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Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Archive for April, 2015

Maximize your training investment—Ideas for increasing retention beyond the classroom.

A year ago, I posted an entry about how, without structured follow up, soft skills classroom training may not be the best investment. When I came across the entry today, I thought I’d offer a few ideas for how to increase retention and the value of your investment in classroom training for your employees.

As the manager, whether you are attending training or not, get familiar with what your employees are learning. The best way to support an employee’s learning experience is to model and reinforce learned skills during normal business interactions. The only way you can do this is to be sure you’re personally familiar with the skills/approaches that your employees are learning.

Set expectations for specific follow up. Inform participants (before the close of the training session) about your specific intentions for follow up to the training. (Examples of options follow).

Be sure to have people pinpoint and commit to some small step (Action Plan) before leaving the training session. The chosen action should reflect what they personally want to try or use within the next week relating to a particular tool or set of guidelines from the training. You can also partner colleagues to share their action plans with each other and set a date and time to check in with one another to briefly talk about their experiences in doing so.

Evaluate retention and use of skills/approaches within a few weeks. Create a brief on-line survey to be distributed to participants 4-6 weeks after training. Have the survey solicit feedback about what they are still—after several weeks—finding valuable or useful. Ask what benefits, if any, they are experiencing or observing, and where they are still struggling. This will give you a sense of improvements, as well as where people might appreciate additional coaching.

Stay in touch by providing trainees with additional resources. Choose a few brief articles or blog entries (not more than a page long) that support the learnings learned or discussed in the training session and share one article with training participants every couple of months. You might add a brief discussion to your staff meeting, if applicable, and let the team know that you’ve put aside 30 minutes in the meeting for a discussion among the team about the article.

Provide additional one-on-one coaching. Arrange for each participant to have 1.0 to 2.0 hours of one-on-one coaching following training, based on their individual needs and real-life situations, as they relate to the skills and approaches learned and/or discussed during the training.

Hope this—and whatever additional support you may offer your employees—will help to make the most of their learning experience and your training investment.

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Do sales quotas generate incentive? It depends.

Sales quotas are part of the fabric of sales-driven and goal-oriented organizations. But do quotas aligned with financial gain always provide incentive? Not if they’re unrealistic under current or shifting circumstances in the marketplace or within an organization.

As an example, a few weeks ago I had a conversation with a friend of mine who is in sales. He’s finding himself frustrated with his quota and the current expectations of his job because they’re next to impossible to reach considering the increasing competition and the internal service obstacles that are affecting his ability to acquire new customers. Interestingly, even though he is selling less, he maintains his ranking as top salesperson, while his colleagues continue to trail behind him. He’s feeling demotivated.

It was this conversation that prompted me to think about how often an organization does or doesn’t revisit sales quotas to ensure they’re doing their job—which is to increase revenue and keep salespeople driven towards the goal. I wrote the following brief article on the subject for a column that I contribute to on a regular basis. Thought I’d share it here . . .

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Time to Revisit Your Sales Quotas?
By Donna Rawady
Originally published in Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, April 14, 2015

Sales quotas are established as a strategy to reach revenue/business goals and as compensation-based incentive for salespeople. If your organization is sales-driven, and most are, sales quotas are guaranteed to generate feelings of accomplishment, recognition, and/or angst and frustration for your sales professionals. Sales quotas and related compensation are carefully established, communicated, appreciated, and often volatile and argued over.

For those of us in sales, our tendency may be to center our accomplishments on closed business, yet our true success depends on our being centered on our daily and weekly activity, versus the end-of-the-month high or dread. It’s consistent and daily activity that will carry us to the end goal—small consistent steps focused on making connections, identifying prospects and their needs, genuinely serving others, writing effective proposals, sharing applicable knowledge, and well-representing our organizations.

In many organizations salespeople are required to meet their sales quota for a specific run of months or years in order to retain their employment. In other organizations, sales quotas are set only to see a small set of super-salespeople reach them, while others maintain at 70 or 80% of quota. We value and understand that there’s a need for those dependable individuals who consistently deliver at 80%. Yet, by retaining them, we need to take responsibility for dropping the overall team requirement to 20% shy of the so-called “quota”.

If you’re interested in exploring the effectiveness of your current sales quotas, here are a few questions that may help:
– What percentage of your salespeople are actually meeting quota regularly?
– Take a look at your top performer. How often is she/he hitting quota?
– When’s the last time you interviewed your salespeople about how they view the feasibility of consistently meeting quota?
– Are there requirements established and/or consistent coaching provided around daily or weekly activity?

The letter you’ll never send

Recently, I found myself reflecting on some of my significant childhood experiences and I felt compelled to write about them in detail. Because I was writing without the goal of being edited, published, or shared, I found myself freely sharing intricate details and profound reactions. I didn’t enforce any censorship or feel any fear of repercussion whatsoever. I simply let the freedom of thought and memories flow from my brain straight to the keyboard. I found it fascinating and validating when I read what I wrote.

When I’m working with someone who is challenged and consistently frustrated with an individual, team, or particular situation at work, one of the exercises I recommend before the individual considers addressing the person or group directly, is similar to my recent experience with writing.

If you’re in this situation, I’ll recommend that you grab some time when you’re settled at home and write a free-flowing letter to the person or department that is driving you nuts. Be sure that the letter is set up to be stored in your personal archives ONLY. I encourage any language, name-calling, or feelings that might come up as you write “from mind to keyboard”. Just let it all hang out. Once that first draft is written, put the document aside for a day or two. When you revisit the letter in 24 to 48 hours highlight only those sentences and thoughts that address the business impact or are clearly centered on creating a positive outcomes and better working relationships. Focusing on the business-centered points—versus your emotions—is a great way to help you prepare for a direct conversation that may reap significant positive results.

Even if you choose not to address the situation directly (although I do recommend it), at the very least you’ve given yourself the opportunity to flush out some of the built-up emotions that may be getting in the way of an improved relationship or work environment.

So…if you find yourself consistently upset by someone or a group at work—or someone in your personal life—try writing the letter that you’ll never send.