LornaLeckLorna Leck, director at The Sales Activator
If you think life is a bit of a game then you really belong in sales especially now that role-playing games are being seen as one of the most effective training tools today.
Lorna Leck, director at The Sales Activator believes the use of professional sales training game has already shown its worth in boosting efficiency both among sales forces and sales management.
She told SI: “There has been a market survey conducted across 2,600 organisations with all sales leaders across the US and Europe to try to understand what were the differences that sales leaders were seeing that was stopping them increasing performance.
“Sales Activator was what we had been using prior to this research because it’s well known that using games meant that people involved in that process actually gained more learning.”
Leck said the research clearly defines failings within the sales process and sales management across industries.
She said: “The research came up with five key findings:
- A poorly defined sales process – this found that most, 82%, of managers, even if they had a sales process, struggled to use it or had to go out and find a sales process. And that’s true for most organisations today where they either don’t have a sales process or are not following it. It has to be embedded in the sales force but it has to be used by them and their managers and this impacted on the sales management process.
- A lack of essential skills.
- Self-limiting beliefs that constrain the sales force in addressing various products and markets so holding them back.
- A failure to focus on sales people’s activities – managers being too busy and lacking time to get involved in coaching which, as sales leaders, is the most important thing for them to do.
- Promoting top producers to management level without enough support – not giving them the right tools and training them to be great leaders.”
Leck said Sales Activator then set about designing a training toolkit to see whether these failings could be corrected.
She explained: “The toolkit was then created to address those five issues. We’ve designed a box with 70 hours of content and those are delivered in bite-size coaching sessions that managers can use frequently but in very small chunks.
“This we’ve found is more effective in reinforcing best practice. We’ve broken the sales process into two parts with everything around sales activities and process and then everything else involved in the consultative sales process.
“We have taken all the best practice from lots of various models, tools and approaches used across the globe and put all of that into this toolkit. So what the managers now have at their fingertips everything they will need to coach a sales team around best practice.”
Repetition forms a large part of learning and Leck stressed the need to keep sales skills honed through regular use of the Sales Activator toolkit.
She said: “Also it’s important to constantly reinforce these measures because even very experienced sales people can fall into bad habits and, in time, that will adversely affect performance. So, where this toolkit succeeds is in supporting people who are really experienced as well as those just starting out.”
Learning is always easier and more likely to be absorbed when it engages with its audience who are simply having fun, said Leck.
“We’ve built in a number of interactive games, which is really, really important for sales people, because if they can learn while having fun they learn a great deal more and get hooked on the learning experience and take an active interest in their own career development.
“We have also found that where you have great sales people they can tend to hold their information and don’t want to share their thoughts with others. This game works by getting people to share best practice by being really competitive, which appeals to the whole sales characteristic, all about earning points so they want to compete and be the best.
“So this opens up those individuals who are holding onto those beliefs or golden nuggets about how to sell effectively and share it with the team. It’s a learning experience and it works very, very quickly.”
Despite being fun, Sales Activator also claims some real-world sales performance boosts from its regular application to sales staff.
Leck said: “What we’ve found is that the minimum reported performance boost is 15% but some customers areas seeing 50-60% increases if used on a regular basis. This is almost a dream for a manager and I wish I had this a lot earlier in my career.
“We have also found that even training companies are using the game as do in-house trainers who use it as part of the assessment centres and induction programmes. That’s because they can pull out the bits that are relevant to what they need to train and can use it to put a bit of energy into training. If you get a dip by the end of the day, this is a way to really revive everybody to leave on a high.”
She said the new generation of sales candidates learn considerably differently from previous generations and this is where Sales Activator can add real value.
“There are lots of little tricks within the games to make it really fun,” Leck said. “And this is something we’ve seen from many of our clients, that the new fresh-blood of selling coming up through the ranks learn completely differently from the older generation. So as a manager, these days, you need to make training fun and inventive to reach these new people by varying their approach to training.
“We are adding new tools to address this by taking the game online to take it to the ‘gaming generation’. Ironically, considering the length of time this game has been around, it was revolutionary when it was launched and yet this trend towards gaming is becoming more important even in a senior management environment.”
She told SI that sales management will soon be also able to join in the fun with a new leadership focused games to be launched later this year.
Leck said: “We are developing a management level toolkit for the sales leadership. It’s due to be launched the middle of 2013 and this has been driven by our clients because they love the game concept. One client rolled this out to 15 managers and assessed, three to four months later, who was using it and what the value was. They found that not every manager has the facilitation focus to use the game and where managers have left them on the shelf and not used them for weeks, they didn’t see any improvement in performance. But managers who were using the games regularly with their teams, they saw a significant improvement in performance.
“What that company then did was ask us for ways to really push the managers to use the toolkit. So we have designed an online sales coaching aid which they use as their daily, weekly or monthly one-to-ones with their teams, where they go out on customer visits with the teams. They then record a numbers of questions around what the teams’ ability was during those meetings. They enter this into the easy-to-use form and this creates an online report on that team member’s capability.
“That then automatically emails the individual the report with all the necessary graphics to support the findings on various competencies and it tells the manager what they have to do to help the team member achieve growth.
“We’re having to be flexible in our approach because not all managers work the same way and some may only see their teams once a quarter.”
Leck said the most important aspect of sales leadership remains motivational skills and here the game will try bring out the best in senior managers.
She said: “The senior level game will address the sales leadership characteristics looking at how to best motivate an individual or team. It’s understanding motivation, it’s the people you need to motivate and how you can support and align your team so that they are all in the right dynamic state of mind. I believe 20% of what we achieve is through our skills and knowledge and 80% comes from our attitude. That’s why some days you get out of bed and you can pedal really hard and other days you can just coast along putting in little or no effort.
“So what you want is the pedal hard days and to get that in your team you need the dynamism in them. We hope to be able to show sales leaders how to do this.”
And for those cynics unwilling to accept that a ‘mere’ game can lead to real-world success, the toolkit has already won recognition among many top organisations.
Leck said: “The Sales Activator has been successfully implemented in hundreds of companies around the world, including such major corporates as EMAP, MBNA, Zurich, Barclays, Orange, Shell, Cadbury Schweppes, DHL and Vodafone, who claim it has revolutionised the face of their sales training.”
“Sales Activator has been going nine years and it started with big players like Shell who were looking for something different. And the real value is the game’s coaching content.
“I have been watching lots of our clients and how they use it and it is surprising how different each one of them is, and how they manage their teams and the products and services involved, so they are all using it slightly differently. We also customise the toolkit for many clients such as financial services, insurance companies and banking sectors where there will be a lot of compliance issues. That’s important that sales teams feel that the game fits them perfectly.”
Find out more at: www.salesactivator.com