh their skills and train for new initiatives. "We have just completed our latest sales program and our employees have completed the first phase of their self-learning matrix. The results have been outstanding," Walley says. "We've exceeded our sales goal by over 25 percent in the face of turnover and corporate restructuring. In essence, we're short staffed and we've exceeded expectations by 25 percent." The Payoff Sales Progress enabled Bombardier Recreational Products to:
  • increase sales by 25 percent over the life of the relationship;
  • achieve single-program sales increases of up to 74 percent;
  • improve salesperson involvement in and retention from training;
  • maintain performance despite staff fluctuations and corporate changes; and keep sales skills sharp.
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