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Saleswise Blog

February 2013

Develop Me or I'm History

Feb 19, 2013 9:50 AM
Nicki Weiss

Ignore your employees’ development at your peril

Even during challenging economic times, your best and brightest have options to work elsewhere. If you don’t help your employees grow and develop, they will take their talents to a company that will.

Or they could stay and wreak equal damage by losing interest in moving your company to higher levels of sales, profits and innovation. As Zig Ziglar, the recently departed salesperson and author said: “The only thing worse than training employees and losing them is . . . not training your employees and keeping them."

Employees you develop through training sessions, coaching, mentoring, role playing, and stretch projects can boost revenue, productivity, innovation and bottom-line results.

So why do so many leaders resist this path to success? Perhaps the answer lies in myths that leaders and managers tell themselves.

Some paralyzing myths . . . and a few suggestions

  1. We don’t have the time
    Tom, VP of Sales for an electronics distribution company, saw the need for his over-busy people to become more sophisticated and effective leaders. His team of managers and supervisors were working with salespeople who were transitioning from transactional sales to highly complex, design-in, longer sales cycle situations and everyone was struggling

    He opened the first session of a one year program by saying:

    “We are busy. The orders are flying in. You and your people are under a lot of stress. And we’re here for two days of this session, and another six days over the year. You’re probably thinking: I don’t have time for this. My people will mess up without me.

    “Yet, good companies take the time to hit the “pause” button and learn. And we don’t want to be a good company.

    “We want to be a GREAT company. And ALL great companies hit the “pause” button regularly to learn, figure out what is working, talk about what is not working, and get what is not working to work. That’s where we’re going.”

    Some employees subsequently departed (a good thing) and those who stayed took advantage of the opportunity to learn and develop. They’re still there, and the division has brought in whale-sized deals that were unthinkable before they took the program.
  2. Training is expensive
    If you haven’t committed to developing your employees, you will experience sticker-shock. Good help is not cheap, nor should it be.

    Instead, think about results. If each of your salespeople made one more sale this year, or grew a small account into a medium or large one, or landed a whale-sized deal, what might that amount to? Certainly more than you spent on training or coaching.

    As a rule, consider investing a minimum of $2,500 annually on each employee. In my business, I invest a minimum of $5,000 each year; some years it’s closer to $10,000. My investment includes coaching for myself and others on my team. I also invest heavily in ongoing learning (live and virtual programs, books and magazines, conferences, ToastMasters, MasterMind groups, and technical training).

    A company I work with invests close to $4,000/per person annually for a division of 30 people ($120,000). Using the new knowledge and techniques they have learned, they recently grew an opportunity by $1.5 M annually for at least the next five years ($7.5M)

    Lately, I’ve received a number of calls from leaders who want to include something new and interesting in their upcoming annual sales meeting and aren’t sure what they want (training? lecture? team-building activity? 90 minutes long? Two days long?) Or they want to offer their people ongoing learning.

    They are shocked when they find out that good programs cost more than 50 cents so they back away.

    And then they wonder why good people leave and the mediocre stay.
  3. My people resist change so development is a waste of time and money
    Be careful about the messages you inadvertently send to your people. If you believe they won’t change, guess what? They won’t change.

    And if you’re not reinforcing learning with ongoing practice, discussion, and coaching, you’re making it difficult – if not impossible – for your people to succeed in the struggle of change.

    Yes, some people resist change more than others. But ongoing learning is THE competitive advantage.

    Raise the bar.
  4. Development efforts are best concentrated on high potentials, who already do a good job
    You can indeed see a significant return on investment in your high potentials. But they make up only about 10% of your workforce. You probably have another 10% of marginal performers. But what about the 80% in between, the "Develop Me or I’m History" middle responsible for doing the bulk of the work? Imagine what even a small investment in their development might yield.

Remember: Growing your business means growing your people. Forget that . . . and the rest is history.

Business Ideas, Professional Development  


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