Training is an interesting concept, at least in sales, as much as most sales leaders or sales ops people bring their own bias and flavour to it. But the one common view and practice the majority share is a “democratic” outlook or bias. Don’t get me wrong, I love democracy, and live in the greatest democracy on earth, Canada, but the reality is that democracy is not for everyone and often does not work, just ask Egyptians.
By democracy in sales training specifically, I am referring to the practice of parading all your sales people in to the same training, the same day. While I get it, I don’t think this is necessarily leads to the best results or return on training investment.
Consciously or not, most leaders rank or tier their teams, usually Top, Mid, and Bottom tier. Clearly indicating that the leader has specific opinions about their team members. No doubt some of this is influenced by what they think of the individual in a subjective way, the key determinant is usually their success record and a measure of their ability. Rather than going with the ole 80/20, for the sake of discussion let’s say that the top tier, top 20% of your team, drives a good chunk of your revenue. The Mid-tier, you know the “good but…” reps, 50% – 55% of the team, contribute. Bringing up the rear, the Bottom tier, that 25% – 30% of the team that really should be managed out.
From a training standpoint, I always tell people that the Top tier will pay for the training, they will come with an open mind, take things on and then put things into practice and drive sales and ROI on the training. Movement in the Mid-tier, will represent the more gains and further return on the training. Leaving the Bottom tier, who mostly show up for the pizza lunch, adding to the cost of your day, but I guess you are already used to carrying them.
So right away, the question needs to be asked “Why are you spending money on the Bottom group? There is only one reason, the democratic approach taken by many organizations, “we need to have everybody go through the training”. No you don’t, if you had other underperforming assets, and you knew the repair would not work or work minimally for a short duration, you would not invest good dollars, you would probably replace the asset.
While some will argue that having the Top and Mid groups together creates cross-pollination, as if skills are transferable by osmosis. But I see it more like putting an average driver in the fast-lane on the Autobahn, sure the average driver may learn something from the aces passing them, but mostly they slow down those who can make the most of the fast lane.
There is enough of a range in the Mid-tier that the top end sellers will have a positive influence on the others, while at same time learning disciplines that will help them move into the top tier. Even when you want to introduce the same skills and concepts to both Top and Mid, it makes sense to deliver them separately.
Starting with the points above, you’ll reduce costs, reduce drag in delivery, and accelerate the behavior change you are looking for. At the same time, you will respect your best people and show in real terms that you not only appreciate them, but recognize and support the difference.
Now for real cost savings, manage the Bottom Tier out, and reinvest in Mid-tier players you can evolve to Top tier. Save on the acquisition cost, and mold them to be where you and them maximize opportunity. BTW, just do it, don’t take it to a vote.