I’m publishing a series of Q&A excerpts from my interviews with Sales 2.0 leaders. This is the third of three excerpts from my interview with Sharon Little, former director of field marketing communications for VMware.
Anneke: VMware revamped new-hire and ongoing training — what you call “event-based enablement” — for your global sales force. What programs have you implemented, and what are the important lessons you’ve learned?
Sharon: Just last year, we rolled out Rainmaker Academy. This program launched in 16 cities during a four-week period. Lesson No. 1 is don’t schedule training in August. Europeans, in particular, don’t like that! I’d also recommend more than six weeks to plan the content. What did work is leveraging a high-engagement/guided-learning approach, which includes grouping participants at small tables and facilitating discussions of case studies, problem-solving and the like. Also critical to our approach was completing a beta of the class with field representatives prior to rollout. We were able to make adjustments and ensure the class was tailored to the field audience.
Anneke: What are your ongoing training programs?
Sharon: Aside from local training, virtual kickoffs and tech summits, we do annual kickoffs, where we build on Rainmaker Academy. Since a live event for 3,000 people is a significant investment, we must ensure we deliver value, so the content is incredibly important. We include intensive product, solution and skills-based sessions. There is never enough time on the schedule to do everything we’d like, so hard decisions have to be made about what is included and what is delivered post-event.
Anneke: What is your onboarding training process?
Sharon: We combine CBT (computer-based training) and classroom experience with an emphasis on experiential learning, culture and new learning techniques. Our philosophy is that any instructor-led training should be highly interactive. We are developing a two-year curriculum that will include certifications and, over time, we hope to integrate our onboarding and overall field curriculum into our enablement platform.
Anneke: How are you measuring the impact of training on sales productivity? Are you reducing ramp-up time?
Sharon: We are working on the metrics and putting the discipline in place to measure this over time. We want to know if we are shortening the time to full quota performance. My objective is to provide a modular, scalable global onboarding framework that reduces the sales reps’ time ramp to productivity. Other key metrics include retention rates and rate of certification among employees during their first two years of employment.
Anneke: You got some great results from an innovative program called Vision Camp. Will you describe it?
Sharon: This is an event I created based on a hallway conversation between our CEO and EVP of field operations. We took 35 of our top global performers from the field and worked with them for two days to create a consistent sales presentation, or “vision,” for the CIO buyer. This was a high-profile event, with participation by our CEO, CMO, CSO and business-unit leaders — truly the brightest minds in the company. We effectively reverse-engineered and deconstructed the expert content and held a team “pitch” competition, which we videotaped. We also set specific, measurable goals for attendees: to make 100 CIO/CTO-level presentations that quarter (while making their numbers) and to “pay it forward” by involving colleagues or other members of their sales team. Our aim was to promote early results and package a succinct “vision pitch” for use by the entire sales organization. This program has gone a long way to create excitement in the sales force. The attendees have performed beyond our expectations and have become true evangelists. The re-engineered pitch is getting great response from C-level buyers.
Let’s get some discussion going! What are you doing to reach C-level buyers? How does your organization measure the effectiveness of training?
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