Robert Coates

What do you do when your sales model no longer works?

Your marketplace is changing in fundamental ways. Your customer’s business model has changed.  The decision makers have changed.  Not surprisingly, the sales model that you and your competitors have relied on for decades is no longer delivering the results you need.  You aren’t sure that you even need a sales force anymore.  But there are pockets of success in your organization.

What do you do?

One major pharmaceutical company reached out to Blueline Simulations to help revamp their sales model to better meet evolving market conditions and customer expectations. Building on the company’s market research that showed clearly that most customers still value pharmaceutical sales reps, but don’t value the industry’s standard sales approach, we used our Voice of the Business (VoB) process to identify what was needed in a new sales model.

Using our VoB process, we culled our client’s research for insights, and identified best practices in existing pockets of success. Then, drawing upon our decades of sales training experience, together with our client, we mapped out a new customer-focused sales model, defined the core skills and competencies required to execute the new model, and identified key triggers we could use to engage and inspire the representatives.

Of course, designing a new sales model is only the start. The real key to results is driving adoption in the field. The company had already designated three states to use to test the new customer approach and we helped them create a roll-out strategy for testing the new model. The training design utilized a custom Blueline Blueprint as a central element in a 3-day meeting in which representatives were introduced to the new sales model. We used the Blueprint Learning Visual as a launch point for a broad range of practice and coaching activities led by sales managers – to provide practice, and allow time for concerns and questions to be explored.

The six-month test in the three states proved very successful. Based on learnings from the initial pilot, the sales model was further refined and then rolled out across the US and eventually, with adjustments for local markets, applied across the globe.

Is your market rapidly shifting? Are your customers’ expectations changing significantly? Is your historically successful sales model no longer getting the results you need?

What do you do?  Give Blueline a call and we’ll help you explore possible solutions to get you back on track to the results you are looking for.

Get Alignment Upfront

Training doesn’t happen in a vacuum, the success of a training program depends on more than just a good design. Stakeholder commitment and buy-in is critical. Many a well-designed program rests on the dust heap of organizational training because it turned out a critical stakeholder wasn’t onboard. Ensuring stakeholder buy-in is even more vital when a training program is part of an organizational change effort.

Over the last several years we have refined a process that we refer to as Blueline’s Voice of the Business Process.  We utilize this approach in our data gathering on new projects rather than just onsite meetings with subject matter experts. It has allowed us to not only gain deeper insights into learner needs and content, but also create greater commitment and buy-in across a broad range of stakeholders.

At the core of our Voice of the Business Process, are one-on-one phone interviews with a broad representative sample of all key stakeholder groups. These interviews represent a small time investment of typically 45-60 minutes for the stakeholder. It also allows us to get input from a greater number of people than with a typical on-site data gathering session.

We then analyze these interviews for key themes, needs and insights, and prepare a findings/recommendations report. We’ve found that we typically uncover new needs or areas of concern that dramatically impact the training or communication design.

Recently, we were called in to develop training to “help users embrace” a recently implemented software system. The current assessment was that people didn’t understand the system’s capabilities or how it could make their life easier. This new system affected several different functions and departments and changed how they shared information. We recommended that we start the engagement with our Voice of the Business Process.

Through the process of conducting over 50 interviews, it became clear that “understanding how to use the software” was not the greatest need. People didn’t have a clear understanding of the business process that they were engaged in. Everyone we spoke to was dedicated, hard working, and committed to the organization’s success, but they were each limited by a narrow view of their work.

This along with some other themes uncovered during the Voice of the Business Process led the project leaders and us to conclude that a very different approach than what they had originally imagined was needed. The ultimate solution leveraged a Blueline Blueprint™ to provide a big picture understanding of the business needs and the roles various functions played in the process, along with just-in-time video tutorials on the software functions to provide the needs skills.

While one department sponsored and initially championed the training initiative, the use of the Voice of the Business Process enabled stakeholders across many functions to take ownership for the ultimate solution. In fact, the largest initial rollout of the training was by one of those other departments at their annual off-site meeting. Want to learn how Blueline’s Voice of the Business Process can help us to drive results at your company? Give us a call.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

At Blueline we are very familiar with the power of a strong visual image. Our highly successful Learning Blueprints are built on this principle. But what if you could combine the engagement created by a picture with the clarity of the spoken word? It turns out you can.

One of our clients is rolling out a new strategic account management framework to transform their sales approach.  The supporting curriculum is made up of three separate workshops – each dedicated to a unique set of competencies. Frustrated with the poor compliance they had been getting with pre-reading assignments, they needed a creative way to introduce critical elements of the program’s new framework in advance of each of three corresponding workshops.

This gave us the perfect opportunity to showcase the power of Blueline’s telestration technology. A telestration is a short video using high-speed hand-drawn images and picture-wordsanimations.  When combined with a clear message from the narrator, this approach captures and holds the viewer’s attention.  Generally, three to four minutes in length, telestrations are very useful in simplifying messages, because both the video and audio focus exactly on the ideas being communicated.  The audience quickly understands – and this combination makes a significant amount of information memorable – in one viewing.

For this particular client, we developed an introductory telestration that conveyed the need for the new sales framework; provided an overview to the three phases; and explained how the new approach would benefit customers, the business, and sales representatives. We then developed three additional telestrations, one for each of the three phases of the framework – which provided an introduction to the associated competencies. As an alternative to pre-work, sales representatives were asked to watch a video before attending the corresponding application workshop.

An overwhelming percentage of participants watched the video prior to their workshop. Several sales managers asked for copies of the telestrations so they could replay them at upcoming sales meetings – enabling them to discuss different aspects of the framework with their teams. One manager even commented, “I’ve seen a lot of training videos, but this is 10 times better than anything else. I could take this telestration and train from it alone.”

Do you need to communicate new ideas to your organization in a brief, engaging, and meaningful way? Contact us at Blueline Simulations and let us show you how the power of telestrations can be put to work for you.

Now You CAN Have It Both Ways!

Back in 2010, David Milliken and I engaged in a spirited debate here in this blog. We explored whether skill practice through eSimulations was as effective as live role-play in a classroom.

As a quick recap, I argued that there are important aspects of live role-play that could not be replicated in an eSimulation. These include live coaching on non-verbal aspects of the learner’s delivery such as voice-tone, pace and body language.

David, on the other hand, correctly pointed out some of the problems with live role-plays that eSimulations address better. These include the challenges of extreme variability in the delivery of the “other player,” such as people “playing extreme hard-ball,” or just not taking their role seriously and thus depriving the learner of a real opportunity to practice the skills.

So today, I am calling a truce with my old friend David Milliken. What if you could have a role-play with the consistency of experience of a well-designed eSimulation… without sacrificing the individualized feedback and coaching of a live classroom?

Today we are proud to present a solution that does exactly that. Introducing Management Challenge™.

Management Challenge™ delivers a vivid learning experience that parallels the real experiences faced by every manager you know. Working as a table team, your learners are quickly drawn into a computer-based simulation in which they must run a fictional organization for three consecutive quarters.

Along the way they face realistic challenges such as:

  • How do I allocate my resources most effectively across multiple projects?
  • How do I increase employee engagement?
  • How do I handle conflict among coworkers?
  • How do I develop my people – both through assignments and through coaching?

Here’s how it works. Learners rotate turns in the role of a Director, a Senior Manager, and a Manager in the fictional organization. When acting as Director, they will delegate actual projects to the team. As Senior Manager, they must assign resources and plan for how the work will get done. And as Managers, they must assign virtual employees to the projects while managing and motivating them. The decisions they make impact not only the performance of the organization over time, but also the opportunities and challenges they as a team will face later in the simulation. And of course, they are competing with the teams at other tables for the best business results at the end of the year. So energy and engagement are high!

Okay, so what about that “you can have it both ways” role-play? Management effectiveness is just as much about communication as it is about decision-making. So throughout the simulation, Managers are faced with situations in which they must meet with individual employees. This is where the magic blend happens.

The virtual employees are presented in video clips. This ensures a consistent delivery, and that core concepts are addressed, thus leveraging an advantage of typical eSimulations.

But what makes this design so effective is that the role player monitors the dialogue and selects the next response for the virtual employee based on what the Manager says – thus ensuring the most realistic dialogue possible. And here is where the benefits of live role-play kick in. The Senior Manager takes coaching notes to provide feedback not only on what was said by the Manager, but also how it was delivered. Some teams even opt to provide real-time feedback during the dialogue to allow the Manager to make on-the-spot adjustments and rapid improvements.

What do learners think of this approach? Well, to be honest, at first they react like learners do whenever they hear the words role-play or skill-practice – they groan! But, after the first round of practice they become immediately immersed in the low-risk environment, and they recognize the real opportunity to improve. Frankly, they can’t get enough.

Now, the blended role-play is just one of the unique and innovative aspects behind the highly engaging and powerful learning experience of Management Challenge™. We’d love to show you more.

Contact us today and arrange for an online demonstration of Management Challenge™ and we’ll show you how it can be tailored for your unique needs.

Coaching Still Just as Important, But Harder Now

Research by Mary Broad and John Newstrom, as reported in their book, Transfer of Training, establishes how critical the manager’s role is to newly trained skills actually being used on the job. The authors assert that what the manager does before and after training occurs is even more important than what the training designer or the facilitator does.

One of the most critical roles the manager plays is reinforcing new skills through coaching. Just like developing new habits, becoming proficient at new skills takes place over time. Good coaching provides not only necessary feedback, but keeps the skills in focus long enough for new habits and patterns to become established.

However, there are a number of trends in the 21st century work force that make good coaching opportunities difficult to find. For most, gone are the days when everyone worked in the same office and you had small spans of control. How do you coach people in new skills when you have few interactions with them and rarely if ever see them live to evaluate their use of a new skill?

Fortunately, the same technologies that have made possible the shifts to a more virtual workforce also provide potential solutions to this coaching need.  For example, we are able to build avatar coaches right into our elearning training programs. And these same virtual coaches can be programmed to provide timed reminders to learners after the training to review material, answer questions about a key skill, or take an “on the spot” assessment to keep the learners focused on a new skill long enough for new patterns to become established.

A growing number of our programs have asynchronous coaching options in which the learner can use video or audio to capture their skill practice session – and share it with their manager for review and feedback. While this may not have the same spontaneity of a manager walking up and observing in real-time, there are new benefits.  In fact, we have found that most learners will practice a skill several times to get it right before sending the sample to their manager for review. So what it lacks in immediacy, it makes up in practice repetition and ultimately, mastery.

In the past we were often asked to create a “How to Coach” program to accompany new training. In today’s world, learning designers have to assume more of the coaching responsibility by providing the learner and the manager with the tools and opportunities for good coaching to occur.

Have questions or want to brainstorm potential strategies for putting these exciting new coaching strategies to work  in your organization? Blueline is here to help!