Sales Training on a Global Scale
One of the statements we’ve heard a lot from our clients is: “We want to deploy a global sales training program.” We understand the appeal. A consistent methodology across all sales teams certainly sounds great. Consider the benefits:
- Scaled Technology. Standard sales training is a major enabler for consistent deployment of sales tools. This is especially true for CRM. (One of our clients had more than 60 unique instances of Salesforce across their global markets. To the heartbreak of their CRM consultants, that client is definitely interested in a global methodology.)
- Consistent Reporting. When sales systems use standardized stages and activities, reporting gets simpler. Roll-ups and insights come faster. Leaders spend much less time interpreting and debating what’s happening on the ground.
- Common Language. Every company and function within one company is littered with different sales acronyms and processes. A global program training one methodology creates the common language around how to sell and to coach.
- Seamless Customer Experience. A global sales methodology allows you to deliver a consistent experience for global accounts. Sales touchpoints and interactions should feel the same regardless of geography. Internally, cross-border teaming should be smoother and more efficient.
- Compliance. Corporate “approved” processes have typically been vetted by legal. Compliance-driven consistency is especially important in verticals like financial services and pharma.
- Engagement Model for Other Functions. Building a common platform helps other functions understand how they can help the sales team. It provides the blueprint for working together.
So, why not? Before launching a global implementation, take a deep breath. There are significant risks to any global sales training program. Some of the risks are practical. Other risks are reputational. We know too many sales leaders who’ve ‘died on the hill’ of global sales training rollouts.
A multi-national company’s products and sales motions may look similar country-to-country. But underneath any surface consistency there can lie deep variations across markets. And these differences create adoption risk. The very first time a sales person encounters a situation that doesn’t fit the training, she’s going to ditch the program. You may even get a polite smile or head-nodding from a local market GM. But quickly, that same leader will likely toss your methodology in the trash if they see it doesn’t fit their situation.
The reality is, there are many reasons why aspects of your global program shouldn’t be universally consistent. Consider all the potential differences across markets:
- Competitor sets
- Sales role differences (hunter/farmer, hybrids, etc.)
- Product use cases
- Pricing strategies
- Channel partner models
- Buyer sophistication levels
- Brand strength and positioning
- Cultural differences
So, What’s the Answer?
Our philosophy is that global methodology rollouts should be much more than translating the US program into multiple languages. Like many things in life, balance is the key. In this case, it’s the balance between local and global – or Glocal. It starts with a 70/30 approach: develop 70% of the program at the global level, but allow up to 30% customization by local markets.
A consistent framework across the main pillars of your selling motions is a critical part of the global 70%. This includes how your sales process aligns to your customer’s deciding journey – lead generation, opportunity management, solution development, account renewal, and expansion.
Most sales manager components of the training and methodology should also be standardized. Core coaching skills are generally universal. Equipping field sales leaders to be strong champions will also help you manage implementation challenges in different markets, languages, and cultures.
The 30% market customization will include both strategic and tactical items. At the strategic level, take a situational approach to the major sales motions. This means identifying the common pursuit situations unique to any particular market. Customize specific sales plays for these situations so they fit the market realities. Situational sales plays will include tailored messages, collateral, and other selling actions, but all within the consistent sales framework.
At the tactical level, be ready to tailor your terminology, such as the labels for various methodology elements. Consider a concept like Champion, Coach, Coach, Advocate, Sponsor, or Mobilizer. In some languages, these words don’t translate favorably in a business selling situation.
Global sales methodologies are a significant investment in time, money, and resources (internally and externally). Dropping in a one-size-fits-all training might give team members in one market a temporary sugar high and at the same time, generate major resistance from those in other markets. Either way, you’ll fail to achieve your objectives.
Like any change program executed at scale, lay the foundation with the most senior sales leaders. They should provide visible support to the program as it cascades around the globe. In addition, be very thoughtful about sequencing and staging. It may take multiple years to fully cover all countries, and that’s ok. This is a classic go-slow-to-go-fast model. Start with the markets that offer the biggest impact – the most revenue or most valued clients. Think about which regions can benefit from standardization. Is that particular market right to accept this change? Is there stability in leadership? Have core practices been established?
Finally, global rollouts have major implications for staffing sales enablement and sales training teams. Organizations that are considering this approach need to staff internal support for the local market customization. This might include in-country language delivery, facilitation, and coaching. Skimping on these resources will immediately lead to adoption challenges and ROI slippage.
The risks of a global sales training program are high, but so are the rewards. Contact us for more best practices and practical strategies to get global deployment right.
About The Author
Senior consultant with significant expertise in sales strategy, training, enablement, and transformations. Peter combines his background as a sales practitioner with practical consulting experience to drive successful client engagements.